Two Thousand Maniacs!
directed by H.G. Lewis
starring Connie Mason, William Kerwin
Herschell Gordon Lewis may have created the gore movie with Blood Feast, his follow up Two Thousand Maniacs! fully cemented his reputation as the Godfather of Gore and is the splatter auteur’s finest work. Combining splatter and hicksploitation movies Two Thousand Maniacs! is one of the all time drive-in classics.
Connie Mason returns with William Kerwin (credited as Thomas Wood) from Blood Feast to star in Two Thousand Maniacs! as six “yankees” are lured off the highway and into the sleepy southern town of Pleasant Valley, GA as part of their centennial celebration. Pleasant Valley was the site of a Union massacre during the Civil War and the town rises every 100 years, Brigadoon-style, to take revenge on northerners. Of course the town looks like a contemporary St. Cloud, Florida (where the movie was shot) and not at all like a 19th century village. The ghostly residents seem unfazed by cars, electric light and television and routinely talk about the centennial like it is an event that’s happened before, but those lapses in logic only add to the kooky charm of Two Thousand Maniacs!. The visitors are welcomed with open arms and hailed as the guest of honor in the Pleasant Valley Centennial. They are then systematically dispatched in a variety of gruesome and improbable means including dismemberment, being rolled down a hill in a spiked barrel, a man being drawn and quartered,and having large boulder dropped on them. The murders scenes are really creatively handled and for a movie played so broadly still manages to evoke some actual shocks and unease especially in the first of the murders where the “helpful and friendly” townspeople dismember a female victim with an axe all the while reassuring her it’s for the best. Most of the acting is over the top except for Playboy playmate Connie Mason who is so understated she becomes a black hole of charisma and if anything she is less interesting than her turn in Blood Feast which is quite the accomplishment. There is plenty of gore, but the bright red paint that flows in the film is no longer likely to turn anyone’s stomach or shock people’s sensibilities.
Two Thousand Maniacs! on this Blu-Ray features a co-feature Moonshine Mountain, also directed by H.G. Lewis. The hicksploitation film was conceived as a re-working of Robert Mitchum’s Thunder Road. The film was tailored to play the southern drive-in circuit. A big time county music star visits Appalachia to research authentic hillbilly culture in order to add some authenticity to his act. He quickly gets involved with rival moonshine bootlegging families and the county’s crooked, evil sheriff. The sub-90 minute running time is padded out with some really nice hillbilly music and square dancing that have a documentary quality to them. The film is wildly non-PC, it holds no loving light on the people depicted and is loaded with stereotypes of willfully ignorant hillbillies, ridiculous accents, and hulking, inbred and mentally challenged characters. Present standards aside, if you can not get hung up on the exploitative nature of the movie it is has a charm and is certainly worth a look. The transfer sufferers from being cobbled together from multiple sources, none of which seem to have been loving cared for. Regardless the version presented is far from beautiful with visible crates, color timing, and contrast issues, but is still pretty watchable curiosity piece as a 2nd feature.
Arrow Films Bu-Ray of Two Thousand Maniacs! looks great but still shows the limitation of the source material. It doesn’t look a revelatory as some recent grind house restorations have looked. Both films feature insightful introductions by the director, H.G. Lewis. A feature commentary track from Lewis headlines an impressive slate of extras including featurettes on the film, the career of producer David Friedman, and the hicksploitation genre itself. As well as interviews, outtakes, trailers, and more. Even if you already own Two Thousand Maniacs! this Arrow Films release is certainly worth the double dip.