The Long Chin of the Law

You have the right to remain silent…forever! Take it in, read it again. Now tell me you have seen a better tagline to a movie in your life – for me, this has got to be one of the top contenders! The film that it belongs to? Maniac Cop. This is the film that we will be talking about today and also the subject of an upcoming episode of the 80’s Movie Club Podcast.

Some of you won’t have heard of this before and I’m sure that some of you will but either way by the time you’ve finished reading this article I’m sure that you will be wanting to watch this, either for the first time or for the umpteenth time if you’re a fan.

To set the scene for those of you who haven’t yet seen Maniac Cop, we kick off the film with images of a cop (shown only from the neck down) getting into what appears to be a ceremonial Police Officers uniform, so far so good. Then we see some punks mugging a nice young lady for her handbag. However, these hapless criminals haven’t bet on the lady handing their asses to them on a platter and beating her attackers “like a government mule” with the very handbag they were attempting to snatch! Anyway, young Cassie runs off and eventually finds a Police Officer to report the crime to and – you guessed it – she picks the wrong cop and gets killed by the titular character! Even the punks look disgusted by this – even petty criminals have their code of ethics you know!

Maniac Cop kicks off at a frenetic pace with a couple of kills inside the first 5 minutes, however, it isn’t just a kill fest, there is at the heart of the film quite a good and gripping storyline that keeps you watching. Detective Frank McCrae is working the cases of the first two homicide victims and notices a link in that eye witnesses have reported seeing a Police Officer carrying out these atrocities. From here on in, we see Frank and Jack Forrest (who gets framed for the Maniac Cop murders when his wife is killed early on) try to piece together who exactly this Cop is and why he is on the rampage.

Entering into watching this movie, I had zero expectations, I had heard of it and had spent a while looking longingly at the cover art in the video rental shop (remember those?!) as my eyes were always drawn to it but I’d never rented it as I’d always plumped for the more established horror icons such as Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, Pinhead et al. So I was interested to see Maniac Cop but didn’t necessarily expect anything from it and I think I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up finding myself quite entertained by it.

As I have said, the story line is quite gripping, it is simple yet effective – maniac on the loose who happens to be a cop and our protagonists are attempting to uncover exactly who it is perpetrating the killings. All whilst Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell) is being framed for the murders. The film maker’s pitch this perfectly as you find out little bits here and there about our antagonist but the final reveal is saved for the end of the film which is the first time we see Maniac Cop’s face.

However, there are other elements that elevate this movie well above what it should be – two other elements to be exact, Tom Atkins and Bruce Campbell. Tom Atkins, who you might remember from Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, The Fog and Lethal Weapon brings an old school kind of vibe here. To me, he is the person you want steering the ship as your lead actor in a film like this, he knows how to deliver lines and carry a story whilst holding intrigue. You could argue that it is the writers that do this and while that is undoubtedly part of it I don’t think the film would be the same with some b-movie nobody delivering these lines. You can even forgive the hyperbole that he exhibits when urging his pretty journalist friend to go public with the Maniac Cop allegations, inviting her to make it “bigger than AIDS!” I do wonder though if Tom Atkins has some input into the scripts that he stars sometimes though because his characters can often surround themselves with pretty female characters who it is often implied, either overtly or otherwise, that he is/has had a relationship with these ladies. Go check out Halloween 3 if you don’t believe me!

Yes, I know I have a Chainsaw for a hand!

Bruce Campbell (pictured) is another element of the film that elevates it above it’s station – yes he is known for schlocky B movie horror such as The Evil Dead series and movies like Bubba Ho-Tep but as an actor he is criminally underrated. His performance here is one of a deeply flawed hero, Forrest has cheated on his wife and been framed for the Maniac Cop murders yet it is these imperfections which kind of make you root for him as the hero of the film. Nobody is all good or all bad, everybody is shades of grey in real life and I don’t think anybody can say they haven’t done something that they regret in life and Bruce Campbell portrays this every man perfectly – Campbell really does deserve to have been in more high profile movies. What’s more, given Bruce Campbell’s look of having a prominent chin he is actually spectacularly out-chinned in this film by Robert Z’Dar who plays Maniac Cop – but where else are you going to experience such a dizzying array of Hollywood chinnery?!

Then there is the Maniac Cop – not so much the actor who portrays him for this one but rather the way that he is used within the film – it is perfect really, you never see his face until the final 20 minutes of the film although this could be more to do with some of the dodgy makeup work on Robert Z’Dar’s face. It does work though and adds to the films overall mystique as to the identity of the killer cop. I do like the way in which you find out bits of information about the Maniac Cop particularly his back story and what happened to him at the hands of corrupt city officials. The only thing I wasn’t too clear on was whether, after the reveal about how he went to prison, whether you were meant to have sympathy for him as some sort of antihero type or whether he was just a cold hearted killer – but you can listen to the Maniac Cop episode of the 80’s Movie Club Podcast for more thoughts on that. You also find out that the Maniac Cop’s name is Matthew Cordell. Come on, really? What sort of name for a killer in a slasher movie is Matthew? We have Freddy, I can let Jason go (just), Chucky and Ghostface, all great slasher killer names but Matthew? Just makes me think of the old 80’s/90’s sitcom Desmond’s where one of the character would frequently proclaim “Matthew, there is an ooooolllllllld African saying…” Still, I guess it’s slightly better than Eric in Phantom of the Mall!!

So pleasantly surprised was I by watching Maniac Cop that I am planning to watch it’s two sequels pretty soon so you can expect a report on that as soon as I get chance to watch it. Whilst on the subject of surprise, you can imagine my surprise when researching this article when I found that there is a Maniac Cop TV series reportedly in the works at the moment. The movie(s) have kind of become cult classics over the years so it could be said it was only a matter of time before somebody wanted to remake it in some way but this is actually quite a welcome addition to the Maniac Cop screen family if this comes to fruition. Reports are abound that HBO are looking to make this series which, for the uninitiated, are the same network who have made Game of Thrones, Westworld, Big Little Lies and Watchmen, so we should perhaps expect decent handling of the subject matter I would think. There are no details at the moment as to when this would be airing however, as it is being produced by HBO then it may be reasonable to think that there is a possibility of it being shown on Sky Atlantic here in the UK.

That is all from me from the mean streets of New York City where Officer Cordell may possibly still be stalking. However, if you enjoyed this and want more then keep an eye out on the Facebook page of “80’s Movie Club” podcast for the Maniac Cop episode which should be out pretty soon. Also, I would urge you to have a look at Maniac Cop too as you may be as pleasantly surprised at this movie as I was. You can get it from Amazon as well as YouTube. Let us know what you think in the comments.

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