Two Thousand Maniacs!
An entire town bathed in pulsing human blood! Madmen crazed for carnage!
Year of Release: 1964
Running Time: 83 minutes (1:23)
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Connie Mason ... Terry Adams
William Kerwin ... Tom White
Jeffrey Allen ... Mayor Buckman
Shelby Livingston ... Bea Miller
Ben Moore ... Lester MacDonald
Jerome Eden ... John Miller
Gary Bakeman ... Rufus 'Rufe' Tate
Mark Douglas ... Harper Alexander
Linda Cochran ... Betsy
Yvonne Gilbert ... Beverly Wells
Michael Korb ... David Wells
Vincent Santo ... Billy
The TWO THOUSAND MANIACS of a small town celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Civil War by forcing a handful of Northerners to serve as "guests" for a variety of macabre, blood-crazed fun and games.
The festivities include a screaming man placed in a rolling barrel lined with nails, a hit-the-bull's-eye carnival game with a pretty gal and a boulder, and a blonde sexpot whose arm is hacked off and barbecued! But before they can slaughter the only smart Yank (Thomas Wood), he and the lovely Terry Adams (Connie Mason, "Playboy's Favorite Playmate") try to escape...
A marvelously perverse cult classick, TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! is also the second of the infamous "blood trilogy" (which includes Blood Feast and Color Me Blood Red) from producer David F. Friedman (Trader Hornee) and director Herschell Gordon Lewis (The Wizard of Gore). Yeeeee-Ha! Oh, the South's gonna rise again!
Two Thousand Maniacs, the second of the "blood trilogy" from the Godfather of Gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis. You'd better believe there's wisdom to be found here, cousin. To start, should you ever encounter any signage along the highway that's spray painted on a piece of plywood an placed in the middle of the road, consider carefully when the government has ever spared expense on anything in recent memory, cause this might not be officially sanctioned. Furthermore, if anyone you've never met, or never seen before tries to give you anything for free, be extremely suspicious. If they tell you you're going to be the "guest of honor" for an event, kill anyone that tries to stop you from escaping, by any means necessary. Third, if logic has by some Darwinian improbability managed to elude your detection on the first two points, at least consider that, when the hotel they place you in has the same telephone June Lockhart used in Lassie, something might be amiss. I swear. There are Southerners that claim Herschell painted them in a negative light. But I ask you to take a look at the red flags that go undetected by the Yankees an tell me that anyone in the movie is portrayed as anything but a below room temperature IQ. Some people are so touchy about these things. I've seen Southerners that'd give Rufe an Lester nightmares. But anyway, the real issue that could use some in depth analysis is this: when being approached by a mob, why would your instinct be to stomp the brake, when the gas is right there? I thought people in the 60s were supposed to be so high on weed that their paranoia was off the charts, and yet, these people just slow down an let the town mob them? It really doesn't make much sense to me. Whatever it is we're watching a movie about; be it commies, hippies, zombies, diseased humans, angry dogs, corpses crushed down into evil dwarves or even killer klowns from outer space, their goals are all pretty similar and don't bode well for us. An just look at the classic cars these people are driving, not only can you plow through these Southerners in style, but they don't make cars like this anymore, an you can really send 'em flying with minimal frame damage. They may not be able to get to 60mph in 4.8 seconds, but you can easily smash through 60 bodies without a moments concern about a loss of momentum. Bottom line, sometimes the best defense is a good offense.
2K Maniacs opens with more banjo music than a Clinton family reunion an two huckleberries trying to get cars off the main road into their little slice of heaven called Pleasant Valley. Really, this is basically how tourism works in the south, so anyone familiar with it isn't all that surprised by the methods employed to get them onto the back roads. An because the entire south works this way, they don't bother putting up the detour signs for anyone with a car that doesn't have a few patches of missing paint with buckshot dents in 'em. Because they run the same scam back home an know better. Plus they have a tendency to shoot first. So after a couple car loads of Yankees are duped off the highway an into Hooterville, the locals mob the two cars an tell 'em they're having their centennial celebration an they need 'em to stick around for a couple days to teach 'em how to spell big words like "centennial." The mayor, lets call him Colonel Sanders, tells 'em they're going to be the guests of honor an they'll hook 'em up with the fanciest outhouses an fried possum they've ever experienced if they'll only stay for the celebration. Being in no way affected by the spray-on detour signs an the strange feeling the town was waiting for them to show up as they entered town, the fine Northern representatives agree to stay an head into the hotel to scope out a room that doesn't have pillows fashioned from raccoon pelts. But outside, the meeting doesn't seem to be all that chance, nor do the locals seem to be all that honest when we see The Colonel talking to the two huckleberries (Rufus an Lester) about choosing which Yankee they'd like. Back inside, one of the couples from the first car is about to make the sign of the balding four legged tarantula when the anachronistic telephone starts ringing an a Southern belle lures him downstairs by talking like a Catholic school girl. This would have also worked if he had been Japanese or Neo Nazi, for the record. The guy, lets call him Dick, tells his wife (who looks a lot like something you'd pick up in a casino at around 4am) that the mayor wants to see him an that he'll be gone for as long as it takes him to get into the belle's lapels. About the time Dick leaves, the sweaty, hulking Southern beefcake calls up Dick's wife (lets call her Jade, being around a Dick as she has for this long is bound to cause a lot of cynicism) an invites her out for some down home Southern cocking. Cue fun with Dick an Jade.
