Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Two Thousand Maniacs! - (1964)

Not a High Point in Lewis` Gore Career
Reviewed by Gavin Schmitt

Six northerners (a young woman, a school teacher and two married couples) are detoured into the small southern town of Pleasant Valley, population 2000. The date is April 1965, the centennial of the American Civil War's conclusion and a violent incident in the town's past. What do these "maniacs" have planned for their celebration?

Sadly, I saw the remake of "2000 Maniacs" (appropriately called "2001 Maniacs") before I saw the original, so I cannot avoid comparing the two in my mind. The old film has a classic non-Hollywood feel the newer one lacks, the newer film adds lots more sex and a fair amount of gore (and a racial aspect). Both are flawed films, not completely selling what I think they were capable of. While the newer film makes the character of Harper Alexander too hackneyed, the old film has two other characters that seem just too backwoods.

Both feature the "yankee cat" scene and the draw-and-quartering. The old one, surprisingly, features far fewer deaths -- which happens to be one of its weak points. The film is slow to build up, provides a few great kills, and is then too long in slowing down. Herschell Gordon Lewis can be credited for one thing, though -- he was quite capable of inventing new and terrifying ways to kill on film. Barrel roll, anyone?

Another reviewer praised this film as far exceeding "Blood Feast". He is wrong. The direction might be better, and it is certainly true that the returning actors (William Kerwin and Connie Mason) have greatly improved their acting skills. Especially Mason. But sometimes cheese wins, and this is one of those cases. If "Maniacs" was trying to be a real film, it failed. It seemed like they tried hard but did not achieve what was possible. "Blood Feast", on the other hand, comes off as being less serious and as long as the audience understands this it is more enjoyable. I will freely admit I love bad movies, but I can appreciate good ones, too, and "Maniacs" did not meet my standards.

Lewis fans will want to see this, because it is one of his classics. Again, not on the level of "Blood Feast", "The Wizard of Gore" or "Gore Gore Girls", so see those first. But if there was ever a film that deserved a decent remake, it was "2000 Maniacs". Unfortunately, it did not get one (see separate review for more on this). So we are left to try and enjoy the original. I did.

As of September 2011, you can have this film in your collection on Blu-Ray, thanks to Image Entertainment. Besides the new technology, there are commentaries from Lewis and producer David Friedman, as well as plenty of special goodies. I would strongly urge anyone to pick it up.

Reviewer Film Ratings:
Plot: 2 | Fun Factor: 2.5 | Gore: 3.5 | Nudity: 1 | Scare Factor: 2 | Overall: 3.5/5

There’s still fun to be had with these old maniacs!
Reviewed by The Butcher

I decided to spend a few hours with director Herschell Gordon Lewis and his band of two thousand maniacs because I had just recently seen the remake done by Tim Sullivan, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I had never seen the original in its entirety but rather, only clips here and there, mostly the barrel roll sequence when the maniacs take one of the out-of-towners, put him in a barrel, hammer about fifty carpenter nails into the side and then roll him down a hill. Ouch! I was never actually aware that the sequence was from this film so, when it came up, I was pleasantly surprised

This 1964 cult classic is about six out-of-towners that, after taking a detour, find themselves in the odd, quirky town known as Pleasant Valley. The locals are so pleasant that they all gather on Main Street to greet their new guests. The doomed, motley crew decide to stay in town for a few days and partake in the festivities, which include the best damn barbeque dinner south of the Mississippi! Guess what they`re eating??? Charcoaled boobies and tube steak! MMMmm…

Two Thousand Maniacs is a tough film to talk about because its "hay day" has long since passed. I don`t mean that the film is still not being watched or that`s it`s not worth watching, because it is. I simply mean that the film was released in 1965 and back then, films like this just weren`t made. I know what you’re thinking… “They WERE made douchebag because you’re reviewing one!” Easy people… I’ll admit that although they were made, they weren’t made very often. Anyhow, one sequence in the film has the maniacs chopping up this chick with an ax and we actually see her arm separate from her body. The arm looks like it was borrowed from a Macy`s Department store mannequin but, that`s beside the point. The shock factor has come and gone with this one. I guess I`m saying that I would have probably appreciated the gore more back in 1965.

The death sequences in Two Thousand Maniacs are really where the film shines. We get the chopped up chick like previously mentioned, death by quartering (no I don’t mean the maniacs throw rolls of quarters at her), death by falling boulder (my favorite) and the barrel roll scene mentioned earlier as well. All the death sequences were creative, brutal and most entertaining. Like I said, I wasn`t alive in the sixties but, I can only assume that this was pretty heavy shit for the time.

OK, so the film definitely works for what it is but I did have a few problems. Right from the opening sequence, we see a few of the maniacs placing the detour sign on the main highway so, if you have half a brain cell, you would figure out that they are up to something. Once the locals arrive in town they are bombarded with mention of the "Centennial Celebrations", which involves a grand barbeque. Around thirty minutes in, the guests of honor are eating one of their friends. I really didn`t like knowing the maniacs’ true intentions so early on in the film because it would have been far more interesting to me to know what the out-of-towners knew, which was pretty much nothing. The dialogue is also weak and it’s such an old film that it was hard for me to relate to the humor and characters.

Overall, Two Thousand Maniacs was definitely a stronger film back in the day but, it`s still worth checking out if you haven`t seen it. I think Tim Sullivan`s version is far more entertaining but, part of that is probably because I had never seen the film before so I am comparing the two head on. The people who will enjoy this film the most have already seen it; the old farts that grew up with it. Great, can’t wait till I am reading a review twenty years from now and some young punk is calling me an old fart as he reviews A Nightmare on Elm Street. But yeah, I recommend Two Thousand Maniacs.

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