After decades of unavailability on any digital format, MANIAC COP 2 rises from its watery grave on Blue Underground's thoroughly deluxe Blu-ray/DVD combo.
Framed for the murder of his wife and countless other deaths around the city, New York cop Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell, THE EVIL DEAD) is cleared of any wrongdoing – along with his partner Teresa Malloy (Laurene Landon, scripter Larry Cohen's THE AMBULANCE) with whom he had been having an affair – even though the body of the so-called "Maniac Cop" has not been recovered. The only thing keeping them from returning to active duty is their insistence that the assailant is Matt Cordell (Robert Z'dar, HELLHOLE), a cop who was set up by corrupt politicians and railroaded to Sing Sing where he was murdered by his fellow inmates. Commissioner Doyle (Michael Lerner, TALOS THE MUMMY), on the other hand, would like to sweep this all under the rug with the killer being identified as simply a homicidal maniac with a beef against the police; in fact, when Forrest and Malloy are subsequently murdered – in true slasher sequel fashion – he tries to pass the incidents off as the actions of a copycat killer. Malloy's police psychiatrist Susan Riley (Claudia Christian, THE HIDDEN), however, has seen Cordell herself. When she is teamed up with investigating officer Sean McKinney (Robert Davi, LICENSE TO KILL) on the search for a killer of strippers Turkell (Leo Rossi, HALLOWEEN II), they don't have to look that much farther for Cordell who takes his quest for vengeance right to the police station itself in a climactic hostage situation.
While MANIAC COP and MANIAC COP 3 have been widely available on DVD, MANIAC COP 2 has not been revisited since its 1991 Live Home Video video/laserdisc master according to Lustig on the documentary featurette (the foreign DVD editions have all been fullscreen). MANIAC COP 2 comes to 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC Blu-ray and 16:9 DVD looking quite sterling with mostly strong night scenes and colors that pop (particularly the New York street neon lights and the hellishly red lighting of Turkell's lair. The film looks strikingly slick considering it was shot by James Lemmo who had previously lensed not only MANIAC COP but Lustig's gritty MANIAC and VIGILANTE as well as Joe Giannone's MADMAN and Abel Ferrera's MS. 45. As expected, there are a wealth of audio options for the English track including a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (DTS 6.1 on the DVD) and Dolby Digital 5.1 EX remixes of the already exciting Dolby Stereo mix (also included, albeit in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 surround). Lustig goes all out on the genuine remixes (rather than the upmixes on other vintage titles), and the discrete surround mixes can be jolting during the action scenes. Jay Chattaway's score is presented on an isolated track (in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 on the Blu and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround on the DVD). A ridiculous amount of subtitle options include English SDH, Danish, Dutch, French (Canadian), Finnish, French (Parisian), German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), and Swedish; and the Blu-ray is also compatible with D-Box motion systems (which Blue Underground first started using on their Blu-ray of THE FINAL COUNTDOWN).
Extras start off with an audio commentary with Lustig and filmmaker Nicolas Winding-Refn (ONLY GOD FORGIVES), an avowed fan of the film (who is reportedly collaborating with Lustig on a remake of the first film) who is perhaps a bit too effusive in his comments on the film which go mostly untempered by Lustig (who requires little prompting). Refn is more interested in the "cult" actors like Campbell and Christian – while Lustig points out the film's cast of character actors (including Lerner, Clarence Williams III, and Hank Garrett (whose he suggests is his CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU? character thirty years later) – and tends to fall back on questions and comments about the budget (which was three times that of the first film), locations (some of the stunts and effects were shot in Los Angeles where they had better resources), as well as the shooting and editing style (the reveal of Cordell in the convenience store is inspired by a shot in Sylvester Stallone's COBRA); but overall, it's an informative about not only the film but low-budget filmmaking during the period when direct-to-video was taking over domestic distribution (including the exasperating British producer).
Also highly informative and more entertaining is the thorough "Back on the Beat: The Making of "Maniac Cop 2" (46:49) featurette. Lustig and Cohen begin by separately relating their recollections of the project's origins (according to Lustig, Cohen suggested he do a sequel to MANIAC while Cohen says Lustig just came to him with the tagline "You have the right to remain silent… forever!"). Robert Davi humorously recalls that Lustig pitched the film to him as being "FRANKENSTEIN meets THE FRENCH CONNECTION, and you're Gene Hackman", and Leo Rossi discusses doing in-depth research for his role (Lustig clarifies the Turkell character as being the equivalent of FRANKENSTEIN's Igor). Claudia Christian is also on hand and alludes to not enjoying the shoot (Lustig says that her book goes into more detail and that the feeling is mutual), but she does like the resultant film. Robert Z'dar recalls acting under the make-up while effects artist Dean Gates (PHANTASM III) discusses his prosthetic work (improved over the first film), and stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos talks about the fiery climax as well and cringes in retrospect at actually using the actors themselves in the stuntwork (mainly Christian in the runaway car scene, which Lustig attributes to his love of Jackie Chan and Chow Yun Fat films). Also revealed here is that the role of Commissioner Doyle was supposed to go to Richard Crenna, and that Rossi got Lerner – also present here briefly – for the part when Crenna had to drop out. Jay Chattaway also appears to discuss the score, citing his collaborators and their contributions (including the ending rap song).
Lustig also appears in a Q&A (28:35) at a Cinefamily screening of the film in which he waxes about the night shoots, and substituting the New Jersey town of West New York (where the cops were cooperative because they were looking for extra Christmas money). He groans at the shots where Cordell is on fire where you can see the protective mask (the prompter defends the shots because you can actually see that it's an actor on fire rather than a CGI effect), and setting his arm on fire to show Leo Rossi that the effect was safe to do. He states that Cohen's producer credit on the films was a trade-off for writing the script, but he now regrets it because of how much work he did as producer and director. He addresses killing off the first film's main characters, Z'dar's dislike of the prosthetic make-up (which Lustig attributes to Cordell's dour demeanor), and working with Cohen and Raimi (who were working, respectively, on THE AMBULANCE and DARKMAN at the time). Like the "Back on the Beat" featurette, it's actually more entertaining than the commentary. A single deleted scene titled "The Evening News with Sam Raimi" (1:31) features the filmmaker's cameo (he is still listed in the end credits) from a lesser quality source. No American trailer is included, but the disc does feature an international trailer (1:42), the UK teaser (0:33), as well as French (1:41) and German trailers (1:41) that are almost identical. A poster & still gallery is also included, and the combo's case comes housed in an embossed slipcover. (Eric Cotenas)
BACK TO REVIEWS