The 13th Floor

Crime & Dismemberment: A Look Back at MANIAC COP

From the twisted minds of genre exploitation gurus Larry Cohen (Q THE WINGED SERPENT) and Bill Lustig (MANIAC) comes the most demented tale of law and disorder that ever ignited the caramel covered floors of ’80s grindhouse picture palaces.

Shot on location in New York during the late 1980s than at the height of its graffiti covered crack-cocaine fleshpot allure, MANIAC COP delves into the dark dilemma metropolitan police departments rarely have to cope with. Forget noirish dirty cops raising Internal Affairs ire – when one of their own goes rogue with a vengeance and a uniformed officer begins killing innocent people for no reason, New York is a city under siege.

Tagged with an inspired marketing campaign emblazoned on posters and on VHS sell through boxes – “You have the right to remain silent…FOREVER”, Lustig’s 1987 cult classic MANIAC COP features a cast of stellar horror notables including Tom (“Thrill me”) Atkins, Richard (SHAFT) Roundtree, Sheree North (DESTINATION INNER SPACE), the erstwhile Bruce (need we say more) Campbell and a star-making performance as the crazed butcher boy in blue, Robert Z’Dar.

Ostensibly the plot unfolds at a fever dream pace as a uniformed officer unleashes carnage on the streets of Manhattan. It’s not vigilante-type justice as innocents are being mowed down by the unknown serial killer. A waitress assaulted by two muggers is rescued by the Maniac Cop who promptly kills her. As the murder spree continues Lt.  McCrae (Atkins) is ordered by his superiors to cover-up the startling truth about the murders withholding the key fact that the slayings were the gruesome handiwork of a uniformed police officer. He leaks the information to a reporter who, naturally prints the grim truth, plunging the populace into panic.

When Officer Forrest (Campbell) is suspected of being the Maniac Cop, he launches a one-man vendetta to find the real killer. Oh and if you’re expecting one of The Chin’s usual over-the-top scenery chewing perfs here – fuhgeddaboutit.  Instead, Campbell gives a low key realistic portrayal of a man under suspicion. His detective work leads him to Sing Sing where disgraced officer Cordell (Z’dar) was incarcerated on charges of police brutality during a probe into City Hall corruption. One problem though – the disfigured Cordell is, for all intents and purposes, dead.

Yes, but this being a 1980s splatter fest, Cordell is NOT dead and wreaks a one-man gore war. After a high speed chase through the city streets (and more killings), Cordell crashes in the river. Officer Bruce is exonerated and in the extended director’s cut, the Maniac Cop gets his revenge on the corrupt mayor, natch.

Shot on a budget of $1.1 million (hey, crashing police cruisers ain’t cheap), MANIAC COP received mostly negative reviews from stink-in-the-mud mainstream crix  but proved popular with movie goers spawning two sequels MANIAC COP 2 (1990) and MANIAC COP III: BADGE OF SILENCE (1993).

While Bruce Campbell is top billed in the first sequel as his fame grew among genre fans, ***SPOILER ALERT**** don’t expect him to last long in the follow-up.

And, of course, a remake is on the drawing boards…good luck guys trying to top the original.