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The key to understanding this, John Waters' most profound film, is a understanding of its Roman Catholic content and allusions. Divine's long interior monolog inside the church, essentially a long meditation on being different, the Way of the Cross, and the crucifixion scene are all keys to the film's message. Notice that the actors who play the Way of the Cross and crucifixion scenes are the same ones who played in the Carnival of Perversions which opens the movie. And who plays Christ? The heroin addict. Now Waters doesn't use these actors again just to save on budget. The meaning is clear: those people that you smug, suburban do-gooders rejected and made fun of are Christ and his followers. Remember that Christ didn't hang out with sanctimonious, middle class people, but rather with whores, fallen women, the sick, the rejected, the stigmatized, the sinners. Waters draws the parallels very clearly, but most people view the film in such a middle-class way that they can't see Divine and Waters' troupe of hippie- weirdos as allegorical Christ figures. The real giveaway to this interpretation is the actual text of St. Francis's late medieval Way of the Cross which Waters quotes verbatim in the film. And of course, did you ever think about the literal meaning of "divine." Poor, abused Divine's symbolic sacrifice at the claws of Lobstora is yet another variation of the Passion theme. A very literary film indeed.
Multiple Maniacs (1970) was Waters' second feature length film. Heavily
influenced by the Manson Family murders, Waters creates this film about
a band of murdering, sideshow freaks/performers who travel from town to
town robbing and murdering their rich,nosy customers. This is a weird
film that showcases what Waters likes to do best. Try and repulse the
audience as much as he can (mirroring the side show performers
Unfortunately, most of the humor is pretty dated and the very low, low budget might turn off most viewers (if they were not repulsed by the first twenty minutes). Other than that, it's a very enjoyable movie.
Waters will finally perfect his film-making a few years later with the back to back to back releases of Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble and Desperate Living. Shot on 16mm, B/W.
The films of John Waters aren't to all tastes, but if you like, say
Pink Flamingos, then you'll love Multiple Maniacs.
Waters' film-making career can be divided roughly into four categories:
- unseen first works (Roman Candles, Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, Eat Your Makeup)
- early filthy works (Multiple Maniacs, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble)
- more mainstream works (Polyester, Hairspray, Crybaby)
- later missing-the-mark works (Serial Mom, Pecker, Cecil B. Demented)
In my opinion, there's no question that his early filthy works are the best and that Multiple Maniacs is perhaps the best of the three (or at least tying with Pink Flamingos).
Some of the reviewers here criticize the film for being badly acted or low budget. That's missing the point. Waters' films were never meant to couple the acting of Olivier with Industrial Light and Magic special effects. These are low budget gems that deliver equal amounts of shock and laughter.
Multiple Maniacs is one of Waters most perfect films in terms of the dialogue. The continual arguing between Lady Divine and Mr. David (the wonderful and elegant David Lochary) is almost operatic. The rest of the characters (most from John Waters early ensemble, the Dreamlanders) is absolutely outstanding. Mink Stole and Mary Vivian Pearce are pin-point perfect and Edith Massey is a gem in her screen debut. The late, great and much-missed Cookie Mueller gives the best performance of her career as the free wheeling daughter of Divine.
A black and white treasure from John Waters early career. Brilliant dialogue, hilarious scenes and a bravura climax make Multiple Maniacs a cinematic masterpiece.
Of all of John Waters films, this is the only one that offended me in some
way. But more on that later. I was surprised to see that this early John
Waters movie was available on video, presuming it would be long out of print
(like "Mondo Trasho" and "Female Trouble")! It can usually be found for sale
dirt cheap or for rent easily.
Divine stars as a brunette for the first time in Waters' first sound film. The sound, cinematography, and editing is real rough, but it gives "Multiple Maniacs" a priceless documentary-like quality that is enhanced by the near flawless delivery of Waters' hilarious dialogue! Waters' early cast is here and two new additions (Cookie Mueller and Edith Massey) liven things up a bit. Great performances worth catching are given by Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Cookie Mueller, and Rick Morrow. Mink Stole gives one of only two mediocre roles in Waters' films (the other is "Mondo Trasho") and Edith Massey is not as great as she would be in her subsequent appearances in "Pink Flamingos", "Female Trouble", "Desperate Living" and "Polyester"! Watch close for Cookie Mueller and Mink Stole in cameos as two of the snobby patrons of the Cavalcade of Perversions! The music is fantastic, more copyright-infringing oldies that are great listening (including Elvis Presley's "Just Because" and a bunch of unidentified but classic instrumentals).
