Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1992)
by Troy Howarth
Directed by Alan Smithee (William Lustig and Joel Soisson)
Starring Robert Davi, Caitlin Dulany, Gretchen Becker, Julius Harris, Paul Gleason, Doug Savant, Jackie Earl Haley, Robert Forster, Robert Z’Dar, Ted Raimi
A shaman (Julius Harris) raises the maniac cop, Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar), from the grave…
Following the colorful and excessive Maniac Cop 2, director William Lustig and writer Larry Cohen were approached by a different production outfit to make a third entry. Lustig was less than enthused at first, but Cohen dashed off a screenplay which showed some potential, so the director elected to sign on. Complications, personality conflicts and differences of opinion soon would rear their ugly head. Cohen’s original script was rejected the imaginative screenwriter was reluctant to cooperate with any rewrites. It then fell to producer Joel Soisson to salvage what he could and come up with a usable shooting script. Lustig, for his part, was undeterred by the greatly diminished script and tried to forge ahead by making the film as visually dynamic as part two. When he submitted a rough cut of 51 minutes, Soisson was obliged to increase the schedule to bulk up the running time. Lustig decided not to play along with the producer’s plans and vacated, leaving Soisson to finish the picture by stretching out the running time with some new dialogue (read: cheap to film) sequences. The end result was signed by Alan Smithee, while Lustig and Soisson got into a war of words in fanzines as they sought to defend their respective positions. The Maniac Cop saga would therefore end only a whimper, rather than a scream of triumph.
With all this turmoil and conflict behind the camera, it would seem a fair assumption to think that Maniac Cop 3 is a dog – but assumptions are sometimes wrong, and in this instance it pays to give the film a chance. It’s certainly nowhere near as good or coherent as the first two installments, but when one sees all the truly dismal Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street sequels proudly signed by their directors, it comes off very well indeed. The story is a bit of a mess – it’s no surprise to learn that Cohen’s involvement was minimal, despite his screen credit, as his sense of humor is sorely missed – and the pacing is all over the map, but the film still serves up some effective kills and action set pieces. Despite the decreased budget, the film goes for a bigger look by being shot in 2.35 – and the widescreen compositions and nighttime cinematography courtesy of Jacques Haitkin (who lensed the original Nightmare on Elm Street for Wes Craven) go a long way towards making the film look as slick as its predecessors.
The cast is again headed by Robert Davi, reprising his role as the cynical Detective McKinney. Apparently the plan was to have a black lead this time around, but when the Asian distributors balked at this idea (!), Davi was brought back on board. The imposing actor clearly enjoys the opportunity to play heroic, and the story even allows him to have a bit of a love story going on. Caitlin Dulany is very good as the doctor who becomes romantically linked with the detective, while Julius Harris serves up a fine slice of ham as the shaman who sets the story in motion. Robert Forster cameos as a distracted doctor, while Jackie Earl Haley does a fine job as a drug addict who becomes a significant part of the plot. As for the title character himself, Robert Z’Dar has less to do here than usual. He’s a naturally imposing presence, but he’s given few closeups and the idea of his becoming infatuated with a female cop who was also sold down the river by her “superiors” isn’t developed very well. Horror buffs will get a kick out of his hiding out in the same abandoned church that featured in John Carpenter’s marvelous Prince of Darkness (1987).
Maniac Cop 3 cannot compete with its far more clever predecessors, but as a mixture of horror, gore and action it has plenty to recommend. It seems a shame that the series would peter out after this, as the franchise had potential to compete with some of the other more braindead slasher franchises of the period. But, with rumors of a remake in the works, maybe Officer Cordell isn’t really finished, afterall…
Note: The frame grabs for this review were taken from the DVD.
Blue Underground brings Maniac Cop 3 to blu ray and DVD courtesy of this region free combo pack release. The 2.35/16×9 transfer looks very nice. The blu ray is presented in 1080p and is very sharp and colorful. There is no discernible print damage and the transfer isn’t bogged down by any authoring flaws or over-zealous DNR.
Audio options include the original 2.0 surround track, a new 5.1 mix, and an option for D-Box Motion Control systems. The tracks are in very good shape. Music and sound effects have real presence, while the dialogue is clear and distinct. English captions are included for the deaf and hard of hearing, and a plethora of foreign language subtitles are also included.
The most substantial extra is a 25 minutes making of featurette. Lustig speaks frankly of his hatred for the film, Cohen hopes that he doesn’t have to take too much blame for it, and Soisson explains the complicated production difficulties and how he attempted to salvage the end result. Davi, Dulany and Z’Dar all speak fondly of the film. Next up is a collection of deleted and extended scenes, as well as a theatrical trailer and a poster and still gallery. The original screenplay by Cohen is also included, which bears very little resemblance to the finished product.
Film: **1/2 out of *****
Video: ****1/2 out of *****
Audio: ***** out of *****
Extras: ***1/2 out of *****