The Films (4/5, 3/5)
Bill Lustig will probably go down in the annals of cinema as the director to use the word Maniac in his titles more than any other. His first film is the sleazy, over the top slasher classic Maniac (also my favorite slasher film ever). He followed that film up with the similarly excellent Vigilante (starring Robert Forster), however a conversation with cult screenwriter/director Larry Cohen would bring Lustig more maniacs than he knew how to deal with. When asked by Cohen why he never followed up Maniac with a sequel, Cohen suggested making a film titled Maniac Cop. The rest was history. Cohen, allegedly wrote the first 2 Maniac Cop films concurrently although the first sequel would come 2 years later (Maniac Cop 3 would come in 1993, 5 years after the original).
Maniac Cop 2 (4/5)
Maniac Cop 2 picks up directly where the first one left off, Maniac Cop Matt Cordell has been impaled and driven into the river left for dead or so we are lead to believe. Right, after his supposed death a series of Maniac Cop style murders begin to take place, the investigating officers from the previous investigation Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell), and Theresa Mallory (Laurene Landon) believe it is the work of the still undead Cordell, and attempt to prove it. Unfortunately, for the duo, it is Cordell, and they are quickly dispatched. Into the investigation comes Detective Sean McKinney (Robert Davi), who is ready to take down Cordell by any means necessary. Cordell, mean while befriends a homeless serial killer named Turkell, and makes his "home" a sort of base of operations. The duo pair off for a raid into Sing-Sing prison under the pretense of putting together a criminal army to take over the city under Cordell's leadership that ends up in an epic cops Vs criminals showdown around the prison.
Maniac Cop takes everything good and fun from the first film, refines it, and amps it creating a sequel that truly best the original in every single way. This is not to say the original was bad, the original is truly an action/slasher classic, but Maniac Cop 2 shows Lustig's action chops really coming out, and creating something truly action packed, violent, and exciting. The sequence where Cordell handcuffs Police Psychiatrist Susan Riley to a car on a hill, and knocks the parking brake off is exhilarating, and the scene that takes place around Sing-Sing is one of the finest, not just of the whole movie, but of Lustig's whole directorial career.
The performances are also improved over the original. While I love Bruce Campbell, as much as the next Evil Dead fanboy, Robert Davi just OWNS the film with his Detective Sean McKinney playing the part as an almost hard-nosed film noir detective. He has great chemistry alongside co-star Claudia Christian who plays skeptical police psychiatrist Susan Riley. I also have to give a special mention to Robert Z'Dar who plays Matt Cordell across all 3 Maniac Cop films. In the first film he felt more like an unstoppable killing machine, wherein this film and the follow up Z'Dar's Cordell has more of a personality, and while I won't suddenly call Cordell an ethical monster alongside Frankenstein, he injects this character with some interesting emotional range that did not appear to be there in the first film.
Maniac Cop 3 (3/5)
Like the previous film this one takes place essentially where the prior film takes off. Maniac Cop, Matthew Cordell is dead and buried. Cordell, supposedly at peace after being found innocent of the crimes that initially sent him to prison before the start of the first film is brought back to life by some sort of voodoo-esque magic. This sequence takes place throughout the opening credits, and utilizes footage from the funeral scene that ended Maniac Cop 2 in a unique way that makes it work as a jumping off point for this sequel.
The film is sort of the odd duck of the series. It features Cordell, coming back from the dead to seek continued revenge, but to also find an undead bride. He finds this potential bride to be in the recently gunned down, and on life support Officer Katie Sullivan who was accused of killing an innocent during a televised shootout. The Detective in charge of the last investigation Sean McKinney (Robert Davi) returns as more Maniac Cop style murders begin to happen, and he is called in to investigate, and also protect Sullvan before she can become the undead bride of Maniac Cop.
The film is quite convoluted in both structure and execution. I've always taken any film with Larry Cohen's name on them to have limitless narrative possibilities, but then with a film like this the tone of the film appears to be all over the place. The prior 2 films in the Maniac Cop series mix the worlds of the police film, horror film, and action film quite effectively. Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence on the other hand does not execute the balance with the same sense of confidence and style. This could be attributed to the fact that Lustig, coming to frequent arguments with the producer walked off the set forcing the films producer to shoot the rest of the film (The director's credit on this Blu-ray is attributed to that not so well-regarded cinematic auteur Alan Smithee Jr.).
The film although not exactly balanced, and occasionally silly (seriously the marriage angle was seriously out of place) did have some great moments. The shootout between Sullivan and Jackie Earle Haley's character in the drug store was an amazing suspenseful moment, and the chase sequence that takes up a good part of the last act was an absolute thrilling piece of action filmmaking. Once again Davi turns in an excellent performance as McKinney, but this is a man who I've never seen perform in a role without fully owning it (License to Kill, the Goonies, etc).
The Maniac Cop sequels are an excellent bit of horror/action fun. The third film may be the lesser of the two, but definitely brings some fun and excitement to the table and is certainly worth watching in it's own right. The 2nd film, however, is very likely the best film of the series and one of the greatest action/horror hybrids ever made.
Audio/Video (4.5/5, 4.5/5)
Maniac Cop 2 and 3 come to Blu-ray in a series of 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded 2:35:1 transfers that preserve both films original aspect ratios. Both films look PHENOMENAL on Blu-ray, fine detail is excellent across the board, there is a healthy grain structure throughout the films giving a nice natural film look to the presentation. The colors are bright when they need to be, and natural at other times, and black levels are quite solid throughout the films. I did not detect one scratch of print damage throughout, and while there was a few minor moments of softness these were otherwise perfect transfers for these films.
Maniac Cop 2 has 4 audio tracks DTS-HD MA 2.0, Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. I stuck primarily to the DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, but switched about throughout the feature. The tracks sounded fantastic with the dialogue coming through crisp and clear, and music and effects coming through loud and bombastic especially in the films more action-oriented moments.
Maniac Cop 3 has 2 audio tracks, Dolby Digital 2.0, and DTS-HD 5.1. I stuck to the 2.0 track for this viewing which shares the same excellent attributes with the prior films track. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on either track.
Extras (4/5, 3/5)
Blue Underground have put together a really nice collection of extra features for both films. Maniac Cop 2 kicks off with Back on the Beat the making of Maniac Cop 2. this featurette is 47 minutes long, and interrogates the cast and crew about the making of the film. We then get a commentary track with Bill Lustig and Only God Forgives director Nicholas Winding Refn. This is followed by a nearly 30 minute Q & A by Lustig at LA's Cinefamily. The disc also features an isolated musical score, and is rounded off by a poster and still gallery, and trailers.
Maniac Cop 3 kicks off with Wrong Arm of the Law a 26 minute making of that details this films production, and all the things that went right and wrong with it. There are also a series of deleted and extended scenes, trailers, and a poster/stills gallery. We also get the original synopsis for the film in a digital text format.
Synapse Films brought the original Maniac Cop to Blu-ray 2 years ago, and it seemed like the waiting game was on for when the sequels would be coming to life on the format. Blue Underground has finally answered that question, and brought them to the format in truly excellent editions. The A/V quality is stunning, and the best these films have ever looked on home video, the extras are very detailed and entertaining. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.