Come see Lady Divine (Divine) and her Cavalcade of Perversions! Roll up, roll up as the master of ceremonies Mr David (David Lochary) introduces a variety of acts you will never see in polite society, such as the puke eater, the two men kissing, the armpit slurping, the heroin addict going cold turkey and so much more! But what this gang of self-confessed deviants are actually doing is attracting the middle class suburbanites with the promise of witnessing filth, which is something they would never admit to being fascinated by even though they are, and once they have them in a tent they drop a net on their heads and Divine pulls a gun on them. The visitors are then robbed of their valuables, but has Divine made a mistake in shooting one dead today?
Multiple Maniacs was director John Waters' first film that could move towards some form of professionalism after the ragbag of his debut feature Mondo Trasho. It was also the effort he made before his most notorious work, Pink Flamingos which featured much the same cast, his own gallery of Andy Warhol-esque superstars headed by the suitably outrageous transvestite Divine, always the ringleader in those early Waters movies, and always facing up against an antagonist who was unwise to cross her. As in the next film, David Lochary filled that role, here playing her boyfriend who decides he's had enough of her and wishes to move on to Mary Vivian Pearce (the only of the main cast not to use her real name).
Pearce played Bonnie, who was sexually obsessed with Mr David and represented a sort of All About Eve situation in her attempts to usurp Lady Divine, just one example of how torrid melodrama in Hollywood movies of old were informing Waters' plotting. But there was something else he wanted to bring to the film, and that was his excitement at the then-recent Manson Family murders which he in his youthful folly regarded as a tremendous method of shaking up the status quo of Nixon-voting squares. He went on to have a far more measured view of mass murder, you may be glad to know, but back when he made Multiple Maniacs he was so enamoured of the tragedy that he wanted to reference it here.
More than that, he wanted to place Divine as the main suspect in the minds of the audience, but luckily for posterity the actual culprits were revealed, leading Waters to rewrite his ending so she would suffer an alternative fate. Not that any of these folks would ever have murdered anyone as they found the medium of film a far better and more effective way of stirring the public up than committing crimes, indeed you could argue the main sufferers of these were the cast and crew themselves given the bizarre behaviour their director encouraged them to take part in, though because they were resolutely in on the joke they never came across as victims, more willing allies in Waters' crazed world, a twisted version of his native Baltimore where sex and violence were always erupting through the cracks.
Lady Divine plots to kill Mr David, Mr David plots to kill Lady Divine, and all because they are thoroughly sick of one another, that sense of prickly emotions amplified into outright madness never far away and providing the impetus for the narrative. There was an emphasis on very long takes, presumably to make editing that bit easier, but also demonstrating some excellent feats of memory on the part of the actors. However, the most memorable parts were not the speeches, but what happened in between, the setpieces where, for example, Divine visits a church and is praying for guidance when she is approached by a perverted Mink Stole, whereupon as Divine explains, "She inserted her rosary into one of my most private parts!" Which they both thoroughly enjoy as they ecstatically envisage the journey of Christ to the crucifixion, a sequence which bears remarkable resemblance to Mel Gibson's orgy of religious violence The Passion of the Christ. After that, the rape of Divine by the giant lobster can only equal, not surpass, the bad taste we have seen; was it funny? You’d need a strong sense of humour to judge.
Witty American writer/director, the chief proponent of deliberate bad taste in American films. His early efforts are little more than glorified home movies, including Mondo Trasho and Multiple Maniacs, but with the notorious Pink Flamingos Waters found his cult audience.