Maniac Cop, and The Devils!

November 13, 2011 | By

Before I get to William Lustig’s sublime exploitation hit from 1988, some may have heard reports that Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971) is slated for a DVD release in the U.K., courtesy of the BFI.

Word has it the film isn’t the recently restored version that included newly found nasty footage, but the original British X certificate version which still runs longer and is more faithful to Russell’s edit than the American cut.

I won’t get into the insanity of the film still being a hot potato 40 years after its release. The consensus among ardent fans is Warner Bros. or someone deep in the upper echelons still feels the film is an offence to humanity, hence the BFI being allowed to release the film in Region 2 land on DVD only, with no excerpt of the infamous ‘Rape of Christ’ scene.

Included in the DVD will be Paul Joyce’s 2002 BBC documentary regarding the recent discovery of extra footage, but the aforementioned scene that appeared in the original broadcast version will not appear on the DVD edit. It’s that testy, and it’s frankly bizarre when the studio has released Dark Castle productions that feature plenty of evisceration, torture, blood-letting, decapitations, and human crushing between panes of glass. (There’s also the quality of most Dark Castle films, but let’s not go there, as that issue is the responsibility of Castle’s creative executives who green light undercooked scripts.)

In any event, according to the listing, the BFI’s loaded DVD is to street March 19, 2012, with the following extras:

  • DVD premiere presentation of the original UK X certificate version
  • Newly filmed introduction with director Ken Russell
  • Audio commentary with Ken Russell, Mark Kermode, Mike Bradsell and Paul Joyce
  • Hell on Earth (Paul Joyce, 2002, 48 mins): documentary exploring the film’s production and the controversy surrounding its original release
  • Director of the Devils (1971, 21 min): documentary featuring candid Ken Russell interviews and unique footage of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies recording his celebrated film score
  • Original on-set footage with commentary by editor Mike Bradsell
  • Amelia and the Angels (Ken Russell, 1958, 30 mins): Ken Russell’s short film, a delightful mix of religious allegory and magical fantasy
  • Original UK trailer
  • Original US trailer
  • Fully illustrated booklet featuring new essays and notes from Mark Kermode, Craig Lapper (BBFC), Sam Ashby, and others

This is considerably more than the grey market (er, bootleg) DVD from a few years ago, and the pretty anamorphic 108 min. edition reportedly available on iTunes before it was suddenly pulled, although this may be a U.S.-only issue, as the film was also announced for a Spanish DVD release (via Warner Home Video Spain).

I’ll have some related reviews in the coming months leading up to the DVD’s release, as among the Russell films I’ve never seen it’s the one I’d prefer to experience in its director approved edit. Still feel sad I missed the screening at the Bloor last year, which Rue Morgue coordinated.

Now then, let’s move on to badness fully available on Blu-ray in HD glory.

William Lustig has had an amazing career, studying film, moving into the adult realm, and breaking into mainstream with two major benchmarks in exploitation infamy: Maniac (1984), and Maniac Cop [M] (1988), the latter now available on BR courtesy of Synapse Films.

The review covers the film, extras, and the multiple editions available on DVD and BR in North America, and the recent UK BR which features a different array of extras. Coming soon will be reviews of the two Maniac Cop sequels, but what I find fascinating is how the film has reportedly been a favourite of some folks in uniform. According to co-star Tom Atkins, some cops have quietly admitted they love the character because he metes out the frustration they feel on occasion with challenging individuals less observant of the law and civility.

Officer Cordell is a maniac, but he’s so over the top (and technically fueled by rage and brain damage) that one could argue he’s not responsible for his acts. Robert Z’Dar has an amazing physical presence which Lustig pretty much keeps in the dark, and however you may regard the film, it’s really well-made, and directed by someone who knows a bit more about moviemaking than a contemporary hack. It’s also written by Larry Cohen, who can be good once in a while; Maniac Cop isn’t art, but it’s a slick and rewarding B-movie with some marvelous stunts.

Coming next: Twilight Time’s DVD release of The Left Hand of God (1955), one of Humphrey Bogart’s last films, and Gene Tierney’s last major role in a studio production.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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