You Have The Right To Remain…Unimpressed: The Maniac Cop Series

From time to time, circumstances dictate that I leave Castle Blogferatu in the family hearse in order to run a few errands. Grocery store. Hardware store. Morgue. Local necromancer. Y’know, run-of-the-mill kinda stuff. Every now and then, these excursions into the real world get me pulled over.Apparently not everyone thinks the hand hanging from the rear door is funny. I mean, really. It’s almost always fake. Not my fault people can’t take a joke.

In any case, my most recent of such run-ins put me in mind of the Maniac Cop series which, shockingly, I’ve never seen, so I figured, “Well why not?” Of course you’d think I’d have seen these a long time ago instead of just this past week. You’d think the whole series would be right up my alley. Sadly, you’d be wrong.

Mostly.

Maniac Cop

I was really looking forward to this what with its cult status and all. I may have set the bar too high. The start of the franchise regrettably doesn’t have a hell of a lot going for it. The story bogs down in many places, the music is très 80s, and the make-up effects are clumsy. The credits list the “special” effects make-up by More Than Skin Deep. No. It wasn’t. To be fair, I realize this was low budget. In my defense, so was Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

One of the few bright spots (besides Bruce Campbell) is the premise. The rogue killer cop idea is far from new, Magnum Force, for example. The twist on it is that he’s also dead. For that you have to go to The Hidden or westerns like Pale Rider or High Plains Drifter (in fact, Maniac Cop even uses a very familiar looking flashback/dream sequence to fill in some backstory).

On the other hand, he also might not be dead. On the other other hand, he might be. It’s never really clarified. Ugh. Nevermind. I would like to give a shout out to mhofmeyer at Movies, Films, And Flicks for his recent article “Analyzing The Foot Chase And Sheet Washing In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Remake.” I’d love for him to do the math on Cordell wiping out the entire police station near the end of this movie.

Maniac Cop 2

By and large regarded as the pinnacle of the series. For the most part that’s true, but there’s a little damning with faint praise going on here. Sure, the budget is bigger, the make-up is better, the story has a faster pace, but Maniac Cop 2 doesn’t know what it wants to be, and action movie, a horror movie, or an action/horror movie.

Sadly, it doesn’t hold up spectacularly as any of those genres. That doesn’t mean it’s without its high points. Offing Bruce Campbell at the 19:07 mark is quite the surprise, as is a later victim dragged away hanging from a tow truck hook. Plusses as well for some fiery Cordell vengeance.

There’s some star power to be had here as well: Claudia Christian (who I loved as the alien serial killer possessed stripper in The Hidden), Robert Davi (who you’ve seen every damn where from 1977 to probably yesterday), hell even Michael Lerner.

Oh and make sure to look for a quick shot of Danny Trejo on a prison cot.

Maniac Cop 3: Badge Of Silence

I’m always leery of sequels with a number, colon, and secondary title. The result is often (not always) disappointing. Gremlins 2: The New Batch and Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan on one end,  the criminally maligned Halloween III: Season Of The Witch on the other. At any rate, exonerated and buried with full honors at the end of Maniac Cop 2, Cordell still finds no rest. Again.

Or not again.

The series never establishes how dead Cordell actually was or wasn’t. Until now. This time a Santería priest (whose chant sounds unfortunately like Pig Latin) raises him from the dead. Why? No idea. It’s never revealed. The third installment is fairly well shot through (heh) with other problems too.

Maniac Cop 3 lacked its predecessor’s budget. Lustig left the film around the halfway point presumably over script and investor issues. Joel Soisson (whose film credits are primarily “producer” versus “director”) took over.

But again there are high points. The menthol cool, stone-faced Davi is back as the stone-faced, menthol cool Detective McKinney. There are fine deaths by defibrillator and X-ray machine. It also appears that Cohen, or Lustig, or someone has a thing about Cordell doing stuff whilst engulfed in flame.

 

Overall I gotta say I found the series likeable enough but have to pressing need to see any of it again. Possibly a box I didn’t need to check off, but hey, that’s good to know too, right?

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