The beefcake (Harper), makes out with Jade for a little bit until he just can't contain his crazy anymore an cuts her thumb off before he drags her back to Looney HQ where Rufus, Lester an The Colonel hold her down an chop off her arm at the shoulder to keep the infection in her thumb from spreading. Unfortunately, it was her slot machine arm, an she expires from the knowledge that with it, so too went her livelihood. Back at the hotel, Bill Kerwin's starting to get suspicious. Not only because a bunch of Southerners have imported Yankees for a centennial celebration that dates back to the end of the civil war, but equally distressing is that every time Herschell makes a movie, things always get really messy. So Bill tells Connie that Herschell's up to something an they really need to get out of this movie before they get deep fried an he goes to the phone booth outside to call the teacher's convention he was previously en route to. The clerk at the convention tells him no one has arrived for the convention as yet, but that he'd have them give him a call once they did. But unfortunately, The Colonel was on the other end of the line, an he can see through a phony accent like a napkin that had a bucket of KFC sitting on it. Later that evening at the B-B-Q, we're again deafened by the Dukes of Hazzard theme song an a spitfire with a rather suspicious piece of arm shaped beef being rotated slowly. Drayton Sawyer approves. After a depressing length of time, the wife of the remaining couple notices the arm being rotisserized an asks The Colonel if that's normal. She's married to Herschell in real life, so she's really not sure. When The Colonel says it's okay, there's no doubt in her mind, an she goes back to watching the pretty flames. About this time, Rufus an Lester show up an tell The Colonel they can't seem to find Bill an The Colonel gets this look on his face like he just realized he got an erection from looking at a black woman an they take off looking for him. But once they've gone, Bill shows up an gets Connie an takes her off to this little stone monument that basically says that when they least expect it, there's gonna be some serious vengeance for the massacre of the village that took place at the hands of some Union soldiers. Then they catch a whiff of bacon grease an incest an realize The Colonel an the huckleberries are heading in their direction an they have to hide for a good 15 seconds before they give up an go back to the B-B-Q. Then Harper takes the married couple back to their room so there'll still be somebody left to kill the next day.
Also at the party is Dick, who's so blotto from the moonshine that he makes Ted Kennedy look like Candice Lightner. He's having quite a bit of trouble walking, but is otherwise an inspiration to fraternities everywhere, an he's ready for the horse race the rednecks have been hyping for the last half an hour. They plop him down on the ground an tie each extremity to a horse an make a declaration that the losing horse is going to be shipped to Belgium. Naturally, the horses take off like their rectums depend upon it and Dick falls to pieces like Patsy Cline. The next morning, the married couple is awoken by what has to be the most horrifying, yet effective wake up call ever devised: the banjo. The guy can't get any of his fellow Northerners on the phone an by this time he's noticed just how bad his wife's acting is an he really, really wants to get out of this movie. He's in luck, because the southern belle is using her two enormous charms to drag him to the barrel roll. The barrel roll seems like fun at first, but once he gets inside the barrel The Colonel nails about 250 five inch nails into the barrel an sends him down the hill. They say a rolling stone gathers no moss, but a rolling man in a spiked barrel gathers a great deal of gore. Back at the hotel, Bill's having to sneak into Connie's room because The Colonel's stationed a guard armed with an acoustic guitar outside his room. He gets Connie to lure the rube inside where he clocks him with a pipe an they run like the colon of a man that just ate a Tijuana taco. But Harper catches sight of them an gives chase until he finds a pool of quicksand an gets swallowed like Usain Bolt at the Olympic Village. Meanwhile, over at the last scheduled event of the Redneck Olympics, the last contestant is tied up on a platform with Mount Rushmore sitting above her on a platform. The platform is attached to a bulls-eye, much like a dunk tank at a carnival, and while they may not be much for literacy, they're great at throwing baseballs, an it's not long before she's mashed into Our Lady Pieces. But with the townsfolk distracted elsewhere, Bill an Connie are able to bribe a local kid into showing them where their car is, an just before the 2000 Maniacs (or 40, as is more accurate in any given scene) can get ahold of them they peel outta there. Back to the land of indoor plumbing, The Beach Boys, and personal hygiene. That may seem like the end, but Herschell goes Rod Serling on us an adds a twist for us, which you'll have to watch for yourselves.
