Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Multiple Maniacs (1970) * * ¾

Lady Divine (Divine) runs the travelling sideshow "Lady Divine's Cavalcade of Perversions", a free exhibit of various perversions, fetish acts, cheap thrills, and obscenities such as the "Puke Eater". The show is actually a front for a group of psychotic kidnappers, with Lady Divine the most vicious and depraved of all. Although the show is free, the performers must persuade and even physically drag reluctant passers-by to attend. At the end of every show, the shocked audience is led into a tent where they are robbed at gunpoint by Lady Divine.

Mr. David: Yes folks, this isn't any cheap X-rated movie or any 5th rate porno play, this is the show you want! Lady Divine's cavalcade of perversions, the sleaziest show on earth! Not actors, not paid impostors, but real actual filth who have been carefully screened in order to present to you the most flagrant violation of natural law known to man! These assorted sluts, fags, dykes and pimps know no bounds! They have committed acts against God and nature, acts that by their mere existence would make any decent person recoil in disgust.

On a Baltimore street, the makeshift carnival show 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, armpit lickers, "actual queers, kissing on the lips", a heroin addict going cold turkey, and a naked human pyramid. After Lady Divine shoots and kills a woman who insults her, she leaves town to stay with her prostitute daughter Cookie Divine (Cookie Mueller). Lady Divine and her lover Mr. David argue. She is bored with the routine and wants to concentrate on robbing and murdering people, without the facade of the smutty sideshow Cavalcade. Mr. David is alarmed by her increasing viciousness. He gets together with Bonnie (Mary Vivian Pearce), his young mistress he has been seeing on the side.

Bonnie: Oh Mr. David, this is even better than amyl nitrate. It's better than Carvada. It's even better than heroin! Oh Jesus, this is even better than last time! if only we could perform acts 24 hours a day! Oh, that would be supreme happiness.

Lady Divine: How dare you contaminate my dressing room with this little piece of filth!
Mr. David: She is not. She is an auto-erotica copraphrasiac and a gerontophiliac, and I just thought you might be interested in her for the show, that's all.
Bonnie: Yes and I can start immediately. I have this great act all worked out, with this great old man in his late 70s and his mirror, well, actually he's my...
Lady Divine: (in disgust) Oh!
Bonnie: ...and we used to have kind of a thing together, and I heard about this show and I thought what an ideal setup, I mean!
Lady Divine: Get her out! Get her out of here! How can you flaunt your cheap little one-night-stands in my face, especially at a time like this!

After Lady Divine leaves the carnival murder scene and visits Cookie and her boyfriend Steve (Paul Swift), a member of the Weather Underground, she receives a call from Edith (Edith Massey), proprietor of the local bar, who tells her that Mr. David has been at her bar with another woman. She heads there to catch them and kill Mr. David, but is raped on the way by two glue-sniffers. While recovering from this, the Infant of Prague (Michael Renner Jr.) appears and leads her to a church, and she interprets this as divine approval of her plan to kill Mr. David. In the church Lady Divine prays, then is approached and seduced by young Mink (Mink Stole). They have a sexual encounter in the church pew involving Mink inserting a rosary into Lady Divine's rectum, a "rosary job", while describing the Stations of the Cross.

Lady Divine: (in church, trying to pray, notices Mink) She coughs, as if to attract my attention towards her, and gave me a lewdly religious glare... It was then that I realized that she was using her rosary as a tool of erotic pleasure! She made me get into a kneeling position. My head was spinning. And all at once, she inserted her rosary into one of my most private parts!
Mink: I usually sleep in churches, you know, in the confessionals. They lock all the churches up at night now because of all the thieves and they never check the confessionals. Saturday nights are the only problem, and nights that are holy days because of early masses the next day. And Lent, s**t, forget it, I gotta hang in synagogues then, and it's just not the same thing if you know what I mean. Oh, Jesus, you're my first celebrity I ever gave a rosary job to! And at St. Cecilia's, oh, wow, imagine!
Lady Divine: Oh, but I don't even know your name!
Mink: It's Mink, but lots of people just call me The Religious Whore.

Now lesbian lovers, Lady Divine and Mink go to Edith's bar with the intent to kill Mr. David and his mistress, but they are too late. David and Bonnie, who have decided to kill Lady Divine to protect themselves, have left. Mr. David returns to Cookie's house to kill Lady Divine, but finds only Cookie and fellow performer Ricky (Rick Morrow) there. An argument ensues and Bonnie accidentally kills Cookie. They tie up Ricky and hide Cookie's corpse just before Lady Divine and Mink return.

