Maniac Cop

Maniac Cop ★★★½

Sixty in September: 3/60.

Man, first. Tom Atkins is just the shit. He's got mad dad wisdom and compassion and damned if you don't crack a little when the commissioner gives it to him about a suicide attempt. Or when he talks about the poor deceased woman -- she was sweet, we used to stop there. I used to tell her she should try out one of those comedy clubs. Damn.

But honestly I can't help but be thinking of Ferguson watching this. I lose track how many times someone says something like 'They trust the uniform. They'll do anything a cop says." People running away from cops. That poor woman in the intro, thinking she's safe. Hey, I know. It's a complicated mess. And maybe politics aren't the first place it needs to go. But ever since digging Carol Clover, I'm amazed at slasher subtext.

Laird's review has it right, I think. Cohen's smuggling it in. And heck if isn't still ringing true. I mean, scanning news articles about militarization too. It's something even to see cops in regular uniforms, in sedans. Normal stuff. But the fear's there. The same kinda fear, distrust.

I'm not sure what to make of Cordell's history. I'm not sure if the movie's implicating the city's coming down hard on "justified" or "moral" violence -- that is, violence against killers and the like. Is the crime throwing the book at Cordell for doing what's right? Or were they punishing him for doing it wrong and being overzealous? There's a conservative bent in a movies like Death Wish, Dirty Harry that are roughly contemporary so I wonder. Law's not hard enough? I'm not sure if they're saying that here.

Just hiccuping maybe. We're on Atkins' side, Campbell's side, I think. And by the end, you see the force rotting from the inside. I can see Campbell spitting and throwing his badge in the dust High Noon style.

But it all works as subtext, as a suspicion, a strand of it. I have these threads of a theory in my head about slashers. But I think, on one axis anyway, they're about power. And the slasher's always a kind of phantom -- most of the time. But to maintain its folkloric power, its oracular power -- the phantom has to be elemental. Retelling can infuse it with different doubts and fears. They draw from the same source. And it tends to orbit masculinized violence. Fear of the police, of abusive systems, of unregulated power. Those aren't so different from the animus projections of Laurie Strode of incipient sexuality, of repression. It's some phantom taking shape.

But then there's the beautiful VHS level. God, I imagine teenage me picking this up with a friend of mine. Watching it in a basement. When the warmth of Atkins would register differently, because what drew me in was the title MANIAC fucking COP. And I wouldn't worry so much about how the narrative forgets Campbell's wife. And we'd sit the slowness. It'd be this night sorta thing when we'd be burning time. Stumble on it I don't even know how. I don't know if I'm concerned about loving cinema or what any damn phantom is signalling about culture. But I guess it was getting in my bones. In its elemental way.

I guess that's what I mean about night places. Dream interstices. I'm no good at analysis or making meanings. But I feel the same sort of vortex behind these movies, drawing me. I don't know what the pull is, but I know I'm kind of looking for something, right? Why does this gonzo thing seem so pregnant with import to me? I just let it lie.

I'd blow and be walking home at 2am after it. I don't know what teenage me is thinking about it. But I look at the night a little differently. I guess I feel a weight of these lives. Passing windows and wondering who's in them. And how can it all be so silly if the city looks like this?

They photograph New York like a lover. The lights. The skyline. The helicopter shots. The wides. The Synapse blu is a thing of beauty. I want to put this on some night when someone's here and drink coffee to it.

I get all solemn. Like it's some private thing. I think of the real dead. But I know I'll see peoples' lists. And titles like these are on 'em and god my heart'll sing to it. That midnight energy. That thing I'm looking for that I can't name. It's got a face like Tom Atkins and it's fulla shadows and city lights and grime and menace. And it's got me looking. And I want to keep looking.

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