Richard Roundtree

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.



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).

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.



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).

George of the Jungle (1997, Sam Weisman)

For what it is, George of the Jungle is a rather successful film. It has to appeal to kids (since it’s a Disney movie), teenage girls (who I presume liked Brendan Fraser and might buy the soundtrack–from Disney Records, of course), and even “George of the Jungle” fans. Viewers of the show would be parents of the kids seeing the film, but there’s a real attention to minutiae and it works–George of the Jungle is a pleasant diversion. It immediately establishes itself as absurd, then proceeds to amuse the audience. When the film either shifts focus (from slapstick comedy to romantic comedy, for example) or, in particular, leaves the jungle sets, chafing occurs. In some ways, mostly because of Leslie Mann’s excellent performance as the love interest, George of the Jungle is an effective romance. It’s in a syrupy way, but a pleasing one. While Brendan Fraser is better playing a general buffoon than acting, he earns enough credit to glide over those scenes where he has trouble. But that success is an overall one–there are scenes throughout, this long dance scene, where I couldn’t figure out why they were filming it… then I remembered the Disney Records soundtrack.

The effects problems are different and complex. Since it’s a goofy comedy, the obvious CG isn’t a problem, neither is the obvious composite shots and jungle sets. The Creature Shop’s animatronics, however, are fantastic. But it’s the transition from set to location shooting where George of the Jungle starts to feel wrong–it isn’t supposed to be real and introducing elements, even simple visual cues, rips the viewer from the experience. When George ends up in San Francisco, I kept looking at the clock, waiting for him to go do something else. At those moments, the film felt the most like a romantic comedy (I imagine it’s where romantic comedy writer Audrey Wells did the majority of her work). Maybe it if had all been done on sets or something… but it just didn’t fit, visually or tonally, with the rest of the film. Holland Taylor plays Leslie Mann’s evil mother, who prefers fiancé Thomas Haden Church (who’s hilarious, though he’s just playing an evil, rich version of Lowell from “Wings” for most of it) to the Jungle King. Taylor, who’s usually good, has played this role maybe nine times before and it’s visible from her performance. It’s hard to be engaged when the actor is bored.

Besides her, however, the cast is fine. John Cleese voices the ape named Ape and it’s an excellent fit. For some reason, I agree with that character regarding the Tookie Bird. It’s damn annoying.

Also, the film’s one of those rare ones where the last couple minutes pulls the whole thing up a notch, just because it gets goofy again.



Directed by Sam Weisman; written by Dana Olsen and Audrey Wells, based on a story by Olsen and a cartoon by Jay Ward; director of photography, Thomas Ackerman; edited by Stuart Pappe and Roger Bondelli; music by Marc Shaiman; production designer, Stephen Marsh; produced by David Hoberman, Jordan Kerner and Jon Avnet; released by Walt Disney Pictures.

Starring Brendan Fraser (George), Leslie Mann (Ursula Stanhope), Thomas Haden Church (Lyle Van de Groot), Richard Roundtree (Kwame), Holland Taylor (Beatrice Stanhope), Abraham Benrubi (Thor) and John Cleese (An Ape Named “Ape”).

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