Blu-ray Review “Maniac Cop 2 & 3”

Starring: Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Bruce Campbell, Michael Lerner, Robert Z’Dar, Clarence Williams III, Caitlin Dulany, Gretchen Becker, Julius Harris, Doug Savant
Director: William Lustig, Alan Smithee
MPAA Rating: R / Not Rated
Studio: Blue Underground
DVD Release Date: November 19, 2013
Run Time: 90 / 85 minutes

“Maniac Cop 2” Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4.5 out of 5 stars
“Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence”: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When I was a kid, I remember walking down the video store aisle and seeing the box for “Maniac Cop” and just being freaked out. When I finally got up enough courage to watch it, I just fell in love with it. What is great about this series is that sequels are just as good as the original film (if not better). “Manic Cop 2” has always been my favorite in the series. Even though Bruce Campbell is one of my all-time favorites, the second film is a much more solid film. They took what made the first film great and improved it. The third film, “Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence” is just an all out hoot. It is over-the-top and in-your-face. I just love this film also.

“Maniac Cop 2” Official Premise: The Maniac Cop series’ first sequel pits Matt Cordell (Robert Z’dar), the crazed, murderous “Maniac Cop” of the first film (now horribly disfigured after a particularly brutal stay in prison), and Turkel (Leo Rossi), a serial killer who likes to murder strippers, against a frenzied NYPD detective, Sean McKinney (Robert Davi), who is just one step ahead of a nervous breakdown.

“Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence” Official Premise: When Officer Kate Sullivan storms a hostage situation, the whole incident is captured on tape by an unscrupulous media crew who edit the footage to show Kate killing a helpless victim. Now in a coma, Kate’s only hope is Detective Sean McKinney, who desperately tries to clear her name. But unbeknownst to him, Maniac Cop Matt Cordell takes it upon himself to exact revenge upon those responsible for smearing her name.

When I see that a Blu-ray is being releasing a film, I immediately pay attention because these guys do not mess around. More importantly they release great films and give them even better releases. These are films that are not given any love by big studios and yet deserve it. Honestly, I was just speechless when I read that “Maniac Cop 2” and “Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence” were going to be hitting Blu-ray with, not just a shitty transfer but a brand new high-definition transfer taken from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative. I mean as a horror fan, I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

Here is what makes it all worth it, since both “Maniac Cop 2” and “Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence” look absolutely stunning with their 1080p transfers. They really nailed it. I am sure that any horror fan will easily agree with me. These films are dark and gritty and yet they look sharp and fantastic still today. If you think that is enough, “Maniac Cop 2” impresses even more with an out-of-this-world DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, which is a complete home run. Also included are additional audio tracks including a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, Dolby Digital 2.0, and an Isolated Music Track boasting an amazing DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.

“Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence” includes two audio tracks on this Blu-ray release, even though it is not 7.1, the included DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is literally outstanding, I would have never expected this film to get such treatment honestly. Also included is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. “Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence” includes the Unrated Version of the film, which is a nice bonus. Both “Maniac Cop 2” and “Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence” are released as Collector’s Edition combo packs with both Blu-ray + DVD included.

If you are happy with all of the above, there is still more since “Maniac Cop 2” includes some amazing special features. Along with the above mentioned Isolated Music Score, there are four various international trailers from the film. “Back on the Beat – The Making of Maniac Cop 2” is a brand new over 45 minutes behind-the-scenes featurette on the production the film. There are new interviews with director William Lustig, writer Larry Cohen, actors Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Michael Lerner, Leo Rossi, Robert Z’Dar and more. There is a Cinefamily Q&A with Director William Lusti, which was filmed after a screening in September of 2012 and runs about 30 minutes.

But saving the best for last, there is a brand new audio commentary with director William Lustig and Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive”, “Only God Forgives”). If you are a fan of this film you are not going to want to miss this track, it is so informative and interesting, I am actually planning on revisiting track quite soon. Rounding out the extras as a fantastic Poster and Still Gallery including posters, advertising materials, lobby cards, color stills, B&W stills, behind the scenes stills, deleted Sam Raimi scene, and VHS covers.

“Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence” also includes a great collection of extras as well. First we have “Wrong Arm of the Law: The Making of Maniac Cop 3”, which is a fantastic look into the making of the film. Also included are interviews with writer Larry Cohen, director of photography Jacques Haitkin, stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos, actors Robert Davi, Robert Z’Dar, Caitlin Dulany, and Gretchen Becker. There are seven deleted and extended scenes included. Lastly there is the original trailer for “Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence” as well as a Poster & Still Gallery. Horror fans do not miss these two releases!

