Friday, February 14, 2020
Written, directed, shot, edited, and scored by John Waters, Multiple Maniacs is the story of a troupe of sideshow freaks who rob spectators as its leader decide to go on a killing spree after being betrayed by her boyfriend. The film is an outlandish dark comedy that involves characters who go beyond the idea of bad taste as they also go all out in killing people. Starring Divine, Mink Stole, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Cookie Mueller, Edith Massey, and George Figgs as Jesus Christ. Multiple Maniacs is a strange and outrageous film from John Waters.
The film is about a drag queen who leads a troupe of sideshow freaks who present a show where they invite people and rob them but things get a little bit more violent eventually leading to its leader going on a killing spree after being betrayed by her boyfriend. It’s a film with a simple premise that doesn’t have much plot yet John Waters does create a story that begins with a presentation of sideshow that includes a guy eating his puke, two guys making out with each other, and all sorts of fucked-up shit as the spectators are then captured and robbed until its leader Lady Divine (Divine) decides to kill them. Her boyfriend Mr. David (David Lochary) was surprised by the idea as he decides to leave with a woman named Bonnie (Mary Vivian Pearce) who wanted to join the troupe but was rejected by Lady Divine. After learning of the betrayal and a troubled encounter with a couple of glue-sniffers, Lady Divine endures a crisis of faith until she meets Mink (Mink Stole) who becomes her new lover as they plan on getting revenge on Mr. David.
Waters’ direction is engaging as it play up to many of the film’s low-budget aesthetics as it is shot in grainy 16mm black-and-white film stock and on location in Baltimore, Maryland. With its usage of hand-held cameras and some long shots that occur, Waters’ direction does maintain this element of shock value in some of the activities of Lady Divine and her troupe as it does border the idea of what was considered bad taste as some of it still maintains its shock value. While there are some wide and medium shots of the locations including a few sequences that play into Lady Divine’s crisis of faith that feature Jesus Christ being crucified as he’s portrayed as a hippie. There are some close-ups that play into some of the action and conversations as the grainy look of the film courtesy of Waters as the film’s cinematographer while he also maintains some straightforward bits in the editing along with some jump-cuts in some of the surreal scenes.
Yet, it adds to the film’s offbeat tone while Waters is aware of the limitations he has in his budget but it works to his advantage. Even if there’s moments of violence where there’s no gunfire being shown yet it’s the impact of the violence that makes it important. Even in the film’s climax as it involves this large lobster-like monster that is created by Vincent Paranio as it’s one of those moments that is baffling yet it kind of makes sense. It is Waters pushing the ideas of what is bad taste and what is shocking as he would definitely succeed as well as show the cruelty of violence in a drag queen gone mad. Overall, Waters crafts an insane yet riveting film about a drag queen whose thirst for violence increases after her lover leaves her for a woman rejected from the queen’s gang of sideshow freaks.
Special effects by Ed Peranio is terrific for some of the macabre approach to humor as well as the scene with the lobster-like monster. The sound work of Ryan Hullings from its 2016 restoration edition is superb as it help intensify some of the sound effects and audio presented in the film. John Waters’ score is wonderful for its kitsch-like score of weird psychedelic music and offbeat pop while some of the orchestral bits come from George S. Clinton.
The film’s brilliant cast feature some notable small roles from George Figgs as a hippie-like version of Jesus Christ, Paul Swift as a druggie named Steve that is dating Lady Divine’s daughter Cookie, Michael Renner Jr. as a perverse version of the Infant of Prague, and Edith Massey in a dual role as the barmaid Edith and a warped version of the Virgin Mary. Cookie Mueller is fantastic as Lady Divine’s daughter Cookie as a young woman who is often seen topless as she engages in sexual activities to shock people. Mink Stole is excellent as a weird religious woman named Mink whom Lady Divine meets as she performs a strange sexual act to Lady Divine inside a church as she decides to help her kill Mr. David.
Mary Vivian Pearce is amazing as Bonnie as a woman who wants to be part of Lady Divine’s troupe but is rejected as she engages in an affair with Mr. David and plots to kill Lady Divine. David Lochary is superb as Mr. David as the emcee of the troupe and Lady Divine’s boyfriend as he becomes tired of Lady Divine’s antics prompting him to engage in an affair and kill Lady Divine. Finally, there’s Divine in a phenomenal performance as Lady Divine where he displays this brash personality into the role of a drag queen who has a thirst for violence and feels betrayed where Divine just adds a lot of charisma and attitude into that character.
Multiple Maniacs is a marvelous film from John Waters that features a great performance from Divine. Along with its ensemble cast, provocative and confrontational tone, low-budget aesthetics, and its willingness to shock. The film is definitely not for everyone as it also contains elements that are still shocking as well as play into this drag queen going mad. In the end, Multiple Maniacs is a remarkable film from John Waters.
John Waters Films: (Mondo Trash) – Pink Flamingos – Female Trouble – (Desperate Living) – (Polyester) – (Hairspray) – (Cry-Baby) – (Serial Mom) – (Pecker) – (Cecil B. Demented) – (A Dirty Shame)
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