Maniac Cop is a disappointing thriller that wastes an oddball premise and offbeat point-of-view. Writer-producer Larry Cohen’s gimmicky approach has the novelty of all leading characters (male and female) working for the police force. A maniac dressed in police blues is terrorizing New Yorkers and the investigator on the case, Lt McCrae (no-nonsense Tom Atkins), is convinced the killer is really a cop.
A fellow cop with marital problems, Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell of the Evil Dead films), is framed by the killer, but after McCrae is murdered, Forrest takes over the investigation to try to clear himself, aided by his girlfriend, undercover vice cop Theresa (Laurene Landon).
Director William Lustig, who helmed the violent horror thriller Maniac in 1980, keeps the killer’s face offscreen or bathed in shadows, but it’s the massively built, angular featured actor Robert Z’Dar who’s on the rampage, avenging his being bounced from the force and sent to Sing Sing 20 years ago.
Acting is deadpan and straight ahead. Sheree North has an interesting character role as a hobbling, crippled girlfriend to the maniac, combining bitterness and pathos.