By Bill Hughes (Baltimore, Maryland)
Multiple Maniacs Returns to the Scene of the Crime – Baltimore!
The iconic filmmaker John Waters told the capacity audience at the Charles Theatre that in 1969, he had to borrow money from his dad to make the trashy cult classic, Multiple Maniacs. It didn’t go over that big with moviegoers when it was released in 1970, but it did somehow slide by the Maryland Censor Board.
Waters then had a running feud over censorship with the Board and its then chairlady, the late Mary Avara. How this film, with its scenes of sickening depravity, serial murders and shocking blasphemy, got pass her could be the making of yet another flick.
But, Multiple Maniacs, has always had its niche audience with comedy/horror lovers. In any event, the movie featuring the late Divine has been restored and is headed for national re-circulation, via Janus Films.
Divine was played superbly by the actor Harris Glenn Milstead. He was a boyhood buddy of Waters. He died on March 7, 1986. Milstead was known not only as an actor but also as a singer and drag queen. Before launching his acting career, he had been a hairdresser in Baltimore. He’s buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery in Towson, Maryland.
The movie was filmed mostly in and around the Baltimore area. Fell’s Point, a wee bit trashy itself in that bygone era, was in a lot of the shots. It brought in just over $25,000 at the box office. Some of the opening scenes, Waters said, were filmed in his back of his parents’ home in Baltimore County.
At the showing on Monday, September 12th, there were some talented folks, like Pat Moran, Susan Lowe, Mink Stole, Vincent Peranio and George Figgs, in the audience. They had worked on the film in various capacities and were known as the “Dreamland” acting troupe.
George Figgs took on the role of Jesus Christ – a high calling – under any circumstances. He was more than adequate. And, Mink Stole nailed it as the Religious Whore. While, Divine carried the flick in the demanding, hilarious role of Lady Divine.
As for Peranio, he also designed the giant lobster, known as “Lobstora,” for the movie. They said it cost about $20 for the material. It looked real to me and that’s the bottom line.
Waters introduced each of actors present to warm rounds of applause. To learn more about the film’s restoration, check out the article in “Variety” dated, August 6, 2016, at: https://variety.com/2016/film/columns/multiple-maniacs-john-waters-divine-1201831560/.
Rotten Tomatoes, a movie review website, Walters reminded the audience, has given Multiple Maniacs, a hundred percent rating. It is his “highest rated film.” Who knew?
The restored version will carry the tagline, “Restored! Reviled! Revolting.” It opened in early August of this year at one of the Waters’ fave hangouts, the Provincetown Film Festival.
You can still catch this “celluloid atrocity” at the Charles for a 9 pm showing on this coming Thursday evening, September 15, 2016. This is your final warning!
What kind of reaction did Multiple Maniacs get on September 12th? Let me put it this way: It was a non-stop laughathon!
(By way of full disclosure, this writer has had cameo roles in two of Waters’ films, “Dirty Shame” and “Pecker.”)
Editor’s Note: Bill Hughes is a Baltimore-based author, actor and photojournalist.