Two Thousand Maniacs [1964]

Two Thousand Maniacs [DVD] [1964] [US Import] [NTSC]

Release Date: February 22, 2000
Studio: Image Entertainment
Actors: Connie Mason, William Kerwin, Jeffrey Allen, Shelby Livingston, Ben Moore
Directors: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Runtime: 87 minutes

Available "fully uncut" for the first time in the UK, Two Thousand Maniacs! is the second of director HG Lewis' "blood" trilogy. Though the "once-in-a-lifetime" title makes a promise no film could keep--only about 30 maniacs show up--and the level of gore is a notch or so down from Blood Feast--only four deaths--this is perhaps the director's most watchable film. The Brigadoon-derived plot nugget concerns a Deep South town (variously suggested to be in Georgia or Arkansas, but actually Florida) wiped out by Union raiders during the Civil War, which reappears once every 100 years to wreak "blood vengeance". For the centennial celebrations, Pleasant Valley lures Yankee tourists off the road and subjects them to gruesome fairground games--a cannibal BBQ, a "horse-race", a "barrel roll" and "teetering rock". The ideas are nasty, and Lewis even attempts subtlety by keeping the quartering and the spiked barrel inside mostly off screen, but the creepiest touch is the "aw-shucks" good humour with which the ghostly Confederate maniacs--led by a mayor who is the spitting image of Sergeant Bilko's Colonel Hall--treat their horrible sport. It has the usual Lewis drawbacks--mostly inept staging, acting that veers between the wooden ("Playmate" Connie Mason) and the amateurishly hammy (one of the worst child actors in film history), clumsy editing, community theatre production values--but his fans wouldn't have it any other way and the hayseed music is great!

On the DVD: The full-screen image is as good as this ever will look, considering Lewis' primitive understanding of lighting cinematography, with rich scarlet blood, vividly ugly 1963 leisurewear and very few print imperfections. The features offer an imaginative "Welcome to Pleasant Valley Centennial" menu, with buttons like the target you have to hit to drop the "teetering rock" on the Yankee; lurid original trailer ("Two thousand maniacs crazed for carnage started bathing a whole town in pulsing, human blood ... brutal, evil, ghastly beyond belief"); filmographies for Lewis, Friedman and star William Kerwin (aka Thomas Wood); promotional art gallery; notes by aptly-monickered expert Billy Chainsaw, highlighting the connections with John Waters and Brigadoon; a teaser trailer for "the Herschell Gordon Lewis Collection"; a mass of trailers for other "Tartan terror" titles. The Lewis-Friedman commentary and mind-numbing outtakes reel available on the Region 1 DVD are sadly absent, but that release doesn't have this one's major bonus addition--the entire soundtrack album, with compositions by Lewis himself (including the immortal "Yee-Hah, the South's Gonna Rise Again") and Flatt and Scruggs (of Bonnie and Clyde fame). --Kim Newman