4K Ultra HD Release: November 16, 2021
Video: 1.85:1/2160p (HDR/Dolby Vision)/Color
Audio: English Dolby Atmos; English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguêse, German, Italian, Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norsk, and Swedish
Run Time: 87:28
Director: William Lustig
You Have the Right to Remain Silent…Forever!
The ‘Maniac Cop’ (Robert Z’Dar) is back from the dead and stalking the streets of New York once more. Officer Matt Cordell was once a hero, but, after being framed by corrupt superiors and brutally assaulted in prison, he sets out on a macabre mission of vengeance, teaming up with a vicious serial killer to track down those that wronged him and make them pay... with their lives! (From Blue Underground’s official synopsis)
Psychopathic cops have a long and storied history in cinema, sometimes as heroes, sometimes as antiheroes, and sometimes as villains. The first two are more common, of course, because there is a long tradition of positive police-based entertainment – sitcoms, detective novels, Dragnet, and a dozen different Law & Orders over the past three decades – but horror films are made to exploit fear and you don’t have to agree that All Cops Are Bastards to agree that Most Cops Are Scary. Still, even in horror movies, killer cops tend to be independent agents, as in Joseph Zito’s The Prowler (1981) and Bill Hinzman’s The Majorettes (1986); sadists disguised as police officers, as in John A. Russo’s Midnight (1982) and Wallace Potts’ Psycho Cop (1991); or living dead creatures, as in J.R. Bookwalter’s Zombie Cop (1991) and William Lustig’s Maniac Cop (1988).
After unleashing his scum-soaked Taxi Driver (1976) meets slasher trash portrait of New York City’s dark side, Maniac (1980), Lustig was heralded as a horror guy, but he seemed more interested in pursuing street-level action movies. He followed Maniac up with a sort of combination of Death Wish (1974) and Dirty Harry (1971) called Vigilante (1983), and then he and Cohen combined aspects of both films into Maniac Cop. The original tale of a scar-faced revenant back for revenge against the people that killed him (and, I guess, everyone else) is a charming film with solid performances from genre favorites Bruce Campbell, Tom Atkins, and Richard Roundtree. All in all, exactly the type of fun and referential grindhouse experience Lustig was capable of delivering in the late ‘80s, but it wasn’t the best representation of what he was capable of. Two years after Maniac Cop, Lustig and writer/producer Larry Cohen re-teamed to make Maniac Cop 2 (1990) – a sequel that takes place directly after the events of the first film.
Despite being practically half a remake of the original, Maniac Cop 2 is both an improvement and arguably Lustig’s best film. The key, besides distilling the concept down to its simplest and most exploitable elements (the film feels at once more mainstream friendly and sleazier than its predecessor), is that Lustig flips the original film’s promise of a slasher film with action set-pieces to deliver an action film with slasher set-pieces. Modestly budgeted action went through a minor renaissance in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, in part thanks to the STV and cable markets. While considered a horror movie first and, thus, rarely associated with the likes of Andrew Davis’ Above the Law (1988) or Phillip Noyce’s Blind Fury (1990), Maniac Cop 2 features some of the most incredible stunt performances of the era, standing toe-to-toe with pricier studio pictures. The Terminator (1984) inspired station shootout/massacre, a seemingly endless full body burn, and a couple of callbacks to Paul Verhoven’s Robocop (1987) stand out, but the pièce de résistance is an absolutely insane sequence where the Maniac Cop handcuffs Claudia Christian’s Susan Riley to a car and pushes it down hill into oncoming traffic*. Lustig doesn’t entirely neglect the horror angle, either, and never holds back from his typical grindhouse nastiness. The violence was intense enough for the MPAA to demand cuts to secure an R-rating, though everything has been reinstated for this unrated edition.
* One of the stunt performers, Glory Fioramonti, is a friend of the family and especially known for driving stunts. When I asked her about the sequence, she claimed couldn’t recall being in the film, which I took to mean that she didn’t want to talk about any of her grimy exploitation films. Much to my disappointment, she preferred to chat about doubling Susan Sarandon in Thelma and Louise (1991) or playing Robin’s mom in Batman Forever (1995).
Over the years, Bill Lustig has managed to secure the home video rights to many of his own films for release via Blue Underground (which is his own company), but the original Maniac Cop still evades him. Fortunately, both sequels are in his catalogue and received gorgeous Blu-ray releases via the company (before the 2013 BD, Maniac Cop 2 was only available on pan & scan 1.33:1 DVD from Europe). This new UHD debut is derived from the same 4K scan of the original camera negative, which was remastered under the supervision of cinematographer James Lemmo and seemingly Lustig himself, who oversees every one of the company’s releases. I am unable to take screencaps from UHD discs, so the images on this page are representative of the BD (which is included in this two-disc set), but the basic image quality is very close between the two discs. This isn’t a problem, because the BD was already about as close to perfect as I’d expect from this film (though I suppose that’s kind of its own problem: it’s hard to convince people to upgrade when you did such a great job the last time). The 4K image quality is bolstered by Dolby Vision HDR and that is the thing that makes the difference, since the original remaster had already pushed details nearly to their limit. Colors are rich, especially the lurid reds and vivid blues, grain levels are super-fine, but not erased by DNR.
Lustig likes to remix his films every time he re-releases one and I’m not a huge fan of the practice, but they’ve gotten a lot more natural since the pre-Blu-ray days. He’s also good enough to include the original tracks these days. Maniac Cop 2 comes fitted with a brand new Dolby Atmos mix, which I assume was derived from the 7.1 remix already included on the Blu-ray, and the original 2.0 in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio. In the future, I’ll probably stick to the 2.0 track, but, for this review, I listened to the Dolby Atmos track, because it’s new. As in the case of past remixes, big effects are given a wider breadth of directional enhancement, but can sound slightly artificial and detached from the dialogue and incidental noise. It’s better than you can expect from a mono-to-surround mix, though, and, for all I know, Lustig has some of the original tracks at his disposal to draw from. Jay Chattaway’s score outstrips the effects at times, but, overall, the Atmos mix works better than it doesn’t, especially when Lustig is establishing the bustle of New York’s street life. The weirdest part is the opening, which is recycled from the first Maniac Cop. After it becomes its own movie, the sound is a lot more natural. A DTS-HD MA 2.0 isolated score track is also included.
(All extras were previously available with the Blu-ray)
Disc One (UHD)
Commentary with Lustig and Nicolas Winding Refn – Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013) director Refn doesn’t waste our time praising the film outright. Instead, acting as moderator and asks a series of questions that Lustig himself clearly wasn’t anticipating. The final effect is a solid mix of Lustig talking about the stuff he’d prepared and a filmmaker interview from a devoted fan.
Disc Two (Blu-ray)
Commentary with Lustig and Nicolas Winding Refn
Back On The Beat: The Making Of Maniac Cop 2 (46:52, HD) – A retrospective featurette that includes interviews with Lustig, Cohen, make-up effects designer Dean Gates, composer Jay Chattaway, and actors Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Leo Rossi, and Robert Z’Dar.
Cinefamily Q&A with Director William Lustig (28:36, HD) – This repeats a lot of the same information in a different context (moderated by Joshua Miller).
Deleted scene (1:30, SD)
Trailers – International trailer, UK trailer, German trailer, and French trailer
Poster & still gallery
The images on this page are taken from the remasterd Blue Underground Blu-ray NOT the 4K UHD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.