Now why this movie offended me: the rosary job and the crucifixion. I just thought these scenes are the sickest things I've ever seen done in a Waters film (topping even the dog sh*t-eating in "Pink Flamingos")! The crucifixion is very well done, but just seems in VERY bad taste and the rosary job just defies any description. It's not even fun for me to watch! But everything else about "Multiple Maniacs" is classic Waters. The film does get a bit boring after Divine's rape by Lobstora, but the ending shows the lust for violence found in Vietnam Era America, juxtaposed with Kate Smith's "God Bless America" playing in the background. Not for a Waters fan who has only seen "Hairspray", that's for damn sure! Underground film fans will find lots of great techniques to use and psychotronic film fans will eat it up!
I love the grainy, inky black and white look of this movie, the bad
cuts and scratches and even all the jumps in sound. It's just so
gorgeous and couldn't be duplicated today...just a strange feeling is
captured here, amplified because it's populated with so many hedonistic
weirdos and perverts. Of course, these perks only exist because Waters
and his crew were completely inept in the technical ways of cinema, but
hey, I'll take what I can get.
Content wise...this has at least a flash or two of brilliance, which is impressive for a film that cost around "5000" bucks. The opening at the Calvacade of Perversions is great ("She is an auto-erotica copraphrasiac and a gerontophiliac!"), but modern audiences might not know what to make out of all the dated cultural references (too much Manson/Tate stuff)...then there's an incredibly tedious and overlong delusion with Divine narrating her version of Christ. Even more time is padded with endless scenes of characters sitting and/or lying in bed talking (and often forgetting their lines), plus topless jitterbugging from Cookie Mueller, people riding around in cars and Mink Stole ("the religious whore") and Divine walking down the street.
Despite all that, the closing sequences (starting with Lobstra) make up for it and are just priceless. Best use of the song "God Bless America" right here folks! And the film is still completely unique and original 30+ years later, so you really have to admire it on that front as well.
I have seen all of John Waters' films, but something in this one seemed to
I noticed that in his other movies, the characters are rarely developed, and
if they are, you never get a glimpse at their personal
This film is different in that way... it begins as racy as all of his other films, with "Lady Divine's Cavalcade of Perversion" a circus for perverts, drug addicts, homosexuals, and weirdo's. Mr. David, Lady Divine's boyfriend, wants Lady Divine to let Bonnie into the cavalcade, but she quickly dismisses the idea.
From here on, the film switches to a bizarre, and long, view of the characters personal lives. This is done by, long monologues, long shots in which the camera does not change, and very long scenes. These long scenes aren't that badly written, but it is more that they are real, and not part of a movie. After the first 10-15 minutes characters seem to have disassociated themselves from the original plot of the film, and it becomes some sort of a deranged soap opera. But just when you think that this film is different from all other of John's films, a giant lobster appears out of nowhere (and for no reason), named "Lobstora", and it rapes Divine. Divine then goes insane and goes on a rampage, and is then put to death by the national guard.
Besides the fact that Divine is killed in the end, it seems to be a prequel to a young Divine's life that is later portrayed in "PINK FLAMINGOS". This because in "PINK FLAMINGOS", Divine, is supposedly in hiding from the FBI, for murder. This murder which happened in "MULTIPLE MANIACS" of basically all the characters.
All in all, this is most definitely a must see for John Waters fans, it will bring new meaning to his other films.
A lot of people look at the performances in Waters' early films as
crude but I think both Multiple Maniacs and Pink Flamingos (and, to a
lesser degree, Mondo Trasho) are a testament to the talent the Waters'
troupe really had. Divine has probably been discussed enough though I
think she remains sadly underrated as an actress but what stands out
for me in Maniacs is David Lochary's performance. He steals the show
and improbably manages to provide some genuine soul to a contemptible
character, perhaps because he looks positively saintly compared to
Divine. Lochary is funny, sincere, scared and ultimately empathetic as
the helpless, brainwashed victim of the implacable force which is the
Lady Divine. You couldn't just hire regular actors to play the Lochary
or Divine roles - you had to have the real deal and the magic of these
movies does come from the superior casting.
I think Waters' early films are by far his best, the movies he made before he learned "how to make movies." Some of his later work is cute but never as engaging and fresh as Maniacs and Flamingos. How exactly did Waters manage to combine slimy depravity with wide-eyed innocence in equal doses?
The rosary job is perhaps the finest scene Waters ever concocted and then there's Lobstora, one of the most inspired moments the cinema has ever brought us.
I don't think of Maniacs as mere camp. I think it's genuinely great film making with far more verve and inventiveness than most of the so-called "well-made" Academy fare.
