It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born. For the curious, here are links to 2008, 2009 (a bad year), 2010, 2011, 2012 (when we left the blog behind), 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. We decided to kick off the 2017 Easter Zombie Movie Marathon with an 80s flashback double-feature: the relatively obscure The Midnight Hour – a made-for-TV Halloween comedy-horror movie involving curses, witches, werewolves, zombies, and a musical number right in the midst of it all – and the cult classic, Maniac Cop – which for some unknown reason I’d never seen before. The Midnight Hour originally aired on Friday night, November 1, 1985, on ABC and is generally dismissed and forgotten by horror, and particularly zombie, fans. Which is unfortunate, because this is a pretty well-made family-friendly horror story, with more than a few laughs, some slightly disturbing kills, and I’ll be damned if the original song “Get Dead” (performed by Shari Belafonte) isn’t catchy as hell. Don’t expect a lot of strong character work or logic, pop some popcorn for the kiddies, and enjoy. Since it’s streaming on YouTube, there’s really no excuse not to work this into your Halloween festivities. If you don’t have kids, though, you might want to stay away depending on your tolerance for silliness. The cast is filled with 80s talent; Peter Deluise and LeVar Burton are the jocks, Shari Belafonte and Dedee Pfeiffer are the popular girls, Dick Van Patten and Kevin McCarthy are two wildly different types of parents (Van Patten is the loving and encouraging town dentist, while McCarthy is the raging alcoholic town judge), Kurtwood Smith is the crotchety police captain who doesn’t believe anything is going on until it’s too late, and Wolfman Jack is the radio DJ introducing classic rock to liven up the film’s soundtrack. The leads are played by Lee Montgomery as nerdy Phil, whose unrequited love for Mary (Pfeiffer) gets redirected toward the new girl in town, Sandy (Jonna Lee). Of course, Sandy’s not really new to town as she’s just come back from the dead after being in the ground since the 50s. The basic story is classic. Some teens go out to the cemetery and stupidly perform a magical ritual that they think is a big joke but turns out to be real. Then, after they’ve gone back home to get their Halloween party started, the dead return to life, along with a werewolf and their vampiric witch queen, Lucinda Cavender (Jonelle Allen). There are two or three kills included here that might be a little spooky for the youngsters, particularly when the werewolf attacks his first victim, who writhes and screams as the monster leaps upon him, swiping and growling. The camera lingers on the attack, helping to make it a little more intense than it has any right to be. The second nice and scary scene is when Lucinda reveals that she’s a vampire as she attacks her great-great-great-great-grandaughter, Melissa, in her wine cellar. The attack is done in slow-motion and as they struggle, wine bottles are smashed (and some just pop open) spraying the room with red in a nice workaround for network television censors. Of course, those are just two moments. We’re also treated to dancing zombies, a zombie make-out session on the party couch (ugh), a zombie little person sticking his face in the punch bowl to get a drink, and a lot of other goofy shit as Phil and Sandy figure out what’s going on (she’s got the inside scoop, having been resurrected with the rest of the monsters) and set out to save the town. Writer William Bleich has a long track record of cheesy TV horror, right up until the late 90s when he worked on Poltergeist: The Legacy, and director Jack Bender is a TV director who has worked consistently since 1980, having directed episodes of everything from Eight is Enough to Beverly Hills 90210 to The Sopranos, Lost, and Game of Thrones. And now for something completely different. Maniac Cop was one of the last true grindhouse movies to be shot on location in New York, and as such, it has a distinct charm all its own. With a budget of 1.1 million, we get a decent car chase, a few car stunts, and a lot of NY cops. We also get Evil Dead director Sam Raimi in a cameo as a reporter covering the St. Patrick’s Day parade. William Lustig is known mostly for the Maniac Cop series (he directed all three films) as well as the low-budget horror classic, Maniac. For the Maniac Cop series, he teamed up with legendary schlock screenwriter Larry Cohen (Black Caesar, the It’s Alive series, Q, The Stuff) and while this film was never going to win an Oscar, it’s a solid, if underrated, piece of 80s indie filmmaking. The story is simple enough. A loose-cannon cop was sent to prison, murdered, returned to life somehow, and now stalks the streets violently murdering anybody who gets in his way. He’s not hunting down bad guys. He’s literally killing the innocent for no discernable reason. Which is brilliant and hints at a thematic depth that the film doesn’t really do a whole lot with, but is clearly on display during a news broadcast where ordinary citizens of New York are not surprised at all that a cop is killing people. It’s a small moment, but it sings. Ultimately, he wants to kill the Mayor and the Police Commissioner who sent him to prison, but that’s really almost secondary to just murdering people at random. The film stars Tom Atkins, Theresa Mallory, and the one and only Bruce Campbell, as the cops who are trying to get Maniac Cop Robert Z’Dar off the streets. It also boasts Richard Roundtree and warrior-poet William Smith in supporting roles. Lustig’s uncle, legendary boxer Jake LaMotta also makes an appearance as a detective. I’ll be honest. As the opening credits began and I saw all those names, I was stunned. How had I never seen this movie? I’m embarrassed and ashamed. It’s like this film was made just for me and I never even knew it. It’s like one of those stupid missed messages on FB that got shunted off to a secret message folder that you didn’t even know existed. Maniac Cop is basically just exactly what it says it is. Why is he back from the dead? Who knows. Is he a zombie (the reason for the film’s inclusion in this year’s marathon) or is he just brain damaged to point of invulnerability? Not explored. Why is he setting up Bruce Campbell as his fall guy? No clue. All that matters here is that he’s big, horrifying, and wants to kill. Hell, he slaughters about a dozen cops in one off-screen sequence without making a single sound. He’s a force of nature and no plot or logic will restrain him! In the end, Maniac Cop is a nostalgic joy – whether you’ve seen it before or not. The cast is great, the concept is great, and the grit and grime of 80s New York is great. I can’t wait to watch the rest of the series once this year’s marathon is over. See larger image Maniac Cop [Blu-ray] Innocent people are brutally killed on the streets of New York by a uniformed police officer. A young cop, Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell, TV’s BURN NOTICE and The EVIL DEAD Trilogy) finds himself marked as the chief suspect after his wife is murdered. As Lieutenant Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins, DRIVE ANGRY and LETHAL WEAPON) investigates, the death toll rises and he suspects a mysterious police cover-up. This “maniac” cop must be stopped, but it might not be so easy. He seems inhuman, and ready to take on the entire police force, hell-bent on revenge! Restored and remastered from original vault materials by Synapse Films, MANIAC COP looks and sounds better than ever in this brand-new 2011 high-definition transfer, featuring newly remixed DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound! Long considered a classic of the horror genre, MANIAC COP was written and produced by Larry Cohen (IT’S ALIVE, PHONE BOOTH) and directed by William Lustig (MANIAC, VIGILANTE). Bonus Features: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1 DTS 6.1 Surround Sound Maniac Cop Memories Featurette Out the Window – Interview with Tom Atkins Three Minutes with Danny Hicks Featurette Motion Still Gallery Additional Japanese TV Scenes Theatrical Trailer TV Spots Spanish Radio Spot New From: $14.97 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.