Blu-ray Review “Maniac (2013)”

Actors: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder
Directors: Franck Khalfoun
Rated: Unrated
Release Date: October 15, 2013
Run Time: 89 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

William Lustig’s 1980 cult film “Maniac” is a decent film but has never one of my favorites. This remake was written by Alexandre Aja (“The Hills Have Eyes”, “Piranha”), who is know for remaking horror films the way they should be. So that was a eye-raiser for me personally. When I saw that Elijah Wood was taking the lead role, I became even more interested in this film. I loved the vision of the remake and thought it was a huge improvement on the original. It is daring, very intense and quite horrific. Wood is amazingly insane in the film and delivers a hell of a performance. Top that with an amazing score and some impressive visual effects from KNB Effects (“The Walking Dead”) and we got a winner here and a must see for any horror fan.

Official Premise: In this 21st century Jack the Ripper story set in present-day Los Angeles, Frank (Elijah Wood) leads a deceptively peaceful life. To the outside world, he’s a withdrawn and somewhat eccentric owner of a mannequin store. But his quiet façade masks an inner rage that forces him to brutally kill and scalp the women who get too close to him. When a young artist named Anna (Nora Arnezeder) appears one day at Frank’s shop and asks for his help with her new exhibition, Frank develops an obsession with her that threatens to completely destroy his already fragile psyche. Soon the streets become unsafe for any woman after dark as this newly awakened maniac begins to stalk and kill.

There has been some complaints about the film since a lot of it was shot in what I liked to call Elijah Wood-O-Vision, which was his point of view. I thought it was very effective to show the film in that first-person perspective. The 1080p transfer is solid in 2.35:1 aspect ratio while still keeping that gritty 70’s “42nd St & Broadway” feel. The film comes packed with a killer (no pun intended) DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The score has a very 70’s disco/electronic horror feel and it really works well with the film.

Overall IFC delivered an impressive Blu-ray release here. There is a super cool reverse cover art included. The special features are worth checking out for sure if you are a fan of the film. There is an awesome audio commentary track with Elijah Wood, director Franck Khalfoun, and executive producer Alix Taylor, which is quite detailed on the production. There is a super in-depth “Making Of” documentary, which runs over an hour. This includes some great behind-the-scenes look into the production along with cast/crew interviews. There is a Poster Gallery included for the three poster designs. Lastly there is a few short deleted scenes and a trailer included.

Film Review “Maniac”

Starring: Elijah Wood, America Olivo, Nora Arnezeder
Directed By: Franck Khalfoun
Rated: R
Running Time: 89 minutes

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

This updated Maniac is an improvement on the original in every way. Whether or not this is a recommendation depends heavily upon your opinion of William Lustig’s 1980 cult film. It is definitely not for the squeamish.

Maniac follows Frank (Elijah Wood, more from Sin City than the Shire) a loner who lives in a warehouse with a collection of mannequins he restores for a living. When he’s not at this, he’s prowling an eerie, deserted Los Angeles for female victims to kill and scalp due to some serious mommy issues. Actually, we don’t follow Frank so much as actually get inside his head. The best way to describe Maniac’s dominant visual style is “first person stabber.” It’s an interesting gimmick to take the famed slasher POV in a horror film and just stay in it, however it eventually wears out its welcome as I felt some motion sickness setting in. Thankfully, director Franck Khalfoun does opt to exit Frankvision for some of the key murder scenes in order to underscore his loss of control over his darker side, as well as to showcase some truly remarkable gore from KNB effects. The climatic bloody finale which brings Frank’s victims back to attack is really something to see here.

Frank’s killing spree is disrupted by Anna (Nora Arnezeder) a photographer who finds Frank’s mannequins appealing subjects for her upcoming gallery show. The interactions of Wood and Arnezeder are one of the film’s strengths. Anna here is much sweeter and the considerably younger Wood looks more believable than Joe Spinell’s Frank trying to fit in with his future victims. Just the idea that Anna’s appreciation for Frank’s work is what draws her to his shop makes for a much stronger tension as to whether or not Frank will treat her the same as all the other ill-fated women who have crossed his path. After inhabiting the
disgusting Frank it’s a relief to have a sympathetic character to grasp onto when Anna comes along.

Having better drawn characters than the 1980 movie still doesn’t leave us with much depth though. Besides being a remake, the film also features nods to other genre films such as Silence of the Lambs and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Maniac does not fare well in drawing these comparisons. Despite all the stylish upgrades from the original, Maniac will most likely still appeal to only the most diehard gorehounds.

Robert Z’Dar reflects on the cult status of the “Maniac Cop” series

Robert Z’Dar is known best for playing the role of Matt Cordell in the cult series “Maniac Cop”. Robert took out some time to chat with Media Mikes about his films and also what he is currently working on.

