This movie has an interesting-ish bit of trivia about it. It’s the last one ever to use the Alan Smithee pseudonym, which had been discontinued in 2000. Although he’d been credited up to that point, original director William Lustig had his name taken off for the blu-ray in 2013, a release from his own company (he owns Blue Underground). It’s not like I needed that clue to be able to tell something was a bit off about “Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence”, though.
As you may remember, Officer Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar) had his name cleared and was given a full police funeral, which was a nice ending to two excellent movies…until, in true slasher fashion, his hand emerged from the coffin right at the very end to reclaim his badge. Well, the beginning of part 3 goes out of its way to tell us how he was framed and only went after the people who lied about him…unfortunately, for those of us who’ve seen the first two, this makes no sense. His first on-screen act is to snap the neck of a woman who was running away from a couple of muggers, and he murders dozens of innocent people. Dozens!
Turns out his resurrection this time is due to a voodoo practitioner called Houngan, and his motives are…a trifle unclear? By that, of course, I mean “completely 100% unexplained”. Well, there’s something about a Bride of Frankenstein-esque deal for Cordell, but to call it half-baked is an understatement. Anyway, as he’s doing his thing, a couple of ambulance-chasing freelance TV cameramen are filming a holdup in a chemists’, where super-brave cop Kate (who’s been given the nickname “Maniac Kate” due to her excessive zeal) injures junkie thief Frank Jessup (Jackie Earle Haley) and kills the clerk, getting shot herself in the process; it turns out she was Jessup’s girlfriend and was in on it.
I’ll pause for a second to allow you to ponder the image of mad-eyed Jackie Earle Haley and a sweet-looking Hispanic girl being a couple before continuing. The camera guys decide to edit the footage to make it look like Kate murdered the clerk in cold blood – this being the aftermath of the Rodney King beating – even though she’s mortally wounded herself and in a coma; the news report with this footage is presented by Ted Raimi, a nice callback to brother Sam’s performance in part 1. This gets her friend Lt. McKinney (Robert Davi, who doesn’t exactly look like a “McKinney” now I think about it) riled up, and it really annoys Houngan, although why we never find out. He dispatches Cordell to do his maniac thing in protection of Kate, and this involves killing her doctor, killing another doctor who’s going to turn off her life support, freeing Jessup from the bed he’s been handcuffed to and giving him a gun (not sure why he does that either), and then slaughtering those two camera guys, part of which involves handing over the unedited footage to the cops so Kate’s name can be cleared.
Stunt supremo Spiro Razatos is back for this one, and although I presume the budget was slightly smaller, he does manage one absolute gem of a scene, a car chase between Cordell – who is on fire the entire time! – and McKinney, plus his sidekick / love interest Dr Susan Fowler (Caitlin Dulany). And while we’re in the plus column, it’s fun to see a couple of big-ish names brought in for short cameos – Paul Gleason as the cop who wants Kate’s life support turned off, and Robert Forster as the doctor who agrees to do it. Plus, Robert Davi is again excellent, clearly loving being able to play a good guy for once.
But we really need to discuss that “Alan Smithee” credit. Lustig’s original rough cut came in at 51 minutes (!) and when he was asked by the producers to film the extra scenes to bring it up to feature length, refused and walked off the production, never to return. It turns out the script was written for a black star, but someone decided black star = poor box office, and retrofitted it to be a “Maniac Cop” movie; also, Lustig refused to work with Laurene Landon again, so they had to introduce the Kate character. It sounded like a weird one.
One of those producers, Joel Soisson (whose recent career has been producing endless “Children of the Corn” and “Hellraiser” sequels) stepped in to finish things off – this must also have been tricky, as several of the scenes are very obviously outtakes from part 2. For instance, Cordell does the “walk up stairs while shooting cops” thing again, only in the footage used in part 3 you can see one of the corpses break his fall by grabbing onto the bannister. So, it’s disjointed, the voodoo thing makes less than no sense and it’s paced terribly – at around the 30 minute mark, you realise nothing remotely interesting has happened since Kate got shot. Even with reshoots and the intervention of professional “save our movie” editor Michael Elliot, it just feels unfinished.
I think there’s a law of diminishing returns with slasher villains (which Soisson no doubt understands very well). There comes a point, usually after part 2 of a franchise, where the hoops that need to be jumped through in order to bring the villain back for yet another instalment either slowly make even hardcore fans resentful, or bore the low-rent TV channels and video distributors who are their main customers. What, we’re not the customers? Oh, no. We’re the people whose goodwill towards previous entries is being sold, to scumbag businessmen who couldn’t give a toss about anything other than money. Michael Myers, Leatherface, Jason Voorhees, Pinhead…they’ve all been killed, for good this time, so often that it’s a joke. But the joke is on us (Freddy Krueger only escapes because he’s always been dead, and because his movies a cut above the others in terms of quality). Those guys are the parents of today’s endless sequel / reboot culture, because when part 7 of some godawful slasher franchise can make more money than a far superior original horror idea, movie companies realised that original ideas were a mug’s game.
Don’t know why “Maniac Cop 3” inspired that rant – possibly because parts 1 and (especially) 2 were so good. The stink of pointlessness is strong, even if it’s not an incredibly terrible movie, so I suggest just pretending the franchise ended after the second one. RIP Matt Cordell, you weird indestructible maniac cop, you.
Rating: thumbs in the middle