Horror aficionados will unanimously agree that the 1980’s were the Golden Age of slasher films. As I’ve discussed before in a retrospective on the original My Bloody Valentine (which you can relive HERE), the holidays were a particularly dangerous time for horny teenagers looking to celebrate these special dates in their own lascivious ways.
Despite it looking a lot more like Christmas here in Chicago, the next holiday on the calendar is St. Patrick’s Day which, outside of the Leprechaun films, doesn’t offer much for horror fans looking to taint their festive green with a little blood red. Today we’re going to delve into an ’80s slasher that ties the Irish holiday with what was once a stereotypical Irish-American profession…law enforcement! Yes, my friends, if you encounter the Maniac Cop, your day is anything BUT lucky!
The film takes place in New York City and opens with a woman fleeing from her would-be assailants. After seeing the silhouette of an officer of the law (a rather LARGE officer I might add) she assumes she’s reached salvation only to discover an entirely new level of police brutality. This is one cop who doesn’t discriminate between the guilty and the innocent when it comes to doling out cruel and unusual punishment! Despite the city’s best efforts to keep things hush (especially in lieu of the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day parade which apparently is the police department’s equivalent of “Gay Pride”) the entire metropolis falls into a panic!
Officer Jack Forrest (played by horror legend, Bruce Campbell) is also on the beat while trying to calm the nerves of his neurotic wife, Ellen. She’s convinced his ambitious work schedule is not only designed to avoid her (for which nobody would blame him) but also indicative of him being the killer police man.
I’d like to mention that there are a lot of law enforcement professionals in my family and I do know that it’s not uncommon for spouses to keep scrapbooks of their wife/husband’s accomplishments. Ellen, however, takes it to a whole new level by doing the same thing with the sensationalist front page stories of the killings!
Actually, Ellen isn’t totally nuts for suspecting her husband as she’s being goaded by a mysterious, female caller (ah, the days before Caller ID) who pushes this notion. This prompts her to follow her husband only to discover what should have been her first conclusion; he’s having an affair! Everything ties in with a big frame up and somewhat convoluted story regarding the relationship of the unknown caller with the killer, political corruption, and plenty of cover ups.
The great Tom Atkins plays Detective Frank McCrae who doesn’t believe Forrest is the maniac and has the dubious task of trying to convince his superiors the same thing. I’m a big fan of Atkins and he does the best he can with the material he’s given. Unfortunately, due to all the sub-plots, he virtually disappears during a good portion of the film.
Also on the case is Officer Forrest’s mistress, a vice detective named Laurene (Theresa Mallory). Her performance is a bit off as would-be “Johns” have no trouble figuring out she’s a cop while on duty though seems a lot like a hooker when she isn’t.
By 1988 the slasher era was winding its way down and this movie was far from its finest example. Aside from the presence of Campbell and Atkins as well as Robert Z-Dar (whose massive jowls make him the perfect choice for a screen killer) it falls victim to its low budget and numerous subplots.
This is not to say that the movie isn’t enjoyable in its own right nor that it hasn’t garnered its own following. It would later go on to produce two sequels; Maniac Cop 2 and Maniac Cop III: Badge of Silence which leads us to one of the great mysteries of the Maniac Cop franchise…
Somehow between parts 1 & 2 our Maniac Cop graduates from a slasher…to a zombie! And we’ll be delving into that story, during my next installment!