Maniac Cop (1988)



This movie drove me crazy!  On one hand, I enjoyed it quite a bit as it’s a very well made horror thriller.  On the other hand, the inconsistencies had me pulling out what little hair I have on my  head and yelling, “what? how? why????”

Maniac Cop was directed by William Lustig (also known for Maniac, Maniac Cop 2 and Maniac Cop 3 among others) and he did a great job!  This is definitely a good movie with solid build-up, tense scenes and payoffs for those scenes.  There is plenty of gore for the gore fiends yet not so much as to not be able to receive that coveted “R” rating.  And of course how can you knock a movie that stars Bruce Campbell?

Given the movie’s title, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what it’s about.  Like any good slasher film, once the plot is established and we watch in delight as one victim after another is stalked and killed – primarily by strangulation, stabbing and cutting – we want to watch the good guys eventually figure out what the bad guy’s weaknesses are and stop him.  And that drove me crazy!  But I’ll get to that in a moment.

Three or four people get killed in the first 10 minutes; one victim is a woman outrunning muggers only to get killed by the maniac cop.  I forgot the others.  Then we’re introduced to Jack Forrest (Campbell) who is having an affair with fellow officer Theresa Mallory (Laurene Landon).  After Forrest’s wife follows her husband to a cheap motel and catches him in the act, she is found brutally murdered.  This inevitably makes Forrest a suspect for the recent killings and he and Officer Mallory go to work to figure out what’s up.

We eventually learn the history of the maniac cop; that he used to be a well liked but overzealous hard ass who went to prison for some unrevealed reason and was apparently killed.  And therein lies the rub!  What happened to him?  Is he a corpse that came back from the grave?  Is he a mad scientist’s experiment gone awry?  His makeup job is pretty good, with his face covered in scars and gashes.  But why is he impervious to bullets yet feels pain when impaled by a metal pipe?  The bullet proof vest theory is out of the question since one character shoots him in the head and he still lives.

And I don’t want to give away the ending but I’m going to have to.  He gets impaled by a spike while driving his car off a pier.  When the car is pulled up by a crane, he isn’t in it so he disappeared leaving the ending open to sequel, right?  Then, seconds later, his hand reaches out of the water.  You’re thinking, “so what?”  Let me explain why this drove me up the wall.  If he were to have just disappeared like Michael Meyers in Halloween this would be fine.  However the people were still on the scene, so ultimately what is the movie saying?  That maniac cop was too lazy to continue killing people once the credits rolled?  Do you get what I’m saying?  The characters have to believe that the bad guy is dead before the credits roll.  Otherwise the end is left completely open!  There’s no conclusion!

So, if this movie was just a cheaply made pile of crap, then I can understand this lazy plot hole.  The fact that the movie is well made and drew me in makes the plot holes that much more egregious!

Valley of the Zombies (1946)



Nice poster, nice title but no valley and no zombies.  Not to mention no budget either.  I don’t have that much to say about this 56 minute quickie (as they used to call short movies back then) except that I wish the bad guy was played by Boris Karloff and not Robert Livingston.

The plot concerns Doctor Terry Evans (Livingston) killing people and using their blood to stay alive.  Most of the movie is just a police procedural with the film’s two main characters Fred (Earl Hogdins) and his wife/fiance Nurse Susan Drake (Lorna Gray) trying to prove their innocence after being in the scene of the crime.

If you must know the background, Dr. Maynard (Charles Trowbridge) wrongfully (or rightfully, I forgot which) diagnosed Evans as being insane and had him sent away to the looney bin, where he apparently died except that he didn’t and found some way of chemically sustaining his life.  Only he must constantly refill himself with blood and thus kills people to do so.

During most of the film the two protagonists do their own detective work Thin Man style since apparently the cops are too stupid to do it themselves.  They explore creepy houses and mausoleums while the guy leads the charge with total bravado and the girl, of course, acts frightened every time she turns her head.

