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WILLIAM LUSTIG & LARRY COHEN FIRST TWO 'MANIAC COP' FILMS

The first MANIAC COP Year: 1987 Rates: ***1/2
MANIAC COP: Director William Lustig makes horror and action flicks with a murky Film Noir vibe where the night is a character in itself: and not too friendly, centering on a killer cop played by the unique Robert D'Zar, faceless through most of the film, the first half is a mystery/thriller, making every policeman, including tough and growling William Smith, a possible suspect.

Tom Atkins investigates a rogue cop on the loose. Bruce Campbell is a beat cop and cheating husband both, making him a crooked kind of hero only writer/producer Larry Cohen could create. But most of the bloody fun is the Maniac Cop going from victim to victim. And he could be a zombie, or something otherworldly, because even bullets can’t do the trick. So once the killer's identity is revealed, followed by flashbacks and a b-story about his crippled lover (Sheree North), the action subsides into a much slower, less involving pace. Yet it’s all original throughout: leading to a somewhat overlong car chase, and then a battle with Campbell versus the Maniac Cop. And once his grotesque face is revealed, things rush to a predictable conclusion. And yet, despite the sporadic flaws, it's an action/horror that always keeps the beat.

Maniac Cop 2 Year: 1990 Rates: ***1/2
MANIAC COP 2: Rare sequel that almost equals the original. That's right, an equal sequel. Officer Matt Cordell played by the uniquely awesome, square jawed Robert Z'Dar, is back, and he's not only meaner than than ever, but smarter too. In one scene he kills one guy, and lets another live... then gives the survivor the gun so the real cops can take care of things on their own. Quite clever for a lunatic corpse. And beware Bruce Campbell fans; he's in only a few scenes till he and another veteran/survivor from the original, Laurene Landon, exit stage left.

But it's the dependably intense Robert Davi, holding the reigns as an investigator on the beat, knowing who's behind the string of murders. And he's partnered with pretty cop-shrink Claudia Christian, forced into believing the impossible. And the introduction of Leo Rossi, as a stripper-stalking serial killer (resembling an early seventies Jerry Garcia) who befriends Cordell, is hit and miss. While we get closer with the Maniac Cop through their quirky friendship, gone is the implied suspense of the original (and we have to sit through the exact same prison shower flashback). But lots of cool action abounds thanks to director William Lustig, once again turning an urban landscape into his very own nightmarish playground. Again scripted by producer Larry Cohen, who gives even the least important characters something interesting to say, it's an ultra violent, yet equally creative, journey into hell.
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