Multiple Maniacs (1970)

The decision to review a John Waters movie was a little daunting. I’m reminded of something I saw in the special features for the Hitchcock film Topaz. There’s a segment hosted by Leonard Maltin where he goes on to to say that “it’s almost an insult to try and critique a Hitchcock film, even one that’s not considered his best, because there’s no such thing as a bad Hitchcock movie, and who are we to question it?”. That’s sort of paraphrased but I understood what he was saying completely.  How can I, a mere fan, begin to dissect the work of a master? And that’s what John Waters is. Truly a master of his trade.  He can hardly be compared to anyone else before his time, occasionally Ed Wood or Russ Meyer but in the end he really did make something new and in turn became the one you would later compare trash filmographers to. That being said, I decided to start with one of his earliest films that’s still in existence. Multiple Maniacs.

A traveling group of criminals disguise themselves as “the Cavalcade of Perversions”,  a sideshow where on-lookers can see “the Puker Eater”,  a woman licking a bicycle seat and “real queers kissing”. Lead by Lady Divine, the freak show is actually a front for these outlaws to rob and often kill the audience. You can be sure to see John Waters’ cast of usual suspects in Multiple Maniacs. We have David Lochary as the announcer and boyfriend of Divine, his mistress Bonnie played by the lovely Mary Vivian Pierce, Cookie Mueller as Divine’s daughter Cookie. Edith Massey as a barmaid and Mink Stole in two roles, one being the unforgettable “Mink”, who frequents Catholic churches looking for a good time. And of course there’s Divine who needs no introduction.

The movie is really about Divine’s decent into madness. After being tipped off by Edie, the barmaid, that Divine’s boyfriend David is philandering with another woman, she makes the decision to hunt him down and kill him. Meanwhile, David and Bonnie have decided to do the same to Divine so they can be free.


Amidst this love triangle many unrelated perversions occur. Divine in all of her sexiness, gets rapes by a drug addict and a bearded cross dresser. In a moment of desolation she’s lead to a church by the image of the Infant of Prague so she can pray. Knowing full well that she herself has committed unthinkable crimes she excuses it by inserting “I always did it with a clear conscience” in her prayer. In this church she meets an unusual woman. Now, I've seen a lot of John Waters movies, and I thought I’d been shocked before but seeing Mink Stole perform a “rosary job” on Divine just may take the cake on that one. Just seeing Mink and Divine making out made me blush. Mink goes on to tell the story of the Crucifixion as she, um…pleasures Divine using a rosary as anal beads. Truly one of the most lurid sites I've ever to behold! You’ll need a shower after that scene.

After her wild trip into lesbian blasphemy she and Mink team up to kill David and Bonnie. They head over the Edie’s bar but David and Bonnie have already left for Divine’s with the intention to do the same. From that point things get really out of hand. Once they've all met up there’s shootings, stabbings, disembowelments, cannibalism,  until there’s one (wo)man left standing. Divine of course! Alone and deranged she slips into pure psychosis. Experiencing fits of laughter and ferocity, foaming at the mouth, praising her own image in the mirror, she’s real gone! The high light of her madness, and perhaps the whole movie is when a giant lobster emerges from the floor of her living room and rapes her on the couch!

As always the cast is just phenomenal. I adore the Dreamlanders.  David Lochary has always been a personal favorite of mine. He’s swarthy and obviously highly intelligent. He has a wonderful speaking voice and it’s always a treat seeing him in the early works of John Waters.  It’s really tragic that he died from a PCP overdose in 1977. Something tells me he would have branched out as a cult actor as Mink Stole did, becoming more than just a household name. There’s also Mary Vivian Pearce, Waters’ best friend since childhood. She and Mink are the only two Dreamlanders to appear in every single Waters film! What I love about her is what a contrast she is to all of the unattractiveness you’re used to seeing in a Waters film. She’s soft and fair like a 1920’s actress, even when she plays a harlot or a creep, she plays it like a little girl pretending to do grown-up things. 

And then of course there’s Divine. John Water’s muse, who he often referred to as “His Liz Taylor”.There’s something admirable about Divine’s confidence. I would dare to say that no one could ever do what she has done on screen with such class! She  carries herself with an air of dignity, whether she’s  raping herself or eating dog shit. She has great style and an take no bullshit attitude we could all learn from. She’s always been one of my heroes and I’m not afraid to shout it from the fucking rooftops.

Multiple Maniacs must be the most salacious film in Waters entire body of work. Granted, haven’t seen Mondo Trasho or the Diane Linkletter Story and will probably never see Roman Candles, Eat Your Make Up and Hag in a Black Leather Jacket in their entirety. It’s a great companion piece to Pink Flamingos, bearing many similarities. The black and white is a little fuzzy and rough around the edges but it’s still a remarkable achievement. It’s a necessary piece of the puzzle for any diligent fan of the Pope of Trash and a staple for lovers of cult cinema. It’s never been commercially released but there are many copies floating around the web if you know where to look. I give it my utmost recommendation! 


  1. I love Multiple Maniacs. The music in it is fantastic. Then again, all of John Waters' movies have great music in em. Especially Mondo Trasho.

  2. Raped by a giant lobster? Great twist.

  3. Love John Waters. I recently posted 2/3 music comps- these are all Mondo Trasho and Multiple Maniacs. There are also Audio Nasties comps with more rare Waters on them:


  4. This is about to get a fully restored Criterion Collection release!