This Larry Cohen flick (produced and scripted by Cohen but directed by William Lustig) is a clever hybrid of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA story, 1970s and 1980s cop films, and the slasher sub-genre of horror cinema. But instead of an opera house, the venue has expanded to include the entire city of New York, and the wronged antagonist is not a forgotten composer but is, instead, a once-good police officer (hulking actor Robert Z'Dar) who was used as a scapegoat by higher-ups and was subsequently murdered in prison at the hands of thugs. Slasher-film elements come into play when the resurrected cop leaves a trail of corpses in his wake as he heads to city hall to even the score with his former bosses.
As is usually the case, Cohen's script is replete with dark tongue-in-cheek humor and palatable helpings of terror and blood. The gags (both the laughing and choking kind) are bolstered by the presence of horror-genre fave Bruce Campbell, he of EVIL DEAD (1981) fame; Tom Atkins, a ubiquitous face in police departments on TV and in the cinema; sexpot Laurene Landon, a Cohen favorite; and the original SHAFT (1971) himself, Richard Roundtree. There are also some delightful cameos from genre regulars like the late George "Buck" Flower, Victoria Catlin (known to genre fans from her role in David Lynch's TV series TWIN PEAKS), Judy Levitt (wife of STAR TREK's Walter Koenig), director William Lustig, and SPIDERMAN (2002) director Sam Raimi.
The Special-Edition DVD of MANIAC COP from Synapse is well worth the price of admission. It offers a crisp, rich digital transfer of the film in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (enhanced for 16x9 TVs) with the original Stereo SurroundSound soundtrack (as well as the option of using new Dolby 5.1 or DTS 6.1 soundtracks). Extras include a delightful feature commentary with Larry Cohen, Bruce Campbell, and William Lustig; a new interview with the Maniac Cop himself, Robert Z'Dar; theatrical trailers, including one from France; and much more.
MANIAC COP is a must-see for fans of Larry Cohen and slasher-flick fans, and the Synapse DVD will make a nice addition to the film collection of any horror fan.