Tag Archives: Larry Cohen

Maniac Cop (1988, William Lustig)

There are good things about Maniac Cop. Not many and director Lustig doesn’t know what to do with them, but there are good things about it.

James Lemmo and Vincent J. Rabe’s photography is excellent. Lustig never asks them to do anything interesting, but they’re clearly capable of it. The stunts are also pretty good. They’re ambitious, which is strange, because nothing else about the movie is ambitious.

Lustig, as a director, can’t work with actors–the most annoying thing about Maniac Cop is it should be all right. Lots of elements should be good. Lustig can’t get acceptable performances out of actors like Tom Atkins and Richard Roundtree. If you can’t get acceptable performances out of character actors, there’s something seriously wrong with your approach.

Larry Cohen’s script isn’t great–it’s similarly unambitious after a layered first act–but had Lustig kept the film interesting until the last act, it would’ve been better. The revelation of the evil spree killing cop is a dumb twist, but Cohen’s plotting of it is inept. It’s so inept, Lustig can’t even impair it.

Inordinately bad music from Jay Chattaway doesn’t help things. David Kern’s editing isn’t scary or exciting; Maniac Cop has this ornate, incompetent chase sequence where there’s clearly time put into it, but without good result.

Eventual lead Bruce Campbell’s okay. He manages to make a dip of a character likable and he has some fun playing the damsel in distress for a bit, but Lustig wastes him. Cohen writes a good character for Laurene Landon and Landon has some decent moments. Not enough, thanks to Lustig’s inability to direct his actors.

Maniac Cop plays like it is going to get markedly better at any moment. It never does.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by William Lustig; written and produced by Larry Cohen; directors of photography, James Lemmo and Vincent J. Rabe; edited by David Kern; music by Jay Chattaway; production designer, Jonathan R. Hodges; released by Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment.

Starring Tom Atkins (Frank McCrae), Bruce Campbell (Jack Forrest), Laurene Landon (Theresa Mallory), Richard Roundtree (Commissioner Pike), William Smith (Captain Ripley), Robert Z’Dar (Matt Cordell) and Sheree North (Sally Noland).


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The Stuff (1985, Larry Cohen)

According to IMDb, Larry Cohen cut about a half hour out of The Stuff. It’s entirely possible with that added footage, the movie might have made sense. As it’s cut now, it’s a somewhat diverting–at least until the third act–cross between The Blob and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Unfortunately, Cohen’s direction is weak throughout, so when he loses track of the story in the third act… there’s nothing to keep the film going.

As a satire, it’s only moderately successful. Cohen has a lot more success when he’s dealing in absurdity, like Paul Sorvino’s extremist militia leader who ends up saving the world. The way Cohen presents the character–clearly a nut job, but also one who genuinely cares about people and is completely ethical–is maybe the best thing about the film. It’s a small thing, but it just makes for some great scenes.

Sorvino’s not the lead though. Michael Moriarty is the lead. I’m not sure Moriarty could ever give a bad performance and he doesn’t here, he just doesn’t have a character arc. It seems like Cohen cut out the romance between Moriarty and Andrea Marcovicci, which is unfortunate. It would have given them both something to do when they weren’t doing the horror scenes.

I was a little surprised by Cohen’s bad direction, since it’s pervasive. The budget contributes to some of the problems, but certainly not all of them.

Garrett Morris is wasted, as is Danny Aiello.

Anthony Guefen’s goofy music doesn’t help.

Still, never boring.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Larry Cohen; director of photography, Paul Glickman; edited by Armond Lebowitz; music by Anthony Guefen; produced by Paul Kurta; released by New World Pictures.

Starring Michael Moriarty (David ‘Mo’ Rutherford), Andrea Marcovicci (Nicole), Garrett Morris (‘Chocolate Chip’ Charlie W. Hobbs), Paul Sorvino (Colonel Malcolm Grommett Spears), Scott Bloom (Jason), Danny Aiello (Vickers) and Patrick O’Neal (Fletcher).


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Q (1982, Larry Cohen)

Q is sort of ripe for a remake. Not because this version has shoddy special effects–while the film’s still effective with them, they look like something out of the 1925 Lost World–but because there are three great roles in the film and nearly a fourth.

Michael Moriarty’s top-billed and definitely gives the film’s most sensational performance as a weaselly small-time crook who has a terrifying adventure and figures out how to profit from it–what sets Q apart is the relatively lengthy time spent on the politics of hunting a flying monster in New York City. It’s tragic the guy’s never been appreciated for his acting brilliance.

The real lead is David Carradine (as a cop), because even with the screen time given to Moriarty, the film’s still a police procedural. Carradine’s performance is really impressive–though he’s undone, once or twice, by Cohen’s terrible insert close-ups, which I’ll get to in a second. Then there’s Richard Roundtree, as another cop, who gets a full character in a supporting role. Roundtree’s great too and it’s too bad Cohen didn’t just make a straight prequel with him and Carradine investigating some case.

Unfortunately, as solid as Cohen’s writing is for his male characters, it’s inversely weak for the one female character. Candy Clark’s Moriarty’s girlfriend and she’s awful. It’s not her so much as bad editing and bad inserts and terrible writing. It’s real disappointing.

But, Q‘s a good movie. Better than it should be, really.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Written, produced and directed by Larry Cohen; directors of photography, Robert Levi and Fred Murphy; edited by Armond Lebowitz; music by Robert O. Ragland; released by United Film Distribution Company.

Starring Michael Moriarty (Jimmy Quinn), Candy Clark (Joan), David Carradine (Shepard), Richard Roundtree (Powell), James Dixon (Lt. Murray), Malachy McCourt (Commissioner), Fred J. Scollay (Capt. Fletcher), John Capodice (Doyle) and Tony Page (Webb).


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