Lady Divine: What about you, Mr. Angel? What about those house-robbings and how about Sharon Tate! How about that!
Mr. David: I told you to never bring that up again. I cannot remember it and I will not.
Lady Divine: Had a real ball that night, didn't you?
Mr. David: Stop it!
Lady Divine: If I didn't know any better I'd swear you were having an orgy!
Mr. David: Well, you were there, too!
Lady Divine: Ah, but I didn't do what you did pig! You're going to jail. If I go to jail, it'll be for other things, and if I go to jail, I just might start remembering. I just might crack that Tate case for them--what have I got to lose?

Bonnie tries to shoot Lady Divine, but Lady Divine attacks and kills her with a knife. She then turns on Mr. David and kills him too, devouring his internal organs and becoming extremely frenzied. In a fit of raging passion she kills Mink after she shoots Ricky, and becomes more crazed when she finds her daughter's body hidden behind the couch.

Just after collapsing, exhausted from the ordeal, a giant 12 foot lobster named Lobstora enters and rapes Lady Divine. Afterwards she says "You're a maniac now Divine", stumbles out into the street, steals a car, terrorizes a couple in a lovers' lane, returns to the city, destroys a car, then runs around Baltimore, insane, bloody, and wearing a mink coat. The film ends with the appearance of the National Guard, who surround Lady Divine on the street and shoot her down, accompanied by the sound of Kate Smith singing "God Bless America".

MULTIPLE MANIACS is a trashy comedy film by Baltimore, Maryland filmmaker John Waters. The movie features actors who were part of the Dreamland acting troupe for Waters' films, including Mary Vivian Pearce, David Lochary, Mink Stole, Edith Massey, and Cookie Mueller. Of course, the star is Divine, a huge and strangely attractive 300 pound transvestite whose real name was Glenn Milstead. It is Waters's second feature film, the first with sound, a dragged-out affair with some great moments. You'll love it or hate it, there's no in between.

Inspired by the Sharon Tate killings, which were unsolved when Waters began shooting, MULTIPLE MANIACS is Waters' response to the peace and love ideals of the late 1960s hippie movement. In his book "Shock Value", Waters calls this his favorite of his films, for its "meanness and harsh documentary look." Although a technical improvement over his first feature MONDO TRASHO (1969), it's still pretty rough. The filming, like the subject matter, is crude, but shows hints of Waters's keen eye for visuals. 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 outrageous, hilarious dialogue, his cast does quite well. Look and listen for Divine and Cookie flubbing their lines, Divine's wig almost falling off as he is being violated by Lobstora, and Mink Stole trying not to laugh as a male pedestrian walks by when she and Divine are discussing the murder of Mr. David and Bonnie.

Filmed on a $5000 budget, MULTIPLE MANIACS is a tribute to H. G. Lewis's 1964 shocker 2000 MANIACS, a John Waters favorite. The plot is a parody of Roman Polanski's REPULSION (1965), as we see the demented visions of a sexually confused woman driven to madness. Most of the film's early scenes are somewhat drab with shocking dialogue. The main set is Waters' apartment, 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. An extended scene of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is incomprehensible or in the wrong movie, although it is probably related to the "rosary job" scene with Lady Divine narrating her version of Christ. There is graphic violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations, adult situations, substance abuse, and profanity. If you don't enjoy circus freaks, transvestites, and sex with lobsters, you probably won't get the humor in MULTIPLE MANIACS. However, if you enjoyed John Waters' infamous PINK FLAMINGOS (1972), "the filthiest film ever made!", then you'll like this sleazy trash film. This is a true camp classic in black and white with a not too black and white plot. There is no category for this movie. It is unique.

The cast also includes: Susan Lowe (Cavalcade pervert), Howard Gruber (Gilbert), Vincent Peranio (Freak), Jim Thompson (Freak), Dee Vitolo (Freak), Ed Peranio (Freak), Bob Skidmore (Cavalcade Patron), Margie Skidmore (Murdered spectator), Jack Walsh (Straight Person), Susan Walsh (Female Church-Goer), Gilbert McGill (Freak), Pat Moran (Cavalcade Patron), Paul Landis (Freak), Mark Lazarus (Straight Person), Harvey Freed (Straight Person), Susie Nichols (Freak), Steve Waters (Lover's Lane Boy), Julia Richardson (Freak), William Kirby Cullen (Freak), Jack Roberts, Mark Isherwood, Berenica Cipcus (Cavalcade Pervert), Hawley Peterson, Tom Wells (Freak), Cowboy Foulke (Freak), George Figgs (Jesus Christ), and Alan Reese. Written, scored, produced and directed by John Waters.

John Waters: I made this film, which glorified violence, at the peak of the hippie love generation. But hippies liked it. Part of its success was to offend my target audience in a humorous way. Of course, now that sounds much more calculated than I was.

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