So let me set the scene for you: I'm in the movie section of Amoeba Music – specifically, the director's section. Passing John Waters' name I decide to take a gander. Lo and behold, what do I find? MULTIPLE MANIACS! Ten bucks! Not on DVD! Ho ho ho! You bet your sweet ass I'm gonna snatch it up – partly because I wanted to make a friend of mine, who's a huge John Waters fan, green with envy (I succeeded); partly because I enjoy Waters' early work like FEMALE TROUBLE and, especially, PINK FLAMINGOS. Once home, and with the proper amount of pomp and circumstance, I shove it into my VCR, adjust the tracking, and hit PLAY.
Come one, come all – to Lady Divine's Cavalcade of Perversions where "sluts, fags, dykes, and pimps" run amok! See a pornographer go about his trade! See two men kissing! See a heroin addict go through withdrawals! See Lady Divine (Divine, of course) herself rob your ass of money, valuables, and narcotics! Wait, Lady Divine's boyfriend, Mr. David (David Lochary) is sneaking around with Bonnie (Mary Vivian Pierce), an auto-erotic coprophagiac and gerontrophiliac!? Lady Divine will have Mr. David's head on a stick. Unless Mr. David and Bonnie are able to off Lady Divine first!
Those expecting the Waters' usual shtick are going to sprout wood: we've got the psychotic characters, the swingin' music, the atrocities and grotesqueries, the absurdity, the celebration of outsiderdom – all in glorious black-and-white. And on VHS no less! And while we don't get the level of sickness and absurdity that Waters would achieve in PINK FLAMINGOS, there's enough on display here to keep his fans happy and watching the screen. I mean, where else are you gonna see two women getting it on in a church in the presence of a heroin addict? Where else are you gonna see Divine get a rosary shoved up her ass? Where else are you gonna see a woman get raped by a transvestite AND a giant lobster? Nowhere else but this sick little film.
However, between these and other scenes of perversions, MULTIPLE MANIACS does hit a few lulls as some scenes go on for way longer than they should, resulting in sighs and thoughts of mowing the lawn. I mean, seriously, how long does a scene detailing Jesus' betrayal and crucifixion need to be? We all know the story, so please get on with the good stuff. Or, why does it need to drag out Divine's breakdown? It would be fine if it were actually comprised of interesting scenes, but just showing Divine wander about the streets and take a hammer to a car isn't anywhere near exciting. Or, how long does it take for two people to profess their love for one another and decide to kill someone? One line will suffice: "I love you, let's kill her, then fuck upon her corpse." (However, that last bit DOES have the best line of dialogue in the movie: "I love you so fucking much I could SHIT." Priceless. I'm gonna have to keep that one in mind.) If 20-30 minutes were chopped from this flick, we'd be looking at a classic. But at 90 minutes, the whole affair doesn't have quite enough momentum to keep viewers from getting a little bored.
At the end of the day though, MULTIPLE MANIACS is still sick and twisted enough to delight fans of Waters, or lovers of off-kilter cinema. Worth checking out at least once, especially those who think Waters only does rubbish like CRY BABY. – Evan Romero
Evan Romero is a regular contributor to the pages of ER and spends much of his time reading morally-questionable books and watching movies no sane person would touch. He is the vocalist/bassist for the punk band Porno Holocaust (you can find them on Facebook and listen to some demos if you’re inclined). You can read more of his reviews at ReelAtrocities.com or at PopHorror.com. He last wrote about TROMA'S WAR for the ER blog's Troma Tuesday feature.