The very best John Waters film! Great performances by Mink Stole and Divine in particular. A collection of circus freaks gather locals into their various tents and then go about murdering them. Filmed in a beautiful black and white, and full of fantastic and original performances that will stay in your memory for quite a while. Divine is on quite a religious adventure in this one, and Mink Stole is very devilish and strange as an epic whore of sorts. The supporting cast consists of the classic John Waters regulars, so if you haven't seen this film before, go about renting it or purchasing it. And also, the ending of this film is one of the most surreal movie watching experiences I have ever had! Beware of the lobster!
This film suffers from what a lot of low-budget-inexperienced-director films suffer from: long intervals in which nothing happens in an attempt to get to the better parts of the movie. This one has it is spades, which makes it hard to sit through to get to the highlights. But the high points are some of the most inspired of any John Water's flick: the surreal appearance of "The Emperor of Prague," played by small boy in full monarch regalia who guides Lady Divine, and the completely unsolicited cameo of "Lobstora," the enormous lobster prop who, like nearly everybody in the early films, has its way with Divine. I found these scenes far more interesting than the film as a whole, despite the (possibly unintentional) social commentary of the opening sequence. Here, a crowd of "straights" visit the Carnival of Perversions and witness horrors ranging from the "Puke Eater" to the "Homosexuals." Each attraction is viewed with similar disgust from the suburbanites, yet they make no effort to leave the show, which seems to call to Water's fascination with the American public's fascination with the fringe of society.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Multiple Maniacs" is my first John Waters' underground film and I
wasn't sure what to expect. I have read extensively about these films'
gleeful willingness to offend, the dirt cheap quality of his
productions, the way his movies used real locations and comprised the
screen with performers with limited acting skill. The reputation was to
me quite intact as "Multiple Maniacs" follows the descriptions I had
read about to a tee. Waters doesn't strive to shoot his movie
extravagantly and he must have directed his movies with little
rehearsal or preparation as his actors/actresses stumble/fumble over
their lines(and look to, I'm guessing, cue cards of dialogue they might
forget off screen)quite a bit. But, Waters' films seem to thrive on the
ugly quality of all I have mentioned above, in particular, the subject
matter and unpolished narrative(what little there is).
The movie focuses on Lady Divine, her boyfriend Mr. David, and other deviants who embrace a sleazy lifestyle of habitual sex, drugs, and murder. Divine is the star attraction of a "carnival of freaks" show where those involved in the act lure curious suburbanites, with the customers not knowing they are bait to be fleeced by them. Mr. David, who has become fed up with Divine and her increasing hostility(and penchant for impulsive violent outbursts), has become romantically linked with Bonnie(Mary Vivian Pearce), a girl who desperately wants to become part of the Cavalcade Pervert. As Divine plans to murder David, he and Bonnie prepare to gun her down when she arrives home!
Certainly memorable is the image of an overweight transvestite Divine stabbing her former lover over and over with a butcher knife, pulling organs from his torso, complete gratification for her sadistic deeds on her face. Oh, and how she gets so worked up she starts not only fondling his guts and heart, but chewing away on them without restraint! The way she gets caught up in her ecstasy of violence, plunging the knife in multiple times, foaming at the mouth like a rabid animal, it's all so surreal and hilarious. There's this really warped scene where Waters, in his Herscell Gordon Lewis moment, shoots a crime scene, Divine's grisly handiwork, repeatedly from several angles, or back and forth, his camera dwelling on what had just transpired. Other completely bizarre scenes include Divine being assaulted by a giant lobster(!), a lingering close-up of Divine(..with smudged make-up, eyes crazed, wig disheveled) venting mania, and Divine walking out into the street (after finding her dead daughter, wearing nothing more than a robe and undergarments!) in a daze of hysteria, utterly unstable. Waters just follows Divine as she goes on a rampage, jerking a woman and her groceries from a station wagon(stealing it!), going ballistic with a sledgehammer on this Plymouth which contained a smooching couple, charging toward city folk like a rhino as they form a frightened herd running for dear life, and the climax where National Guardsman reign her in for extermination. MM also has a lengthly portrait on Jesus Christ with Divine quoting scripture from the bible(I kid you not!)as he is being led to the crucifix(this as Mink Stole, with an unhealthy appetite for inducing sexual relations in churches, also using them as places to bed herself, is engaged in a lesbian tryst with Divine, Waters juxtaposing these different scenarios!)and Divine's always naked daughter Cookie shacking up with a hairy chested man she had just met while mama carries on a conversation with them while they are in bed! The essence of perversion, MM is quite a starting place for me in regards to understanding Waters' style and content..now I know what I'm ultimately in for. In Waters' trashy screenplay, littered with foul, profane exchanges between the principles, there's mention of the Tate murder, which was hot off the press, insinuating Mr. David's involvement and how Divine is using this as blackmail! I'm simply amazed at Divine's eagerness to go wherever Waters so desired to shock an audience.
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