Blu-ray: Multiple Maniacs | reviews, news & interviews
Blu-ray: Multiple Maniacs
Blu-ray: Multiple Maniacs
John Waters’ exercise in perversity has lost none of its power to offend
The two words cut to the chase. The cast play, or actually are, maniacs. There are lots of them. Multiple Maniacs also nods to the title of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ 1964 proto-gore movie Two Thousand Maniacs! John Waters’ 1970 second full-length film also borrows from Ingmar Bergman’s Sawdust and Tinsel and Tod Browning’s’ Freaks as well as demonstrating a fondness for John Cassavetes’ affected naturalism. And yet this was, and remains, a film like no other.
That the black-and-white Multiple Maniacs is perverse is a given, but seeing it with fresh eyes rams home its aberrance and wilfulness. Despite having a plot with a beginning, middle and an end, it is the filmic equivalent of releasing repressed pain: a form of primal therapy. When Lady Divine’s freakshow-style roadshow The Cavalcade of Perversion arrives in anytown USA to set up stall, locals are presented with spectacles such as the puke eater (foreshadowing Divine’s ingestion of dogshit in Waters’ Pink Flamingos). The relationships of the show’s participants crumble and there is substance abuse, disdain for hippies, murder, the sexually gratifying anal insertion of a rosary and rape inflicted by a giant pink thing (not a penis, but a lobster). All delivered at hysteria pitch. Sacred cows and institutions are there for skewering. The film was, and remains, offensive. Intentionally so.
Multiple Maniacs was low-budget and made on the fly, so capturing a crisp soundtrack, ensuring exposure lengths were right and that the focus was sharp were not paramount. But it looks better than it has any right to in this new restoration (though the uncompressed audio renders the constant shrieks wearing). The expected extras in this Criterion Collection release include a very funny, hugely informative yet also poignant commentary by Waters and interviews with others involved in its making. Multiple Maniacs is a landmark in American cinema and needs to be seen.
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