John Waters's second feature film (and the first with ambient sound), MULTIPLE MANIACS is a dragged-out affair with some choice moments; it rates as being of interest only to hard-core Waters fans.
On a Baltimore street, passersby are cajoled to visit "Lady Divine's Cavalcade of Perversions," a makeshift carnival show that has been erected in a few tents. Barker Mr. David (David Lochary) promises a parade of shocking performers, including a woman licking a bicycle seat, two men kissing, a
heroin addict going cold turkey, and a naked human pyramid. For the finale, the shocked (but avidly staring) audience is led into a tent where they are robbed by Lady Divine (Divine). She also shoots a woman who insults her.
Leaving town to stay with Divine's daughter Cookie (Cookie Mueller), Divine and David (who are lovers) argue. She wants to concentrate on simply robbing and murdering people, without the facade of the Cavalcade. David is alarmed by her increasing viciousness. He goes out to visit Bonnie (Mary
Vivian Pearce), a young woman he has been seeing on the side. When Divine is told about them by a barmaid (Edith Massey), she sets out to kill David. On the way, she is raped by two members of her Cavalcade. The Infant of Prague (Michael Renner Jr.) appears to lead her to a church; she sees this
as divine approval of her plan to kill David. In the church, she has a sexual encounter with Mink (Mink Stole), who gives her a "rosary job" while reciting the stations of the cross. A kindred spirit, Mink agrees to help her kill David. Meanwhile, David and Bonnie have decided that they must kill
the increasingly insane Divine. Returning to Cookie's apartment, where she has just finished having sex with Cavalcade performer Ricky (Rick Morrow), Bonnie shoots and kills Cookie, mistaking her for Divine. Divine and Mink arrive, and Divine stabs Bonnie and David to death, devouring his
intestines. When Mink accidentally kills Ricky, Divine is outraged and kills her too. Now completely insane, Divine is raped by a giant lobster. Stumbling out into the street, she steals a car and terrorizes a couple in a lovers' lane before returning to the city and being shot dead by the
Inspired by the Sharon Tate killings (which were unsolved when Waters began shooting), MULTIPLE MANIACS is Waters's sardonic rejoinder to the peace-and-love ideals of the then-current hippie movement. In his book Shock Value, Waters calls this his favorite of his films, for its "meanness and harsh
documentary look." But while a technical improvement over his first feature, MONDO TRASHO (1969), it's still pretty rough going: there appears to have been only one take of each scene, with the camera moving back and forth from speaker to speaker to avoid editing. Given that limitation and
Waters's penchant for verbose dialogue, his by-no-means professional cast does quite well; it's less surprising that they blow a few lines than it is that they don't blow more of them.
While MULTIPLE MANIACS is named after H. G. Lewis's 1964 shocker 2000 MANIACS, a Waters favorite, the plot is more of a parody of Roman Polanski's REPULSION (1965), as we share the demented visions of a sexually confused woman driven to madness. Most of the film's early scenes are simply talk, and
drab talk at that--Waters hadn't yet developed his flair for dialogue. (The main set is Waters's apartment, and it's more interesting looking at the movie posters decorating the walls than it is listening to the characters yak.) But it picks up near the end as Divine does an over-the-top
impersonation of a madwoman, comparing herself to Godzilla and stalking the streets of Baltimore. (Graphic violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations, adult situations, substance abuse, profanity.)
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- Rating: NR
- Review: John Waters's second feature film (and the first with ambient sound), MULTIPLE MANIACS is a dragged-out affair with some choice moments; it rates as being of interest only to hard-core Waters fans. On a Baltimore street, passersby are cajoled to visit "La… (more)