Saturday, October 8, 2011

New Synapse Blu Rays: Maniac Cop and Frankenhooker

Blu Ray

I haven't watched the original MANIAC COP since it originally came out back in the 80's. It was a movie that frankly I remembered liking, but not loving, and I remember liking the sequel more (though to be fair I haven't seen it since it came out as well). So checking the movie out on this new Blu Ray release was almost like getting to see it again for the first time.

The first thing that struck my right off the bat was just how deliciously detailed the new transfer from Synapse is. This is easily one of the best looking HD transfers I have seen. Admittedly I'm not a journeyman when it comes to Blu Ray having only been buying them for a little over a year. But from frame one, the MANIAC COP transfer floored me with how clean and clear it was. The opening credit sequence that shows the cop putting his gear on in ultra close up behind the credits, is rife with crazy detail. You can see thing likes the peach fuzz on the Maniac Cops gloves for crying out loud!

The movie jumps quickly into the meat of the film with a barely seen police officer murdering people on the street for what seems like minor infractions or even nothing at all. Hard nosed Police detective Tom Atkins is on the case but no one on the force wants to believe him including the Chief (played by SHAFT himself Richard Roundtree). Tom Atkins figures it out pretty quickly that the perpetrator is a cop. Meanwhile Bruce Campbell is a cop who is having an affair  with another female officer, When his wife discovers his indiscretion, she runs out on him only to be killed by the Maniac Cop, clearly being set up to take the fall. From this point Bruce will have to find out who is the actual Maniac to clear his name. Meanwhile lots of people are still ending up dead, especially at the exact wrong time to have his name cleared.

Lots of things set MANIAC COP apart form the late 80's tide of crap. First off is the smart script from Larry Cohen. As per usual for him, the script takes the more insane sounding ideas and makes them sound ridiculously plausible. That is his god given gift as a screenwriter. The other big deal of MANIAC COP is the slick, serpentine direction Bill Lustig gives the whole production. While it is obviously not a huge budgeted movie, clearly there is a little bit more money here than usual, and it shows on screen with some really solid stunt work, good locations (Seems a lot was shot in L.A. doubling for New York, but I was totally fooled) and a gliding, prowling camera the best Giallo film would be proud of. Then there is the roster of B-movie actors making a payday and bring their A-game from the great Tom Adkins, to William Smith and Richard Roundtree. The only performances in the film I am not crazy about is Bruce Campbell and Laureen Landon. Campbell I have just never felt was hard edged enough to fit the material , and Landon is just not that great of an actress, she is fine as eye candy, but when called to emote, she is not cutting the mustard, especially across the table from guys like Atkins or William Smith. There isn't much bad you can say about Robert Z'Dar in the roll, he is menacing, and scary, and in the main shower scene beat down, he takes it like a man.

If you are a fan of the film, this is worth the upgrade simply for the gorgeous Hi-Def transfer which really is one of the nicest I have seen. I guess there are some extras gone missing from the old releases to this one, but hey you can't have it all. There are some good interviews with Atkins and Z'Dar, and a whole host of trailers and a bunch of cut scenes dealing with the Mayor, that while interesting are obvious why they were cut as they slow the movie way down.So all that stuff is still here and pretty worthwhile. But it is the new transfer that is the star of this disc.

Also out from SYNAPSE FILMS.


Blu Ray

The first film made but second released, in the two picture deal with Shapiro /Glickenhaus pictures in the late 80's (the other film of course being BASKET CASE 2, and then eventually BASKET CASE 3) this is easily Henenlotter's funniest film to date and his most accessible.  While on paper the plot sounds outrageous and slightly misogynistic, the final film is anything but. It is a super silly, almost lighthearted parody of teen romance films and the FRANKENSTEIN mythology. It is FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN meets 16 CANDLES.

Jeffrey (played by the super talented and funny James Lorinz) accidentally kills his girlfriend (played by Penthouse pet Patty Mullen) in a horrible Lawnmower accident. But instead of sitting on his laurels crying he sets out to bring her back using his limited knowledge of science and biology. But first he has to gather enough parts to put her back together after the accident. He doesn't mind if she is a little "improved" along the way. But being a pretty nice fellow he can't bring himself to just go and cold blooded kill women so he invents "Super Crack" That will blow up anyone who smokes it. Thus letting the hookers he will meet choose their own demise. Then he can take the parts home and build his own bride.

Completely silly and over the top, with funny lead performances, FRANKEHOOKER has stood the test of time more than a lot of other films from that era that tried to be funny and failed,  such as something like GIRLFRIEND FROM HELL or DEATH SPA. That plays out from Henenlotter's expert sense of the absurd. Each crazy set piece mounting to top the last, from the exploding cracked out hookers to the mutant body parts becoming their own little monsters at the end. The movie continues to surprise at each turn. Henenlotter also peppers his movies with lots of funny and cool side characters like Zeus the pimp, or the googly eyes john who gets humped to death.

Then there is Frankenhooker herself an awesome make up creation but brought to life by a lighthearted performance by Patty Mullen who keeps the character child like no matter how crazy of shit she is called on to do. She is terrific and very memorable in the part. Probably the biggest reason the movie is still hanging around to this day. That and that great old "Wanna Date" VHS packaging.

The new Blu Ray from Synapse is as good as it will ever get for FRANKENHOOKER. The old extras from the special edition DVD are carried over here, but the new HD transfer is just  gorgeous with solid beautiful colors. This movie is saturated with purples and blues, all which looked washed out and faded on the old VHS and first edition DVD's. The Special Edition DVD from Unearthed looked very nice and was a great improvement, but this new HD transfer is well worth the double dip for fans. The movie never looked this good.

So both these flicks are essentials for your Blue Ray collections!

Review © Andrew Copp


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