2019 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 12: Maniac Cop (1988)

DAY 12. THE FRACAS AND THE FUZZ: Something revolving around cops and criminals.

Beyond being the CEO of Blue Underground, Bill Lustig will get a forever pass just for making the films Maniac and the three movies in this series. I mean, Bruce Campbell, Tom Atkins and Robert Z’Dar in the same movie? And it’s written by Larry Cohen? Count me in.

There’s a series of murders going on in New York City, all being committed by someone in a police uniform, which leads to complete panic. However, that policeman is even more frightening than anyone dared dream. He’s not just a cop. He’s a…Maniac Cop.

Ellen Forrest thinks that her husband Officer Jack W. Forrest, Jr. (Campbell) is the Maniac Cop, following him to a hotel where she catches him in bed with fellow officer Theresa Mallory (Laurene Landon, Yellow Hair and the Fortress of GoldWicked Stepmother, your teenage dreams). She runs from the room right into Maniac Cop, who kills her, a murder for which Jack gets the blame.

Detective Lieutenant Frank McCrae (Atkins) believes that Jack was framed. He gets Jack to tell him about his fling with Mallory, who is currently undercover working as a prostitute. She and McCrae fight off the Maniac Cop, who is cold to the touch, doesn’t breathe and shrugs off several bullets.

The trail of the killer leads to Sally Nolland, a fellow female officer who Mallory confided in. She’s played by Sheree North, whose life was pretty interesting. In the mid-1950s, 20th Century-Fox groomed her as a replacement for the studio’s leading — and volatile — leading lady, Marilyn Monroe. They even had her test for two roles — The Girl in Pink Tights and There’s No Business Like Show Business — that Monroe was up for. To add insult to injury, the studio gave her Monroe’s wardrobe.

In March 1954, North dealt with a scandal when a stag loop of her in a bikini surfaced, but the studio capitalized on the bad press. Her next leading role was opposite Betty Grable in How to Be Very, Very Popular, a part Monroe had turned down. She was suspended by the studio as a result and this led to North getting into Life magazine with the headline “Sheree North Takes Over From Marilyn Monroe” emblazoned on the cover.

How to Be Very, Very Popular is a forgotten film today, but at the time, North’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll” dance proved memorable. The studio kept trying, casting her in two movies with Tom Ewell, Monroe’s co-star in The Seven Year Itch. While their second pairing, The Lieutenant Wore Skirts, was a success, the studio soon grew disinterested and began hyping a new blonde star — Jayne Mansfield.

Part of that reason may have been North standing up for herself. Her agent advised that she turn down a role that parodied Monroe in The Girl Upstairs and when Elvis dropped out of The Way to the Gold, North hated his replacement, Jeffrey Hunter.

After North’s contract with Fox ended in 1958, her career slowed. She did a series of TV shows, appeared in John Wayne’s last film The Shootist, was in Destination Inner Space and finally acted alongside Elvis in The Trouble With Girls. Ironically, she played Marilyn Monroe’s mother in the made-for-television film Marilyn: The Untold Story.

Today’s audiences would probably remember her best for two sitcom roles: Blanche’s sister Virginia on Golden Girls and as Cosmo Kramer’s mother Babs on Seinfeld.

But I digress…

McCrae follows Noland to a warehouse, where she meets with the Maniac Cop. She calls him by his real name, Matt, which leads McCrae to discover the history of Matthew Cordell (Z’Dar), a cop who was jailed for brutality before his fellow prisoners mutilated and murdered him. Of course, he was also set up after discovering corruption all the way up to the mayor’s office. It turns out that he survived — barely — and has been waiting to get his revenge ever since.

From here on, we get the shock and awe we were looking for, with Officer Cordell wiping out cops left and right. Yet even being impaled on a pipe at the end of the film can’t stop the rage of this now undead peace officer, who rises to murder the mayor as the film closes.

Look for Sam Raimi, Richard Roundtree and boxer Jake LaMotta, Lustig’s uncle, in cameos.

This is a fun movie that I have no complaints about at all. It’s fun, fast-moving and is filled with stunts and violence. If you’re expecting an Oscar-winning movie, well…

After years of rumors, a new Maniac Cop is on its way. According to Variety, the series will be the first production of Nicolas Winding Refn’s byNWR Originals, a part of his cultural site byNWR.com and will air on HBO.

Here’s the press release: “Set in Los Angeles, Maniac Cop is said to be told through a kaleidoscope of characters, from cop to common criminal. A killer in uniform has uncaged mayhem upon the streets. Paranoia leads to social disorder as a city wrestles with the mystery of the exterminator in blue. Is he mere mortal, or a supernatural force?”

Sounds interesting. Want to know about the other Maniac Cop films? Stay tuned — we’ll be covering them both today.

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