Multiple Maniacs is a 1970 American black comedy film composed, shot, edited, written, produced, and directed by American cult filmmaker John Waters, and was his second feature film. The film features several actors who were part of the Dreamland acting troupe for Waters' films, including Divine, Mary Vivian Pearce, David Lochary, Mink Stole, Edith Massey, George Figgs, and Cookie Mueller. The title pays tribute to Herschell Gordon Lewis's 2000 Maniacs, as Waters states in his book Shock Value.
In 2016, American art house film distributor Janus Films and video distribution company The Criterion Collection undertook a new restoration of the film, with its preview for the restored print released for June 17, 2016 at the Provincetown Film Festival, and its national exhibition began on August 5, 2016.
Lady Divine is the owner and operator of a show called The Cavalcade of Perversion, a free exhibit of various perversions and fetish acts and obscenities such as the "Puke Eater". The show is free, although the various performers must persuade and even physically drag reluctant passers-by to attend.
As a finale to every show, Lady Divine comes in and robs the patrons at gunpoint. This arrangement seems successful to Lady Divine's lover, Mr. David, until Lady Divine becomes bored with the routine, and decides to murder the patrons rather than merely robbing them. After escaping the murder scene, she comes home to her prostitute daughter, Cookie, and her new boyfriend, Steve, a member of the Weather Underground. Lady Divine receives a call from Edith, proprietor of the local bar, who informs Lady Divine that Mr. David had been at her bar with another woman (Mary Vivian Pearce). Divine heads there to catch them, but is raped on the way by two glue-sniffers. While contemplating these events the Infant of Prague appears and leads her to a church. Making her way uncertainly into the church, Lady Divine prays, but is then approached and seduced by a strange young woman. They have a sexual encounter in the church pew, the woman inserting a rosary into Lady Divine's rectum while describing the Stations of the Cross.
Now lesbian lovers, Lady Divine and Mink go to Edith's bar with the intent to kill Mr. David and his mistress, but they are too late; David and Bonnie, his lover, (who have by this time decided that they have to kill Lady Divine to protect themselves) have left. Mr. David returns to Cookie's house to kill Divine, but finds only Cookie and fellow performer Rick there. An argument ensues and Bonnie accidentally kills Cookie. They tie up Rick and hide Cookie's corpse just before Divine and Mink return. When Bonnie tries to shoot Lady Divine, Divine attacks and kills her with a knife. She then turns on Mr. David and eviscerates him as well, devouring his internal organs and becoming more frenzied. Rick appears and surprises Mink, who shoots him. In a fit of anger, Divine accuses Mink of betraying her and stabs Mink. Divine becomes even more crazed upon finding her daughter's body hidden behind the couch. Just after collapsing, exhausted from the ordeal, a giant lobster (named Lobstora) enters and rapes Lady Divine. In the aftermath (mumbling "You're a maniac now, Divine"), she destroys a car, then runs around Baltimore, insane, bloody, and wearing a mink coat, trying to kill anyone she can get at.
The film ends with the appearance of the National Guard, who surround Lady Divine on the street and shoot her down, accompanied by the sound of Kate Smith singing "God Bless America".Divine as Lady Divine
David Lochary as Mr. David
Mary Vivian Pearce as Bonnie
Mink Stole as Mink / The Religious Whore
Cookie Mueller as Cookie Divine
Edith Massey as Edith the Barmaid / Virgin Mary
Paul Swift as Steve
George Figgs as Jesus Christ
Michael Renner Jr. as The Infant of Prague
Rick Morrow as Ricky
The film currently holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is Waters' highest-rated film.
A new restoration for Multiple Maniacs by the American film distribution company Janus Films and the video distribution company The Criterion Collection was previewed on June 17, 2016 at the Provincetown Film Festival, and its national exhibition began at the IFC Center in New York City on August 5, 2016.
The restored version was released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 21, 2017 by The Criterion Collection, featuring a commentary track by Waters among other newly-produced special features. This release marked the first time the film had been available on a home format in thirty years, since its original VHS release by Cinema Group in 1987.
As of August 18, 2016, Multiple Maniacs has grossed $33,036 in North America.