Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
Released on: April 25th, 2017.
Director: Adam Rifkin
Cast: Robert R. Shafer, Barbara Niven, Miles Dougal, Rod Sweitzer, Nick Vallelonga
Year: 1993 Purchase From Amazon
Los Angeles in the nineties looks like it was a strange place – a place full of interchangeable hard partying business jerks, bad boob jobs and rampant police brutality. In this strange, almost alien landscape of sun and silicone we catch up with two pals, co-workers Larry (Rod Sweitzer) and Brian (Miles Dougal), hanging out at a diner talking about an upcoming bachelor party for their good buddy Gary (Dave Bean). As they talk about the booze and the strippers that they’ve procured for the evening’s entertainment Larry also happens to mention that he’s procured some weed. He does this at such a volume that the cop sitting nearby, Officer Joe Vickers (Robert R. Shafer), happens to overhear them. He approaches them to make sure they’re not up to anything illegal, and of course, they deny any such activity.
As they walk towards the office to start their day, Brian notices that Vickers is following them in his cruiser. He panics and tosses the pot into a mailbox. They make it to the office and finish up their day by playing fax machine pranks on pretty accounting clerk Sharon (Barbara Lee Alexander) while married man ‘Big’ Tony (Justin Carroll) rails implant victim Chloe (Carol Cummings) in the copy room. Once the owner, a grumpy old man named Stonecipher (John Paxton), splits for the night Larry pays off night-watchman Gus (Al Schuermann) unaware that Vickers is outside watching. With encouragement from hard partying Mike (Nick Vallelonga), Larry brings in the three strippers (Julie Strain, Melanie Good and Maureen Flaherty) to let the good times roll! Unfortunately for pretty much everyone in the building, Vickers, a nigh-invulnerable Satan worshipper with a penchant for bad one liners and a maniacal laugh, has made his way into the building and intends on enforcing the law to the extreme!
Gleefully cheap, stupid and sleazy Psycho Cop Returns is nothing if not entertaining. Aside from the opening scene in the diner and the walk to work, basically the whole thing takes place in the office building. This was made on a low budget so the singular location was probably more of a necessity than a feature of the story, but it works. The acting is over the top, the kill scenes are sufficiently gory and sometimes pretty creative and the film moves at a good pace. Nobody involved with this was trying to take it all that seriously, the movie is intentionally comedic, but despite the groan inducing one liners and cardboard thin characters there’s still a lot to like here, particularly for fans of trashy, goofy horror pictures.
The ‘guys’ who make up a big part of the cast, all there to party their asses off to celebrate Gary’s impending nuptials, are all complete dude-bro types, but the cast play these parts well, hooting and hollering at the strippers once they arrive and toss their clothes. These guys give 100%. They aren’t very good, but they are committed. The strippers themselves aren’t asked to do much except look good naked and then look scared. They also give 100%. Again, they’re not good, but they do what is asked of them and they do it well. Justin Carroll and Carol Cummings have fairly gross sex in the copy room and then die. Again, it works. They’re ‘in the zone’ so to speak. Final girl Barbara Lee Alexander actually gets act a bit here. She acts annoyed, then she acts amused, then she acts confused and then she acts scared. She’s fine here. We have no problem with her in the part and she’s really cute too. Smart, sassy and compared to everyone else in the film, sophisticated.
The real star of the show, however, is Robert R. Shafer, probably best known not for playing Vickers in the first Psycho Cop movie but for a regular supporting role on the American version of the TV series The Office. Shafer, in this role, is Wings Hauser-esque, and that’s a good thing. He brings that same sort of cocky menace to the part that Hauser has brought to his best roles. He’s got a freewheeling sense of confidence, he’s got an itchy trigger finger and he delivers awful dialogue with complete conviction. Case in point? He shoots a character dead and then delivers this zinger:
“You have the right to remain dead. Anything you say can and will be considered very strange because you're dead. You have the right to an attorney, but it won't do you any good because you're dead. Do you understand these rights that have just been read to you? Are you even listening? It would be a lot easier if you were a little more cooperative!”
Then later he throws someone off a roof. He’s fucking awesome. And that ending? Didn't see that coming.
Psycho Cop Returns is presented on Blu-ray “Newly scanned and restored in 2k from 35mm vault elements” framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. It’s hard to imagine the movie looking much better on Blu-ray than it does here. The disc is well encoded so we avoid compression artifacts and the like, while detail remains very strong throughout, as does texture. There’s very little print damage to note, just the occasional white speck, and while a natural amount of film grain is noticeable it’s never distracting. Skin tones look good, black levels are solid and there are no issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement. The end result is a clean, detailed film-like presentation that should make fans quite happy!
The only audio option for the feature is a DTS-HD Mono track, with optional subtitles provided, also in English only. The audio quality on this release is also top notch. Dialogue stays clean, clear and easily discernible throughout the duration of the film while the score and sound effects are properly balanced. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion and there’s a fair amount of depth here as well.
Extras start off with a commentary track with director Adam Rifkin moderated by Elijah Drenner. This is a pretty revealing talk about the origins of the film, how and why Rifkin came to direct it, the incredibly rushed pre-production phase and casting using a lot of people that the director had worked with previously on some of his shorts. They also talk about the office location, the effects work, problematic crew members and their effect on certain set pieces, the film’s high exploitation quotient, various problems that he ran into on set and how the film found an audience during the home video boom years that obviously has grown quite a bit over the years.
From there, check out the forty-three minute Habeas Corpus featurette, which is a documentary that covers the making of the film by way of some newly shot interviews with Rifkin, writer Dan Povenmire, editor Peter Schink, and cast members Robert R. Shafer, Miles Dougal, Rod Sweitzer, Nick Vallelonga, Barbara Niven and Melanie Good. It starts off with Rifkin talking about how and why he employed the Rif Coogan alias for his directing credit on this, and how and why he wound up making exploitation pictures despite his love of art films. From there we learn about how and why various participants wound up working in front of the camera and how many of those involved hoped that this picture, shot for peanuts in just over a week, would be the next horror franchise hit, making Shafer the next Robert Englund or Doug Bradley. Lots of interesting stories here and it’s all done with an honest, and sometimes very funny, take on the film and its history.
Also on hand is a featurette entitled The Victims of Vickers which is an interesting interview with SFX artist Mike Tristano. In this ten minute piece Tristano talks about some of the challenges involved in getting the effects set pieces done the way that the crew wanted with such a miniscule budget. He also talks about how and why the movie wound up getting cut down quite a bit for its R-rated home video release, making all of his nasty gore effects work essentially a moot point!
Outside of that we get some animated menus and chapter selection. It’s also worth noting that the first pressing of this release comes with a genuinely slick looking cardboard slipcover replicating the artwork you see up at the top of this review page.
The Final Word:
Psycho Cop Returns is ludicrous fun, a ridiculous horror comedy that offers up plenty of blood, boobs and bad one-liners with a great lead turn from Shafer and some genuinely impressive murder set pieces. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release is a Godsend for fans of the movie, presenting it in fantastic shape with a nice selection of extras too.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!