Following the success of the superior sequel, director William Lustig and writer Larry Cohen returned for one final rampage for undead police officer Matt Cordell in Maniac Cop 3. This time around the maniac cop Cordell is revived in a Santeria-style ritual and sets out to kill off those threatening policewoman Kate Sullivan (a rather wooden Gretchen Becker), who has been framed by vigilante video group News Houndz. The sleazy nightcrawlers manipulate the story so Sullivan appears to have shot an innocent bystander, who in fact was an accomplice to a burglar (who is played with greasy gusto by Jackie Earl Haley). Robert Davi returns as detective Sean McKinney, Sullivan’s friend and colleague, caught up once more in the nocturnal zombified antics of the reanimated Cordell (again played by Robert Z’Dar in a prosthetic monster mask). Amusingly, Robert Forster turns up in a small supporting role as a seedy doctor who’s X-rayed to a crisp by Cordell.
The company that financed Maniac Cop 2, Medusa, was plunged into financial uncertainty when its parent company MCEG went belly up. This made Medusa opt for a straight to video release for the third installment. Maniac Cop 3 had an even smaller budget than the second one, a fact that is obvious given the overly talky script that confines the scope to a few locations, including a hospital that is almost as chronically understaffed as the one in Halloween II (1981). Cohen’s original story idea was set in Harlem and had a black cop as the lead, but the Japanese financiers pushed to get Davi back from the second film, rendering much of Cohen’s narrative outline obsolete.
Larry Cohen was unhappy with the finished film, especially the multiple rewrites performed on the script, and was quoted as saying “I’m not proud of this picture.” Lustig also expressed frustration with being a director for hire rather than being involved from the ground up as he was with the first two. The director left the production before it wrapped, and 15 minutes of footage was shot by producer Joel Soisson to bring the movie to feature length. Lustig lamented that the film was turned into a Canadian tax shelter movie and swore that an actual quote by the producers was “We want to make a Maniac Cop picture for people who don’t see Maniac Cop films.” Lustig asked to remove his name from the credits but the producers refused, a compromise being that the credits did not say “A William Lustig Film.” However, in the print on Blue Underground’s disc the director is credited as “Alan Smithee”, the pseudonym used when directors take their names off of a picture.
In spite of the behind the scenes mess, Maniac Cop 3 is watchable, though it’s easily the weakest of the tryptych. The fruitless grab for a wider audience for this installment is obvious in its glossier look and misguided attempt to turn Robert Davi into a romantic lead. There appears to be very little of Lustig or Cohen in the finished film, with all satirical and gritty edges sanded off. A disappointing lack of stunt sequences is partly made up for by a crazed finale with a flambé Cordell in a cop car chasing our heroes in an ambulance at high speed.
Scanned in 4K from the original negative, the transfer on Blu Undergound’s 4K disc looks terrific, with deep blacks and rich colours.
Extras on the 4K disc:
- Audio commentary with director Alan Smithee – William Lustig and Joil Soisson provide a candid and entertaining yak track that is an engaging insight into a train wreck of a production. When at the beginning of the track Soisson calls the film “doomed from the start” you know you’re in for a warts and all look at the movie. Soisson reveals that he wrote the script based on plot points dictated by Cohen and that the original intention was to do a ‘70s blaxploitation style Maniac Cop picture. The track is so energetic and interesting that I actually recommend only watching the film with this commentary on.
- Theatrical trailer
Extras on the Blu-ray disc:
- Audio commentary with director Alan Smithee – As above.
- Wrong Arm of The Law – The making of Maniac Cop 3 (25 minutes) – When a featurette starts with the interviewees dissing the production, you know you’re in for an entertaining ride. Lustig notes that “When everyone gets to piss in the pot, that’s what you get: a potful of piss,” which pretty much sets the tone.
- Deleted and extended scenes – 10 minutes in total of additional footage that doesn’t add up to much of anything. Given the problems the production had meeting the contractual running time of 90 minutes, it’s amazing there was any more footage at all.
- Theatrical trailer
- Poster and still gallery
- Original synopsis – Cohen’s first outline that reads like it would have made a much better movie.
Note: The Blu-ray disc also contains the movie.
Though a big disappointment after the second installment, Maniac Cop 3 is relatively watchable and Blue Underground goes above and beyond the call of duty to assemble a stellar package of informative and entertaining extras.