But indeed, I was disappointed that the movie had no zombies.  I was hoping that Livingston would play a voodoo master.  He looks cool with his thick eyebrows, top hat and cape and he does hypnotize the leading female but, ultimately, there wasn’t enough going on even for a movie this short.  Now those RKO “sophisticated” low budget horror pictures like Cat People, The Body Snatcher and I Walked with a Zombie were good at “not showing” everything but this Republic picture ain’t like that.  It doesn’t show much and doesn’t have creepy atmosphere.  I still like some of the sets though.

Skinheads (1989)



What great poster art!  I’m not kidding!  I don’t know who illustrated this, but it looks like the poster for a classic exploitation film, which Skinheads of course is!  Any of you SHARP, Trad or Trojan skins, who stumbled upon this post when doing a google search for “skinheads”, please know that I’m well aware of the original skinhead subculture from the 60s and 70s and that it was based upon music, not ideology, with their preferred style being reggae, ska and soul.

But, you know who didn’t do ANY research on skinheads?  Writer/director Greydon Clark, responsible for 1970s exploitation classics such as The Bad Bunch,  Black Shampoo and Satan’s Cheerleaders, is clearly NOT trying to make a social statement with this film, in spite the “serious” looking video box art, which got me interested in this movie in the first place!  This could easily have been a 60s/70s biker film, only that the nogoodniks in Skinheads actually believe in the swastikas they wear, rather than just using them as shocking regalia.  At least, as far as I know, none of the biker gangs from the 60s/70s believed in the Third Reich, but I could be mistaken.

I’m getting ahead of myself.  I don’t think Skinheads (a.k.a. Skinheads: The Second Coming of Hate) actually made it to theaters, which is a sad reflection of how home video killed the grind house and drive-in markets, nor has it been released on DVD.  I had to pull out the old VHS player to give this one a whirl.  And, BOY was it worth it!

The general story is that a group of neo-Nazi skinheads terrorize a small community in the San Francisco area.  After witnessing a fight, which leads to a shootout, the film’s protagonists escape into a secluded wooded area, and the skinheads go after them to try to kill them.  Never once do we see the cops because, I guess they were busy doing something else at the time.  Wait, no.  The skinheads cut a couple of phone lines, so nobody could call the cops and this is before everyone had a cell phone.

The group of skinheads consists of a crazy leader named Damon (Brian Bophy who I guess was in Star Trek: The Next Generation), an overweight, bumbling buffoon named Brains (the enormous Dennis Ott), a few lackeys and a skinhead girl named Liz (Lynna Hopwood), who is just as vicious as the guys.  They also inconspicuously drive around in a van with a swastika painted on the side.

The skinheads harass,fight and kill lots of people before the plot really takes off.  The main story involves the good guy Jeff (Jason Culp), the good girl Amy (Liz Segal of Howard the Duck and Double Trouble fame) and the old, all-American hero Mr. Huston (Chuck Connors from Airplane II and something else I forgot) defending their lives against the skinheads.

What’s there to say?  Skinheads is a whole heck of a lot of fun and really violent; a throat gets slashed, people get shot, someone gets cruficied and eaten by a bear, someone gets raped.  If you’re looking for a precursor to Romper Stomper or American History X, look elsewhere.  Skinheads is “straight from the headlines” exploitation and nothing more.  It’s so fun in fact, that my friend Josh wants to watch it practically every time we hang out.  We’ve watched it so many times, that we wore through the tape; which reminds me, I have to get myself another copy!

While most of the acting is pretty stock and intended just to get your through the plot, of which there are a few holes, as is par for the course, Chuck Connors and Brian Bophy own the show.  Spoiler alert: is it meant to be situational irony that the Connors character never finds out that his wife has been killed prior to the protagonists coming to his cabin?  Connors’ Heston-esque tough guy with a heart of gold is extremely hammy, yet it’s still touching hearing the WWII vet say, “there’s always another hate preaching bastard that needs to be stamped out!”.  Brian Bophy, on the other hand, makes Nick Cage look like he uses restraint.

The soundtrack was done by the Detroit based Elvis Hitler, which is interesting because Elvis Hitler is rockabilly band, yet the music they play in the movie sounds like Motorhead.  Oh, and if you’re an Easter egg hunter, check out the S.O.D. poster in the skinheads’ hideout.