As much as I love Maniac Cop parts one and two, I’ve never had much desire to see the third entry in the series simply because it was fairly well-documented that said film’s director, William Lustig, not only despised it; he walked away from the film mid-production, leaving it to be finished by producer, Joel Soisson, with directorial credit being ascribed to the dreaded Alan Smithee!
The thing is, the story behind Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence is a bit more complex than that, and, as is often the case, these sorts of creative blowouts usually have more to do with ego and control than actual quality. Still, I was firmly in Lustig’s camp, here, as the guy’s a freakin’ horror icon, and he and frequent collaborator, Larry Cohen (who wrote Maniac Cop 3 and, like Lustig, all but disowned the film), have been responsible for some of the greatest, grittiest horror movies the genre has to offer. I mean, when the guys responsible for the first two films in the series tell you that the third one sucks, you take their word for it, dig?
It wasn’t until recently, when Lustig’s Blue Underground announced they’d be bringing both Maniac Cop 2 and Badge of Silence to Blu-ray that my curiosity was piqued. If Maniac Cop 3 is such a bad film, why would Lustig release it under his own imprint (besides the obvious financial benefits)? Things got even more interesting when the set’s extras were revealed to include lengthy featurette about the film’s troubled production! My mind was flooded with questions. Would this set be a mea culpa by Lustig? Had his stance softened in the two decades since the film was originally released? Was Maniac Cop 3 as bad as he suggested?
In short, the answers are “not on your life”, “are you fucking kidding me?”, and an emphatic “hell no!”.
Maniac Cop 3 opens with the burial of Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar), finally at peace now that his name has been cleared of the false allegations that brought him back from the brink of death to take revenge on those who wronged him. However, before the first shovel full of dirt can be thrown upon Cordell’s grave, the killer cop is brought back into this world by Houngan (Julius Harris), a voodoo priest who believes that his work here is not yet done.
Meanwhile, across town, Officer Katie Sullivan (Gretchen Becker) responds to a pharmacy heist where she faces off against tweeked-out baddie, Frank Jessup (Jackie Earle Haley), resulting in Katie being mortally wounded while defending herself against a perceived innocent who was, in fact, Jessup’s accomplice. Tabloid journalists Tribble (Frank Pesce) and Bishop (Bobby Di Cicco) film the scene, but edit out the part showing Katie acting in self-defense, making it appear as though the policewoman murdered an innocent bystander.
Det. Sean McKinney (Robert Davi), a close friend of Katie’s, is certain that the young woman is being setup, and takes it upon himself to forcefully question Jessup much to the dismay of the thug’s doctor, Susan Fowler (Caitlin Dulany). Susan, however, is empathetic to McKinney’s situation, and offers to help run interference between him and Katie’s egotistical doctor (and Susan’s ex), Peter Myerson (Doug Savant), who thinks Katie’s case is a hopeless one, fueling the city’s desire to see her taken off of life support so they can settle with Jessup (who is suing the city) and limit the damage to their coffers.
Cordell, however, has other ideas, and, seeing as how he’s been through the same sort of smear campaign Katie has, takes to the streets, dispatching those who’ve sullied her good name.
Maniac Cop 3 is actually a hell of a lot of fun, albeit a bit choppy in terms of tone and style (losing your director midway through a film will have that effect). The Maniac Cop films are basically pulp cop dramas with horror overtones, and Badge of Silence is no exception. This film takes the series full circle, once again focusing on crime, corruption, and the oftentimes ludicrous nature of the legal system. While there was definitely trouble behind the scenes, one wouldn’t know it by watching the film as everything seems to move along quite fluidly, with only a few moments of aforementioned disconnect that I would have otherwise overlooked had I not been privy to the behind-the-scenes turmoil. While I’d love to see what Lustig and Cohen had in mind when they set out to make the picture, I have to say that, while it’s certainly not as good as the series’ middle chapter (widely recognized by genre fans as one of the best action/horror films ever made), it’s gory, always entertaining, and the series’ trademark grittiness and sense of humor remain firmly intact.
In spite of Lustig’s disdain for the film, his Blue Underground gives Maniac Cop 3 the royal treatment on Blu-ray, presenting the film in a jaw-droppingly gorgeous new 4K transfer that is crisp, detailed, and quite vibrant, with well-balanced tones and contrast. The image has a welcome sheen of filmic grain that lends to the down-and-dirty aesthete. The film is accompanied by a nicely mixed 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that offers deep, satisfying bass, crystalline highs, and exceptionally implemented surround effects, with organic sounding dialogue mixed right up front and center.
Extras include the aforementioned Wrong Arm of the Law featurette (HD), which is a lengthy look at the troubled production, featuring Lustig, Cohen, and Soisson all offering their own takes on what went wrong (or right, depending on your point of view). All three are brutally honest, with Lustig hilariously likening the film to “a bucket of piss” while Soisson is a bit more reserved and realistic in that, while he loves the Maniac Cop films, he knew he wasn’t making Citizen Kane, and was just happy the film was finished at all. We also hear from stars Davi, Z’Dar, Becker, and Dulany, as well as the film’s director of photography, Jacques Haitkin; each of whom try to be as diplomatic as possible, but are all quite happy with not only the film, but with the way they were treated by Soisson and his partners, which seems to put quite a bit of the onus on Lustig. I really commend Lustig for not only putting himself out there like this, but for actively taking part in a featurette that sort of paints him as L’enfant terrible, begrudgingly returning to the series he created after a project he’d spent years on collapsed. After a series of “compromises”, Lustig admits to finally just doing the film to “cash checks” before, ultimately, walking away from it entirely. It’s a frank and informative featurette, and well worth viewing.
Other extras include a collection of deleted scenes, a stills gallery, and the film’s theatrical trailer (HD). Also included is the film’s original synopsis as written by Larry Cohen, which shows just how much the final product deviated from his and Lustig’s original vision.
Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence is so much better than its reputation suggests, and Blue Underground’s Blu-ray release is an absolute gem, with reference quality sights and sounds, and a small-but-compelling set of extras that are surprisingly candid and informative. Very highly recommended!