The genesis of William Lustig’s original Maniac Cop (1988) lay in Larry Cohen’s interest in Lustig’s Maniac (1980). Cohen asked Lustig why he never did a sequel to Maniac, to which the director responded that he felt there was not enough story to justify another movie. In response Cohen proposed to develop a kind of “sideways sequel” and Maniac Cop, originally conceived of as a cross between The French Connection and Frankenstein, was born. The film told the story of an unstoppable killer in a police uniform who is revealed to be officer Matt Cordell, who was framed and unjustly imprisoned in Sing Sing for police brutality after investigating corruption in city hall. In prison Cordell was mutilated and apparently killed by other inmates, though Sing Sing’s medical examiner detected signs of life in the body and secretly released Cordell.
Though it under-performed at the US box office, Maniac Cop was a big hit overseas and on home video, making a sequel a desirable prospect. A follow up to the first one was delayed by legal fighting over ownership of the rights to make a sequel. When this was all finally resolved, Lustig was only given four weeks to prepare the entire shoot, which happened during a particularly cold winter in NYC that made the filming grueling.
A hybrid of police action thriller and horror picture, Maniac Cop 2 is partly about what happens when two mass killers cross paths. The maniac cop Cordell, now zombified, teams up with serial killer Terkel (Leo Rossi). Tangling with Cordell are officer Teresa Mallory (Laurene Landon, returning from the first one), police psychologist Susan Riley (Claudia Christian), and veteran detective Sean McKinney (Robert Davi). Mallory is convinced the maniac cop is still alive but can’t convince anyone else.
The imposing Robert Z’Dar, whose entertainment experience includes writing television jingles and starring in musical theatre, plays the maniac cop. Cordell at his core is a cop who wanted to be the best policeman he could be, warped into a monster after being betrayed by the brass and seemingly slashed to death by fellow inmates when dumped in prison on a manufactured charge. This adds an element of tragedy to leaven what could simply be another unstoppable supernatural killer. Flip the story and Cordell could be Serpico, and detective McKinney could be chasing his own ghost.
The prosthetics for Cordell are more elaborate than the first picture, where the makeup consisted of several hack marks across his face. Here Z’Dar wears a full mask that makes the character look rotting and decayed. This sequel goes full on supernatural with Cordell obviously one of the undead.
Reportedly Lustig had about $5M more to play with on this sequel, with a chunk of the extra dough going into the impressive stuntwork. One of the more memorable stunts has Riley handcuffed to the steering wheel of a car and being dragged outside the car at high speed. This sequence was apparently extremely difficult due to the bitter cold in NYC, but the end result is hair-raising. Also impressive are the fire effects at the climax, with Cordell aflame in a prison. Maniac Cop 2 is a rare sequel that improves on the original and is a creatively shot, exciting, and highly enjoyable slice of hokum.
I’ve only ever seen this film on a pan and scan VHS tape which I rented back in the ‘90s, so needless to say Blue Underground’s 4K disc is a revelation. The picture pops with colour and detail, making this modestly budgeted genre film shine. Under the supervision of Director of Photography James Lemmo the transfer was scanned in 4K from the original camera negative.
Extras on the 4K disc:
- Audio commentary with director William Lustig and filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn – Lustig and Refn provide a richly informative track loaded with production anectodes and detail.
- Theatrical Trailers
- Isolated Music Track
Extras on the Blu-ray disc:
- Audio commentary with director William Lustig and filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn – As above.
- Back On The Beat – The Making Of Maniac Cop 2 (47 mins.) – Lustig, Cohen, Davi, and more discuss the production of the film in this engaging featurette.
- Cinefamily Q&A with Director William Lustig (28 mins.) – Shot at a screening of the movie, Lustig spins entertaining tales about the making Maniac Cop 2.
- Deleted Scene – A brief 1 ½ minute scene that has Sam Raimi as a newsreader.
- Theatrical Trailers
- Poster & Still Gallery
- Isolated Music Track
Note: The Blu-ray disc also contains the movie.
Maniac Cop 2 is a blast and Blue Underground’s stellar 4K presentation is highly recommended for all genre film fanatics.