Although Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence written by Larry Cohen, there’s a suspicion that things didn’t quite click between the filmmakers and the executive producers (actually, the sentiment is verbalized in the Maniac Cop DVD commentary). MC3 is part sequel, satire, and Jason Voorhees riff, but while it has its genuinely fun and tongue-in-cheek moments, plot-wise, the film loses its mind around the first third, and quickly devolves into an incoherent mess.
For William Lustig, there aren’t enough sexy set-pieces to show-off his skills nor create elaborate action sequences, and by the film’s finale there’s been a lot of retreading. Footage from the first [M] & second [M] films are somewhat recapped in quick vignettes (not to mention repurposing several establishing shots, and Matt Cordell ‘walking the beat’ at night), but rather than exploit new locations, most of the drama involves Cordell (Robert Z’Dar, packed with even more facial decay makeup) roaming through another building (a hospital) until a car chase that has the fiery zombie cop trying to run the hero & heroine into oblivion.
The parallels to the Friday the 13th series are deliberate, but perhaps Cohen went too far in making things too referential and absurd, because Cordell is no longer a sympathetic victim in need of a coup de grace – he’s just another monster in a face mask killing stupid people according to the film’s regulated kill meter.
To explain the re-emergence of Cordell, Cohen created a voodoo priest (played by wonderful character actor Julius Harris) who without any reason brings the Maniac Cop back from the dead, and then without any plan, lets him hang around a crumbling church until someone (Lustig? Cohen? A producer?) hits upon the idea of Cordell wanting a zombie bride, which he almost acquires via officer Katie Sullivan (terrible Gretchen Becker), trapped in a coma after a drug store shootout with a scumbag.
Woven into the film are satirical jabs at the media, the police and city establishments and medical wankers, and Cohen sneaks in some hysterically politically incorrect lines. Doug Savant (Desperate Housewives) steals the film with his outrageously rude put-downs of comatose Sullivan, while Robert Forster (who co-starred in Lustig’s Vigilante) barters for primo basketball tickets with city slime-ball representative Hank Cooney (Paul Geason) in exchange for turning off Sullivan’s life support systems.
Lustig’s peculiar quirk of filling roles of ex-Die Hard (1986) actors goes way further in MC3: in DH, Gleason played the ethically challenged police commissioner, while MC3’s star, Robert Davi, has a coffee shop scene with Grand L. Bush; both actors played Agents Johnson & Johnson (“no relation”) in DH, and in their gimmicky MC3 scene, one can see the two actors trying to hide their amusement in the novel pairing.
Davi, reprising his role as Det. McKinney, is the de facto star, and initially plays a guardian role to Det. Sullivan before a romance develops with sultry doctor Susan Fowler (Caitlin Dulany); and Ted Raimi takes over the role of local reporter from brother Sam.
Cohen tries to juggle a several story threads, but it’s no surprise the drug store thug, Frank Jessup (Jackie Earle Haley) is eventually shot to pieces close to the final act because he loses any dramatic purpose once he’s brought into the hospital. His hospital escape is aided by Cordell, but Cohen never explains how a massive zombie cop manages to get through a guarded entrance in order to unshackle Jessup and give him a gun for a brief hospital rampage.
The filmmakers also presume Cordell’s been doing his own speech therapy between sequels, because while he was able to wheezily say his own name in MC2, in MC3 he’s more articulate in an exchange with the voodoo priest and Det. McKinney.
MC3 remains a glossy production, however, aided by Joel Goldsmith’s synth / orchestral score, although based on the sampled chorals, chord hits, and synth effects, it’s clear the film was temp-tracked with material from Jack Nitzsche’s The Seventh Sign.
Like prior films, MC3 seems to have been filmed open matte, and was cropped to 1.85:1 for theatrical exhibition. The film was released on video in rated and unrated editions, with the latter featuring more details of bullets piercing bodies, swords poking through necks, and general zombie trauma toward annoying victims.
Lustig would make two more feature films – uncredited work on The Expert (1995), and the Cohen-scripted Uncle Sam (1997) - before retiring from feature filmmaking and concentrating on his home video company, Blue Underground.
© 2011 Mark R. Hasan