“MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE” (Blu-ray/DVD Review)
It’s not often that a disc documentary featurette begins with all the key participants dissing the film in question, but the revelatory honesty on this key supplement makes it worth checking out Blue Underground’s Blu-ray/DVD combo of the disappointingly mediocre MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE.
For this new edition, being released simultaneously with MANIAC COP 2 (see review here), franchise regular William Lustig had his directing credit replaced with perennial pseudonym “Alan Smithee,” and it’s not hard to see why. Returning screenwriter Larry Cohen’s basic scenario certainly has possibilities, mixing his trademark sociopolitical jabs (at not just police corruption but TV news manipulation) into a BRIDE OF MANIAC COP-esque storyline in which undead Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar) appoints himself the murderous guardian of comatose young cop Kate Sullivan (Gretchen Becker). She gets that way after a shootout captured by a couple of unscrupulous cameramen (Bobby DiCicco and Frank Pesce), who edit the footage to make it appear as if she killed an innocent hostage; also hospitalized after the incident, druggie thug Jessup (Jackie Earle Haley) sues the city and the police department. Investigating all this as well as Cordell’s latest butchery is COP 2 hero Sean McKinney (Robert Davi), who shares an overemphasized romantic subplot with his doctor, Susan Fowler (Caitlin Dulany).
Cohen’s scripts have always been busy with eccentric supporting characters, but here there are so many, involved in so many disparate storylines (unlike in COP 2, Cordell and the secondary psycho never meet/team up), that the movie isn’t able to build up a head of steam, and awkward crosscutting between them doesn’t help. MANIAC COP 3 gives the impression that its creators have run out of ideas about what to do with their central villain, who largely hangs around in the background for at least the first half of the film. The cast is certainly packed with Lustig’s typical stable of fun, familiar faces (in addition to the pre-comeback Haley et al., Robert Forster, Julius Harris and Paul Gleason turn up); it’s just a shame that they come off in large part as distractions from what should be the true star. Lustig and stunt coordinator/2nd-unit director Spiro Razatos manage to rally for a couple of impressive full-burn/car-chase setpieces during the final reels, suggesting how much better things might have turned out if the focus had been kept more on Cordell as opposed to the people he’s stalking and those tracking him.
MANIAC COP 3 is so overstuffed plotwise that it’s a surprise when, in the 25-minute “Wrong Arm of the Law” making-of piece, producer Joel Soisson claims that the movie’s first cut ran only 51 minutes. That’s just one of the many bones of contention aired by Soisson, Lustig and Cohen over the course of the segment, a juicy he-said/he-said/he-said in which the participants are both candid and willing to take their share of the responsibility for the mess that is this sequel. Lustig wound up departing the project in post (this writer recalls seeing the director’s cut of the key chase scene at a Fango convention back in the day, and it played better and more exciting than the final version in the movie itself), Cohen says the producers kept changing their minds and Soisson claims Cohen left the writing till the last minute and was going to dictate the script over the phone. Yet the overall vibe is less one of acrimony than of regret that the assorted principals couldn’t get their acts together to make a good movie. Surprisingly, the cast members interviewed recall little evidence of the behind-the-scenes turmoil, and some even profess to liking the finished product.
The 2.35:1 transfer is pretty much as impressive as that on COP 2, with rich colors and blacks and a razor-sharp picture, backed by solid DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby Digital Surround stereo tracks; this is being sold as the “Unrated Version,” though the differences from the R-rated original release are negligible. Other extras include deleted/extended scenes, most involving character beats but also a longer variation on the “Wedding Nightmare,” a photo/poster/promo art gallery that’s significantly smaller than that seen on the COP 2 disc, a trailer and text screens of Cohen’s original synopsis for COP 3, rejected by the Japanese financiers because it featured a black hero (a Haitian-born detective with a voodoo background). Once you’ve read it, you’ll likely find yourself wishing they could have gone with this storyline, which incorporates not just a Bride but a Son of Maniac Cop as well.