MULTIPLE MANIACS DVD (Criterion Collection)
A one-two punch for me in when I was getting more into the movies were proximate screenings of Pink Flamingos (1972) and Pedro Almodóvar’s Pepi, Luci, Bom (1980). I saw both of these at The Key Theater in Georgetown when Georgetown was a little grubbier than it is today. For a teenager, it felt very urban: uneven sidewalks, entering a building decorated with posters of movies I hadn’t yet heard have, the smell of popcorn and apathy. This might have been the closest I ever came to entering a porn theater save the fact down the street The Biograph showed porno and also participated in Spike and Mike’s Festival of Animation. But there is fear in this kind of experience, the kind that follows you through life.
The Criterion Collection has cleaned up Multiple Maniacs for a DVD and Blu ray release. I was glad for that except I really wanted to buy the DVD wrapped in a brown paper bag. Certainly, we’re all too sophisticated to be shocked by plot points. Waters’ reputations for transgressive cinema is as rooted in Multiple Maniacs (1970) as Pink Flamingos (1972). Lady Divine (Divine) runs a traveling side show of depraved perfomers. Her ambition is to eliminate her lover Mr. David (David Lochary) and take over the show. This dynamic creates warring factions and a platform for Waters’ ensemble cast of Dreamland regulars to engage in his unique style of depravity.
If you’re able to score a dirty screen from a yard sale, it’s worth setting it up for your friends for a screening with popcorn in plastic bowls and whatever else you’re into. For your intellectual side, the DVD includes a trailer, an excellent video essay by Gary Needham, and interviews with key players in the production. Anarchy is the secret ingredient. Multiple Maniacs is a gallery of people behaving badly, but it sure is nice to see people running and smiling. Putting Multiple Maniacs on late at night and seeing those young faces degrading themselves for fun is still magical. I turned off the lights to hide the modern world and that fear came back. –Billups Allen
“Aren’t we glad we didn’t have test screenings? Can you imagine the focus groups? Where did that lobster come from?” – John Waters
dir. John Waters, 1970, black and white, 16mm, 91 min.
DVD and Blu ray at The Criterion Collection