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  Maniac Cop Call The Police There's A Madman Around
Year: 1988
Director: William Lustig
Stars: Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Richard Roundtree, William Smith, Robert Z'Dar, Sheree North, Nina Arvesen, Nick Barbaro, Lou Bonacki, Barry Brenner, Victoria Catlin, Jim Dixon, Corey Michael Eubanks, Jill Gatsby
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: A young woman leaves a bar in New York City to walk home, not a good idea as it turns out because she is quickly attacked by two purse snatchers. She manages to fend them off and escapes, running down the street while the criminals chase after her until she spots a policeman near a park. Rushing over, she pleads for assistance while the would-be thieves observe from their hiding place, only for the cop to pick her up by her throat and strangle her to death. Next morning and thanks to a witness the two criminals have been caught, but they claim, rightly, that they never killed the woman and that a cop did it. Nobody would believe them if it wasn't for the fact that later that night, the maniac cop strikes again...

Maniac Cop was scripted by producer Larry Cohen, but if you're expecting his usual brand of quirkiness then be prepared, because after a potent opening sequence which sees the villain causing his trouble amongst the citizens of New York, this is rather more straightforward than something like God Told Me To or The Stuff. In fact, after the initial slasher movie style mayhem, the film settles down into a police procedural, and the cynical humour tends to evaporate although the cynical tone does not. The film is notable for having two leading men, and the first one we meet is Detective Frank MacRae (Tom Atkins).

MacRae is a troubled cop, having made, we learn from an interview with the police commissioner Pike (Richard Roundtree), a suicide attempt a while back after the death of his partner. But now he has the case of the killer cop to occupy his mind, and although he's not sure yet that he knows who it is, he is sure that this is no random psycho who's picked up a uniform from a fancy dress shop. But after three people are killed, the population are on edge and untrustworthy of the force, and an innocent cop is shot and killed by a middle aged lady when he approaches her car after it breaks down.

I said there were two leading men, and the second is also the prime suspect, Jack Forrest, played by Bruce Campbell in another of his hard luck roles. We first meet him when he's getting ready for night duty and his wife, Ellen (Victoria Catlin) is suspicious of him and keeps a scrapbook full of related clippings. She decides to follow her husband, only to catch a nasty surprise - Jack is having an affair with fellow cop Theresa Mallory (Laurene Landon) and Ellen finds them in bed together. She flees, refusing to listen to Jack's excuses, and is abruptly grabbed by, yes, the maniac.

This means we are aware that Jack isn't the killer, but his fellow officers are not so convinced, especially when Ellen turns up dead in a hotel room, so there's a touch of the Alfred Hitchcock, innocent man being framed about the plot. While Jack is in custody, Frank investigates further and begins to assemble evidence that the murderer is actually a cop who many thought was dead - but will it be enough to prove Jack's innocence? Well, the way the maniac cop kills a whole police station and leaves Jack and Theresa to pick up the pieces and go on the run suggests not. Incidentally, if Theresa is a policewoman, how come she does so much screaming? I would have thought she'd be made of sterner stuff. Anyway, Maniac Cop holds the interest, but the twists in the plot are not quite enough to lift it out of the ordinary. Followed by two sequels. Music by Jay Chattaway.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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