Mike Gencarelli: Can you reflect on the cult status of the “Maniac Cop” series?
Robert Z’Dar: It’s been amazing. When the first 2 films were released here in the states theatrically it was great. Going to places like the airport people would know who I was but they didn’t know my name. It was kind of funny. They would say “there’s that guy”. I still sign a lot of autographs these days. We got introduced to a whole generation recently that loves the films. Over the last 3 years this whole new cult following has been established.

MG: Can you tell us any stories from the production of the films?
RZ: While we were working on “Maniac Cop 2” I was on set the first day of shooting and we were in thiswarehouse. I was reading while the other cast was eating because I couldn’t really talk or anything as a slit hadn’t been cut into the mouth of my makeup. Robert Davi goes over and says that he doesn’t think there’s a hole in mouth and that they should probably feed the maniac because he looked like he was going to kill somebody. I go over mumbling asking if they are going to cut a hole in my mouth or was I going to have to kill them. Everyone started laughing and the makeup crew came over and gave me a slit so I could eat and talk.

MG: Were you approached to do a 4th film?
RZ: Yes, they wanted me to do a 4th one however I can’t do all the same stunts I used to be able to do. I did all my own stuff except for the burn scenes in the first films. I had been with the American Stunt Association for about 15 years. That’s probably why I am so banged up now. I have two metal hips and now they want to give me a metal shoulder. As I was about to do the film I was diagnosed with neck cancer. I was given about a 35% chance to live. I did a lot of praying prior to my treatments and everything went really well. The doctor couldn’t believe how well I have healed. As of right now I am cancer free. I am getting back in to shape and I have a bunch of movies that I am ready to start work on.

MG: What are your thoughts on the proposed “Maniac Cop” remake?
RZ: Everybody wants so much money for the rights. Greed has gotten the best of a lot of people and that’s the reason why there haven’t been more films in the series.

MG: What do you like most about working in the horror genre?
RZ: I have done 4 or 5 horror films. I seem to play a lot of bad guys. Over the past 5 years or so I have gotten some really great roles in some independent films. There is one called “Precious Mettle” which is in the process of securing financing. The film is a great dramatic, who done it? type film. I play a firefighter whose buddy is killed. It has a number of twists and turns. The cast is made up of quite a few well known old school actors.

MG: What do you think has been your most challenging role to
RZ: Every movie I do I try to pull something that will showcase my craft while at the same time entertaining people. However my biggest challenge was beating cancer.

MG: What other things do you have going on?
RZ: I did a film called “Drummer for the Mob” which was produced by Bruce Koehler. The film has some great locations that are old mob type places. William Forsythe is in the film and he is just such a great actor. That film should be coming out sometime in the fall of this year. I also have one called “Ring of Fire” that is in the works as well. There is just a bunch of stuff going on right now. I really love my work.

Blu-ray Review “Maniac Cop”

Directed by: William Lustig
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Tom Atkins, Laurene Landon, Richard Roundtree, Robert Z’Dar
Distributed by: Synapse Films
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 85 minutes

Overall Score: 4 out of 5 stars

I remember seeing “Manic Cop” in the late 80’s and it scaring the crap out of me.  It doesn’t anymore but it is still a damn great film.  The genre cast is the film is so great and fits so well.  The gore in the film is fantastic and definitely holds up in today’s standards.  This release is the first time this film is being presented in high definition and is released from up-and-coming Blu-ray studio Synapse Films.

The film hits the streets of New York City where innocent people are being brutally murdered by police officer. A Young copy, Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell) is being framed for the murders and had to clear his name.  With the help of his friends Theresa (Laurene Landon) and McCrae (Tom Atkins) they set to find who the killer is before he strikes again.  Bruce Campbell is fantastic in the film and genre favorite Tom Atkins is perfect for the role.  Robert Z’Dar also kicks some major ass and it is too bad you don’t get to see his face more until the end of the film.

I am very happy with the the Blu-ray transfer in 1080p and it looks really clear and crisp.  The soundtrack is really impressive boasting a fantastic DTS-HD MA 6.1.  If you are a fan of this film you will not be disappointed with this great release. The film is also packed with special features.  The first is “Maniac Cop Memories: Interview with Robert Z’Dar” which has him chat about his career and working on the film.  The next is “Out the Window:  Interview with Tom Atkins”, discussing his role in the role. “Three Minutes with Danny Hicks” talk about his role in the film as well.  There are three trailers, one being a French trailer, as well as two television spots and a Spanish radio spot.  There is also an series of images of promotional art backed from the film’s music.  Lastly included is additional footage filmed for Japanese TV, which focuses on the New York City Mayor character.