Maniac Cop (UK - BD)
Chris checks out Arrow's Blu-ray Disc release of the cult eighties horror film...
Notorious video nasty creator William Lustig and B-Movie legend Larry Cohen return to the dirty streets for a unique high speed collision of the slasher movie and police thriller in Maniac Cop, a blood splattered tale of brutal cop vengeance from beyond the grave. When reports come in of a man in a police uniform committing gore drenched bloody murder on the city streets, officer Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell) stands accused. Now, with few friends, powerful enemies and a psychopathic slayer still at large, it’s up to Jack to prove he’s not guilty and bring down the killer.
Now, Arrow video brings the Maniac Cop back from the 80s video vault to stalk the night time streets once more, looking for fresh victims... (from the Arrow Video synopsis.)
Visually Arrow’s Blu-ray transfers have been a bit hit and miss, with the impressive titles overshadowed by a greater number of iffy discs. Too many of their releases have had the natural grain all-but eliminated by the overzealous use of DNR, and worse still the occasional title has then suffered the ignominy of having artificial grain foisted upon it to try and emulate the appearance of film. Those discs just look incredibly 'digital', but thankfully Maniac Cop’s 1.85:1 (1080/24p AVC) transfer has plenty of natural grain on show for a surprisingly filmic look. Although heavier in scenes that feature low lighting the grain is pretty consistent and I didn't find it particularly distracting. Detail is generally strong throughout, certainly when compared to any DVD release, but there are a few scenes where the image looks soft and unfocussed. However, I believe this is due to the original materials rather than noise reduction after the fact. I was most pleased with the colour palette, which is strong and natural (more so than the US disc if the caps I've seen are any indication). I do have a few complaints though. There’s some telecine wobble, which is particularly noticeable early on, and film artefacts are abundant (a few of them are large enough to be quite distracting). There’s also some noise to be found, especially in the darker scenes, and quite a lot of unsightly shimmering. There's also a fair amount of black crush. Even so, when weighed against the film’s low-budget origins and the cost of bringing it to Blu-ray these flaws don’t seem as bothersome as they perhaps should. In all honesty I doubt the film's looked this good since it was in theatrical circulation.
A fairly plain LPCM 2.0 Stereo track is the order of business here, and as you might expect it’s functional rather than flashy. The track does the basics well, presenting strong dialogue that never gets buried in the mix, but said dialogue often lacks fidelity and sounds hollow in the way that many eighties movies do (especially the cheaper ones). The occasional stereo pan across the soundstage is about as much as can expected as far as directionality is concerned, and bass is incredibly anaemic. Of course the track is somewhat limited in scope by the source material, which isn’t particularly inventive or dynamic to begin with. Perhaps the most memorable element is the score, with its signature tune that sort of reminds me of Charles Bernstein’s main theme from A Nightmare on Elm Street, but even this sounds quite thin. Even so it's unfair to label this a bad effort, because after all it's simply replicating the original track. Given that accurately reproducing the source is something that most fans of Blu-ray want from their discs I can't be too critical. It gets the job done and I'd rather have the original audio than some bodged remix any day.
First up is 'Doomed Detective: Tom Atkins on Maniac Cop' (20:14 HD), a fairly lengthy interview with one of the film's principal actors in which he discusses his involvement with the film and his other acting roles. It's a pretty informal, honest chat. This is followed by 'Lady of the Night: Laurene Landon Remembers Maniac Cop' (13:26 HD), which follows a similar pattern to the last featurette insomuch as the actress discusses how she got her start in the movies and specifically her involvement with Maniac Cop. 'Scripting a New Slasher Super-Villain: Larry Cohen on Matt Cordell' (18:55 HD) is a reasonably lengthy chat with the film's writer/producer, in which he discusses his previous films, particularly their thematic relevance to Maniac Cop. All of the interviews are more interesting than the usual run of the mill stuff found on most major studio releases, and are well worth a listen. In addition to the interviews the disc also includes two trailers (01:54 HD and 02:11 HD respectively), as well as a couple of TV Spots (00:50 HD).
Okay, let's be brutally honest for a minute, Maniac Cop isn't a particularly good movie and it never really delivers on its high concept premise. However, it's one of those strange beasts that manages to be more than the sum of its rather mediocre parts and I found it quite enjoyable in spite of its flaws. I'm not saying it's a great film, but it did keep me entertained for the majority of its short running time. If nothing else it's noteworthy as possibly the only film in existence where Bruce Campbell is 'out-chinned'. Technically the Blu-ray is a pretty solid effort, remaining true to the film's low budget origins while delivering an audio-visual experience that should be more palatable to today's demanding audiences. To reiterate my earlier comment, I honestly doubt it's looked or sounded much better since its original theatrical release, which is no mean feat. It's a pity that the extras aren't more plentiful (I understand there's a commentary track floating around somewhere), but what there is does just enough to make you feel like a bit of effort went into them. Fans of the film or eighties slashers in general should have a good time with this one.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 31st October 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 Stereo English
Extras: Interviews, Trailers, TV Spots
Easter Egg: No
Director: William Lustig
Cast: Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Richard Roundtree, William Smith, Robert Z'Dar, Sheree North
Length: 85 minutes
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