MANIAC COP 2 (2013)

Editor’s Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on November 19, 2013, and we’re proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.

William Lustig says on the Blu-ray/DVD edition of Maniac Cop 2 that it’s his best film, and this writer wholeheartedly agrees. Also undeniable is that Maniac Cop 2 is one of the early-’90s horror films that has been most in need of digital resuscitation, and Blue Underground’s new Collector’s Edition is cause for rejoicing.

Maniac Cop 2 (also playing theatrical dates around the country) sees Lustig and screenwriter Larry Cohen improving on the blueprint they established in the original, delivering a more propulsive, consistent story with plenty of twists, Cohen’s trademark idiosyncratic characters and opportunities for budget-belying action sequences. This time, the original heroes played by Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon cede the spotlight to Robert Davi as Lt. Sean McKinney, who investigates the carnage wrought by vengeful undead officer Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar) with the help of police psychologist Susan Riley (Claudia Christian). A stripper-killing serial killer, Turkell (Leo Rossi), is also thrown into the mix, to forge what Lustig describes as a Frankenstein’s-Monster-and-Igor relationship with the Maniac Cop.

On a combination (more seamless than in the first film) of New York and Los Angeles locations, Lustig whips up one knockout setpiece after another, including a police-station massacre that gives the one in The Terminator a run for its money and a runaway-car hair-raiser inspired by Jackie Chan’s classic Police Story. (The stunts and 2nd unit were overseen by the gifted Spiro Razatos, currently plying his spectacular trade on the much bigger playground of the Fast & Furious franchise.) While it’s a shame Campbell and Landon get sidelined after the first act, Davi and Campbell ably pick up the reins and make a solid investigative couple, and Rossi is a scuzzy delight as Cordell’s self-appointed sidekick.

At long last, Blue Underground’s Blu-ray reveals Maniac Cop 2 as a sharp technical achievement as well. The 1.85:1 transfer is a real winner, full of detail (it’s so sharp, you can spot a copy of GOREZONE on a newsstand rack in a pivotal scene) and perfect colors with just the right amount of cinematic grain, holding up solidly in the many dark moments. As usual, the company has gone whole hog with the soundtracks, offering DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround stereo, all making a very punchy impact. Jay Chattaway’s isolated score can be enjoyed in DTS-HD Master Audio as well.

Then there’s a commentary by Lustig, as forthright and informative as ever, joined by cult filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (who’s involved in the Cop’s impending return to the screen). The collaboration starts off a little shaky during the opening credits, as Refn asks repetitive questions about the movie’s financing when what we really want to know is where the cool police-car graveyard seen during those titles is located. Fortunately, they soon find a groove, and everything you could want to know about Maniac Cop 2’s creation is addressed, from the alternating (sometimes shot-by-shot) NY/LA filming to Lustig’s relationships with his frequent collaborators to the round-the-clock editing, which necessitated bringing a couple of major Hollywood players on board to help get the film ready for Cannes.

And then you learn even more about Cop 2 from the 47-minute “Back on the Beat” documentary, like the fact that Richard Crenna initially had the police commissioner role Michael Lerner wound up filling, and about Rossi’s “research” trip to a strip club. All the major players are on hand, including Razatos and makeup FX creator Dean Gates, and here we also learn a little more about the behind-the-scenes strife between Lustig and Christian that’s hinted at in the commentary. A further featurette showcasing a Lustig Q&A after a Cinefamily screening of Cop 2 has inevitable overlap with “Back on the Beat” and the commentary (a few stories are told on all three!), but die-hards will want to check this out for further tidbits on how the film came together.

And if that wasn’t enough, Lustig and co. also throw in a huge photo/poster/advertising gallery, a deleted scene with Sam Raimi as a newscaster, a quartet of international trailers and a vintage interview short as an Easter egg. “You have the right to remain silent…forever” goes the ubiquitous tagline for this franchise, but this is one disc release that horror/action fans won’t be able to stop talking about.

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