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July 21, 2009

Maniac Cop

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William Lustig - 1988
Synapse Films Region 1 DVD

While I was living in Thailand, I was getting mail at a private mail box in Berkeley, California. Since resettling back in Denver, I have been getting stored mail forwarded to me on a sporadic basis. One of the recent packages received was a DVD of Maniac Cop that Synapse sent to me back in November that must have arrived at about the same time that I was starting to acquaint myself with Chiang Mai. The guys at Synapse obviously didn't seem to mind that I didn't bother to write about Maniac Cop as they have sent me screeners since my return to the U.S. Still, I feel that I should write a few notes on this cult film.

There was a twinge of nostalgia when part of the action took place on Bleeker Street in New York City. Even though the film was shot about eleven years after I had moved from the city, it was still recognizable from when I lived there. I wish the camera had captured the full marquee of the Bleeker Street Theater. That was the last theater I visited before I left New York - a double feature of L'Eclisse and Puzzle of a Downfall Child, seen in the company of Richard Koszarski and his wife. Of course, there is always some nostalgia simply seeing the twin towers as well. Still, from what I had read and heard, New York City of the Eighties was not the same as it was during the early to mid-Seventies, and the changes were not for the better.

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I can't believe there would be anyone reading the title, Maniac Cop, and not figuring out what the movie is about. That said, the best way to watch this film might actually be with the commentary by William Lustig, writer-producer Larry Cohen, co-star Bruce Campell, and composer Jay Chattaway. Among the fun bits along the way is pointing out that Maniac Cop was something of a family affair with Lustig's uncle, Jake LaMotta, briefly seen as a detective checking out the first victim, played by Cohen's daughter, Jill Gatsby. Sheree North also appears as a crippled police woman operating the only computer in the police station, and unavoidably a little voice wonders if Marilyn Monroe would have appeared in such a role, in a low budget thriller, had she lived. Deserving of more than supporting roles is Tom Atkins, playing the police detective who almost solves mystery.

What is intriguing is that Maniac Cop combines the genres of police thriller and horror movie into a lightly entertaining package. For a significantly more intense comparison, one might want to see the two French Crimson Rivers films. Maniac Cop was not made for serious analysis, nor should it be examined too closely. Instead, think of this film as one of the better last examples of grindhouse cinema made before the grindhouses all closed.

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Posted by peter at July 21, 2009 12:06 AM