Artistically speaking, Herschell Gordon Lewis' movies are just so far removed from anything else you've ever seen that judging his movies is more difficult than judging most anything else. When you watch a modern horror movie (if you can make it through the whole thing anyway), not only are you comparing it to everything else you've ever seen, but you're also criticizing it for not doing things as well as another movie, or for outright doing it wrong, when compared to another movie. Even if that was a valid or intelligent way to judge movies, and it isn't, that's not even an option here. He was the guy that really started it all for the horror genre, in terms of putting violence and gore up on the screen to be seen. Before this guy, they just implied most everything using a silhouette or a scream, or a jump cut. Not Herschell. So while his methods may not always seem so refined an perfect as other movies that followed decades later, it's because he's reinventing the genre as he goes. He's really winging it to a certain extent, because he doesn't have the source material to draw from that anyone subsequent to him, had. It just astounds me that in the early 60s these movies didn't catch half the flack that Texas Chainsaw Massacre did in 1974, an they're 10x as violent an bloody as Saw was. Goes to show what atmosphere will do for you, I suppose. Atmosphere was never one of Herschell's strong points. For the time the murders must have seemed absolutely horrifying, an hold up pretty well even by today's standards. I must say the barrel roll death gets big points for originality, although I suspect that if this sort of thing really happened, by the time he came out of the barrel he'd have been much, much messier than he was in the movie. Seeing this in 1964 had to have been disturbing beyond belief. Up there with The Exorcist in 1973, Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974 an Cannibal Holocaust in 1980. Although it's not as good as any of those movies (or anywhere close, in the case of the first two), it will always hold a place of tremendous historical significance in the genre, and if nothing else, is somewhat better than his first offering of Blood Feast. I attribute this to taking almost twice as many days to complete filming. 14 days, he wasn't taking any chances, he knew he had a winner on his hands with this one.
Overall, it has to be analyzed just like any other movie. I have to be fair an not give excessive points for the innovation required, an the fact that it did a lot of things for the first (or second) time. A lot of people will say the acting is bad. I say the acting is weird. So many of the townsfolk are so over the top in their acting I'm really not certain if they're great actors, or terrible actors. I definitely thought that Gary Bakeman and Ben Moore made the movie, as the two huckleberries that lure the tourists into town. They're extremely entertaining to watch. Whether they're good or not, I don't know, or really care, because I was entertained. The movie really only has one actress that I'd consider particularly poor, an that's Yvonne Gilbert. We're pushing Troll 2 territory with her. Not quite, but close. The shooting locations were great, so great that Disney later built Disney World in Florida over much of the area used for the scenes which were not filmed in town. Pave paradise, put up Disney World. They paved over this priceless piece of horror movie history to put up a theme park based around a cartoon mouse whose gimmick is that his balls haven't dropped yet. Oh that's just swell, nice job. Dicks. The soundtrack is... authentic. Authentically terrible, but authentic. Not since the Clampett family reunion have we heard so much banjo music, an lets hope we never have to again. Decent plot, with a twist ending. Looks like someone's been watching some Twilight Zone, am I right, Herschell? It's not a bad way to end the movie, although it runs a little long. Had it been more abrupt it probably would have come off a bit better. Was he suggesting that the drive-in going public of the 1960s needed excessive exposition to understand his ending? Those are serious charges, and ones that I'm not willing to bring forth. Food for thought, though. For a movie like this, you certainly aren't expecting any kind of twist to the plot, back then not many movies had them, an certainly not low budget movies. It's a pretty good way to end the movie. I'd recommend it as standard viewing material to anyone that considers themselves to be serious fans of the genre, even if it only turns out to be a history lesson for everyone. For the time, it's pretty good. But more so than that, it's pretty important.
On one final note, I don't think I'll ever be able to play Star Fox again an hear Peppy's "Do a barrel roll!" without questioning his loyalty. Kinda puts a dark spin on his character.