Friday, September 9, 2011

MANIAC COP (Blu-ray)

One of my favorite action/horror films ever, William Lustig’s MANIAC COP (1988), has finally received an HD upgrade and will soon be getting a welcome Blu-ray release, thanks to the fine folks at Synapse Films.

Previously issued on laserdisc by Elite Entertainment, as a fuzzy full-frame DVD by a budget label best left unnamed, and an excellent DVD Special Edition from Synapse, this new HD release is not only the finest the film has ever looked on home video, but includes all of the extras from the Special Edition DVD - with one unfortunate omission, detailed below.

When a psycho killer in a police uniform starts murdering innocent people on the streets of New York, the city is gripped in paranoia and afraid of their own police force. Soon, a young cop named Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell of EVIL DEAD and BUBBA HO-TEP fame) is wrongfully accused of being the "Maniac Cop" when his wife turns up dead and he’s arrested by his fellow officers. But while Jack may be an unfaithful jerk, he’s no serial killer, and it’s up to his policewoman mistress (Laurene Landon, HUNDRA, I THE JURY) and veteran NYPD detective Frank McCrae (the great Tom Atkins, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, LETHAL WEAPON) to find the real Maniac Cop – a scarred, Frankenstein-esque hulk named Matt Cordell (the imposing Robert Z’Dar of SOULTAKER) – stop his killing spree, and clear Jack’s name.

A stellar B-movie cast (which also includes William Smith, Richard Roundtree, Sheree North and Sam Raimi!), slick, noir-ish photography, a nearly perfect thriller script by exploitation vet Larry Cohen (IT’S ALIVE, Q, BLACK CAESAR, ORIGINAL GANGSTAS), a creepy, evocative score by Jay Chattaway, and gritty direction by William Lustig (VIGILANTE, UNCLE SAM) combine to create a top-notch, fast-paced entertainment, with plenty of thrills, impressive stunts and some genuine scares.

Synapse’s Blu-ray disc presents MANIAC COP in a brand-new, 2011 remastered, 1080p high definition, 1.85:1 widescreen transfer culled from the original vault materials. The movie looks amazing, with a level of clarity and detail unseen in previous video incarnations (and I've owned them all). The image is virtually blemish-free and sports only a fine, pleasingly film-like patina of grain. I noticed no black crushing, even in the film's many dark sequences, nor any digital artifacting. Audio options consist of  DTS-HD MA 6.1 and 4.0 Surround or DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo.

There is a pretty good selection of extras included; unfortunately, though, the group audio commentary with director Lustig, writer Cohen, star Campbell and composer Chattaway that appeared on the laserdisc and earlier Synapse DVD is missing from this release, and that's a shame, because it was a great, entertaining and informative supplement. I wonder what happened to prevent its inclusion with this edition?

What you do get are several theatrical trailers and TV spots, a bunch of short scenes shot to pad out the running time for Japanese television (featuring actor Leo Rossi, of Lustig’s RELENTLESS), on-camera interview featurettes with Robert Z’Dar and Tom Atkins, and an animated promotional art gallery.

As you may have gathered, I’ve been a fan of this movie (and its first sequel) for years, and I’m thrilled to have this new HD edition for my Blu-ray collection - although the lack of filmmakers' commentary means that I'll have to hang on to my old DVD. If, like me, you're already a fan of MANIAC COP and you've got an HD set-up, it's definitely worth upgrading, though, because the movie has never looked and sounded as good as it does here.

Synapse's MANIAC COP Blu-ray streets on October 11th, and comes highly recommended.

BUYManiac Cop [Blu-ray]