Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence 4K UHD Review
4K Ultra HD Release: November 16, 2021
Video: 2.35:1/2160p (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, and Russian
Run Time: 84:32
Director: William Lustig
The Wrong Arm Of The Law Is Back!
When Officer Kate Sullivan (Gretchen Becker) storms a hostage situation, the whole incident is captured on tape by an unscrupulous media crew, who edit the footage to show her killing a helpless victim. Now in a coma, Kate's only hope is Detective Sean McKinney (Robert Davi), who desperately tries to clear her name. But, unbeknownst to him, 'Maniac Cop' Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar) takes it upon himself to exact revenge upon those responsible for smearing her name.
Three years after perfecting the Maniac Cop formula with Maniac Cop 2 (1990), director William Lustig and screenwriter Larry Cohen returned to the scum-soaked streets of New York City with the best intentions for Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1993). The cast was the best since the original – including returning actors Robert Z'Dar as the title character and Robert Davi as the detective pursuing him, alongside Caitlin Dulany, Paul Gleason, Jackie Earle Haley, and Robert Forster – and the ante was upped in terms of horror content. There was just one problem: the Japanese investors (reportedly) didn’t want a Maniac Cop sequel with a Black lead, which was a central idea behind Cohen’s script (it wouldn’t have only a matter of casting diversity or changing up the pattern – as writer/director, Cohen was a principal architect of the Blaxploitation movement during the ‘70s and would have been returning to familiar territory). Annoyed, Cohen refused to rewrite unless he was paid for it (he was barely willing to write the script in the first place), which he was not, leaving Lustig struggling to make changes with shooting already underway. Eventually, Lustig also left, forcing producer Joel Soisson to write/re-write dialogue, shoot pick-ups, and pad space with scenes from the previous movie to ensure that the film was long enough to actually call it a “movie.”
Alan Smithee’s Maniac Cop 3 is, unsurprisingly, a rudderless mess. However, once you accept that it was a motion picture that no one wanted, it is an interesting and often entertaining entry in the underdeveloped action-horror genre. Cohen was definitely on to something by introducing a voodoo angle to Cordell’s resurrection. Black magic connects the previously revenant-like Maniac Cop to a more of an old-fashioned zombie tradition, like what happened to Jason Voorhees in Tom McLoughlin’s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986). With his vengeance so thoroughly consummated in part two, part three opens the door for new characters to use Cordell as a sort of weapon or avenging angel in other sequels. Also in the positive column, the kills are creative in the slasher sequel tradition (even if that’s not how x-rays work) and the action set-pieces, though often badly integrated, are nearly as impressive as those of the second film, including another mind-blowing car chase/impossibly long burn stunt. The storytelling and narrative structure flaws are difficult to overlook, though. Following the events of the second film, it’s difficult to build a plot around the title character without him turning into a typical slasher movie hero, which was what I’m sure investors wanted. But these films aren’t really slasher movies – they’re B-horror-tinged action flicks. The Maniac Cop’s place in this story is tangential at best, but not detached enough for him to be a Michael Myers-type mystical force that only appears to wreak havoc. The lack of a completed script also means that no one is fleshed out beyond broad strokes and the events of the previous films. There really aren’t any characters, just people wandering through a nightmare version of pre-Giuliani New York City.
Maniac Cop 3 has a history of aspect ratio controversy. Lustig and cinematographer Jacques Haitkin shot it using Super35, which has a negative AR of 1.37:1, making it easy to crop to 1.33:1 for the full screen VHS release and HBO TV premiere. The original US DVD from Platinum recycled the 1.33:1 AR. However, Super35 is often used as an alternative to anamorphic formats for widescreen images. The first anamorphically-enhanced (as in video, not film) version, from Boulevard Entertainment in the UK, apparently understood that Lustig & Haitkin didn’t design the film to be open-matte, but misframed it at 1.85:1, same as Maniac Cop 2.
When it came time for Lustig’s own company, Blue Underground, to release Maniac Cop 3 on Blu-ray, the director put the controversy to rest by framing it at a nice and wide 2.35:1. The HD transfer was created from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, which has now been recycled, not compressed, and upgraded with Dolby Vision HDR for the film’s UltraHD debut. 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. As in the case of the studio’s Maniac Cop 2 BD to UHD upgrade, the previous disc was already such a massive improvement over previous editions and just generally such a good HD presentation that the detail and dynamic range boost isn’t as mind-blowing as, say, BU’s Dead & Buried (1981) UHD, which basically fixed all of the BD’s issues. Still, fans are getting a better version of an already near-perfect transfer, so there’s zero reason to complain. Shadows are deep without wiping out finer highlights, grain appears natural, details are tight, and the colors are rich. It’s worth noting that, despite being a subpar movie, Haitkin’s photography is gorgeous and worthy of a UHD presentation.
Like Maniac Cop 2 (and most of Lustig’s own films on the label), Maniac Cop 3 was remixed from its original stereo into a multitrack surround for the BD release. This UHD takes that 5.1 mix and punches it up a bit into a Dolby Atmos mix. The original 2.0 is preserved in the form of an uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio track, but, despite preferring that one, I’m going to review the Atmos track, because it is an upgrade. The original tracks already had plenty of stylized stereo effects to fill out the additional channels in a relatively organic way. The gunshots, explosions, and foley work all sound like original effects that have been augmented, not re-recorded for this release. The basic, centered dialogue and incidental effects are slightly less consistent. A handful of scenes are slightly flat and/or muffled compared to the track’s baseline sound quality. There are also a few awkward noise reduction effects when characters are conversing outside. Joel (son of Jerry) Goldsmith’s score is a little more complex and theatrical than Jay Chattaway’s Maniac Cop 2 and, thus, is a really heavy part of the mix, including more intricate instrumental placement, so the music isn’t simply layered on the right and left sides of the room.
Disc One (UHD)
Commentary with director Alan Smithee – Even fans that weren’t excited about the BD to UHD upgrade will likely be buying this collection for this brand new commentary with disgruntled director William Lustig and producer/uncredited co-director Joel Soisson in hopes of finally getting the tell-all story behind the making of this disaster. Key talking points include Cohen intending the film to be a Bride of Frankenstein situation, the Japanese aversion to Black stars (which may have been an assumption on Lustig’s part), Lustig already being depressed because he lost the job directing True Romance to Tony Scott, struggling with the lack of budget, continuity struggles, Robert Davi taking over during his scenes, the remastering process (including some George Lucas style digital additions), squashing beefs, and Lustig watching FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992) on monitor when he was supposed to be directing.
Disc Two (Blu-ray)
The Wrong Arm Of The Law: The Making of Maniac Cop 3 (25:05, HD) – Before we had the new commentary, this relatively inclusive look behind-the-scenes was the only real exposé on what went wrong. The story is told via interviews with Lustig, Cohen, Soisson, Haitkin, stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos, and actors Davi, Z’Dar, Becker, and Caitlin Dulany.
Seven deleted/extended scenes (10:20, HD)
Poster & still gallery
Larry Cohen’s original pitch synopsis (text)
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.