Multiple Maniacs (1970)

Multiple Maniacs (1970)

“I’m a maniac that cannot be cured!”

The narcissistic, murderous owner (Divine) of a “Cavalcade of Perversions” travelling show becomes enraged when she learns from a gossipy barista (Edith Massey) that her lover (David Lochary) has a mistress (Mary Vivian Pearce). With assistance from her new lesbian lover (Mink Stole), she plots revenge and true mayhem ensues, involving Divine’s drugged-out daughter (Cookie Mueller) and another troupe member (Rick Morrow).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Black Comedy
  • Carnivals and Circuses
  • John Waters Films
  • Plot to Murder
  • Rape

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “typically outrageous and degenerate — and funny — John Waters film” features Divine “becoming increasingly mad” (she’s literally foaming at the mouth by the end) and was “inspired by the Sharon Tate murders” (thus explaining the final massacre scene in an apartment). He notes that the “picture starts with what [he thinks] is [the] funniest Waters sequence” (I disagree) “and most revealing of him as an artist out to shock viewers through bad taste: suburbanites (representing us?) are repulsed, but don’t run away from perverted acts.” However, he argues that while “this is Waters’s own favorite film”, he doesn’t “think it reaches the heights (depths?) of Pink Flamingos or Female Trouble” because “Divine’s character is not as flamboyant or formidable as the ones she plays in those films”. He writes:

“Divine is at ‘her’ funniest when her character is constantly aggravated, dumped on, or humiliated; here, where she manages to achieve a coveted social position and retain faith in her beautiful self, she is too much in control.”

It’s been too long since I’ve seen Waters’ later films for me to compare, so I’ll judge this film on its own merits — and truly, I don’t believe it offers more than a slightly more “polished” version of earlier themes in Mondo Trasho, albeit pushing various outrage and disgust envelopes even further (and containing actual live dialogue). However, I’m not really the target audience for this kind of material, since I don’t see the point in degeneracy for its own sake. Sure, the infamous rosary scene and lobster rape scene are outrageous — but who in the world really cares about any of these folks and what happens to them?

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some typically outrageous and bizarro Waters scenes

Must See?
No; while you may be curious to check it out, I think only completists need to include this one in their must-see list.


One thought on “Multiple Maniacs (1970)

  1. Not must-see – but. no doubt, it has tons of fans still and enthusiasts of outrageous cult titles will want to see it.

    I actually can’t believe I have just rewatched it. I needn’t have – but I did because, frankly, I couldn’t really recall anything about it, even though I had seen it before.

    If there’s one thing you can say about John Waters …he did keep trying until he finally learned how to make a good movie. In my opinion, he made two movies that could probably be considered genuinely ‘good’ (both came after 1986 – which is when I believe Peary’s ‘Film Fanatic’ Guide ends): ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Serial Mom’ (which I’ve heard Waters say in interviews is his best film, so I’m not sure if he still thinks ‘Multiple Maniacs’ is his favorite).

    After ‘SM’, it’s kind of like Waters just got bored making movies but didn’t exactly realize that right away.

    ‘Multiple Maniacs’ really isn’t very good. It hasn’t aged very well and its shock value (or, rather, its value in being ridiculous) hasn’t really held up. I’d forgotten the scene of the Infant of Prague suddenly appearing to Divine (well, as I said, I’d pretty much forgotten the whole film) – that did catch me off-guard and I think that’s the only time I laughed on the rewatch. (It was also kind of sweet – of all things – seeing Divine walking along so gently with a child.)

    As well, the thing I do like about the lobster rape is that it’s Waters’ very obvious reminder to his audience that he really is just putting them on (in case there had been any doubt up to that point).

    The film (surprisingly) is too talky and, to be more effective, should probably be about 15 or 20 minutes shorter – so it would be less obvious when it runs out of steam (as it eventually does).

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