For decades now I have been compiling data to throw upon the world someday. I’ve been noting in novels and short stories every time a writer has claimed something to be indescribable and has gone on to describe said thing. The numbers are way up there too. I always find it humorously annoying and laughably ironic, but I always vowed never to do it myself. John Waters’ Multiple Maniacs (1970) is indescribable. Let me describe it. It’s the second feature by Waters who would go on to entrench himself in world cinema history with Pink Flamingos (1972), Desperate Living (1977), Hairspray (1988)—crap, I can’t list them all. A bevy of his regulars, sometimes called the Dreamlanders, walk the path with him throughout most of his films, and Multiple is no different, with the likes of Edith Massey, the Egg Lady herself, not only in her first movie but in two roles. Multiple opens with a classic home movie title sequence, titles typed on paper crawling upwards and a nice minimalist score. Then we get tents and the master of ceremonies, David Lochary as Mr. David selling the show, Lady Divine’s Cavalcade of Perversions: The Sleaziest Show on Earth. What you have to realize right now is that this is 1970 and not 2016, and the idea of American life as it is defined in 1950s culture started being redefined as early as 1958, on through the revolutionary 60s and into the 70s, filled with music, weed, and sexual freedom, and who better to lead the way in American film than John Waters and his crew. Next, we see the crowd of performers inside their backstage tent amidst a cacophony of layered dialogue, most of it questioning the whereabouts of their star, Divine. Outside, approaching Mr. David are a potential audience of straights dressed in clothes my mom wore in the 60s, with necklines that don’t plunge past the actual neck, and hair almost predicting the 80s, and to them, Mr. David promises “assorted sluts, dykes, and fags.” These “straights” are actually Cookie Mueller, Mink Stole, and Mary Vivian Pearce, Dreamlanders all, and acting in dual roles in the film. Mr. David invites these local straights for a free show of bike seat licking, bra smelling, masochistic cigarette burning, and a nude human pyramid—that may not seem far out because I left out the best performances just for you. While the audience of straights talk smack about the performers, outside Mr. David is still barking, but this time he’s looking right at us, the audience, trying to get us to enter the tent show as well. I am still within the first ten minutes, which is what—and all—I like to detail in these reviews, and the next scene really pays off. That’s when we see her, lying nude, her back to us, her face in a hand mirror, looking as Rubenesque as Peter Paul Rubens would have painted her over three hundred years before, and she is diva-ing it up as well as living up to her namesake—it’s Divine. Next, Mr. David introduces Bonnie for an audition in front of Divine. Bonnie is an autoerotic, a copraphasiac, gerontophiliac. You can look those up yourself. While I’d like to keep on describing the film, it is a challenge to do so without spoiling it for you, but the die is cast in these ten minutes. Here are just some hints to the rest of the film, but you must know this: originality and absurdity, even in the context of a familiar society is part of the nature of a John Waters film. A holy catholic figure visits Divine, and she is seduced in a church, but “seduced” is just not quite the right word for it at all—I’ll save that for you to figure out. Scenes show the life of Jesus—John Waters style of course—, including a parody of the Miracle of the Seven Loaves and Fishes, many decades before Fist of Jesus (short 2012) took the same scene to the extreme. I looked up the definition of “Mexican standoff” just to be sure, and they always include “two or more people,” but Multiple has one with more people than The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966) or Pineapple Express (2008), and it all takes place in a living room, and the people per volume of the room is greater than Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah battling it out in the hallway of a mobile home in Kill Bill 1 (2003), or was it Kill Bill 2 (2004)—damn you QT. Multiple contains the most amazing rape scene ever, and its inspiration lies beached in the theater of the absurd. It’s as poignant as the rape scenes in Roger Corman’s Gas-s-s-s (1970) and Lloyd Kaufman’s Terror Firmer (1999). Now, upon writing this I expect some criticism of my statement, and I’m willing to be involved in an intelligent conversation about it with people who have actually seen all three scenes. And accordingly, my statement is my own and does not reflect the ideas of the site on which this article appears. [Editor’s note: We got your back, Fred] The film wraps up with what can only be described as a low-budget independent version of Godzilla running down the streets of Tokyo chasing its denizens—I swear on all that is cinema, that that imagery came to me before I read that it was already a thing, but that imagery is hard to deny once seen. When John Waters started, he started at the top of his game, and by his game I mean literally just his. David Lynch is David Lynch. David Cronenberg is David Cronenberg. And so, Waters is Waters. Nobody makes a Lynch, Cronenberg or Waters film except them. Not only that, but he stayed at the top of his game throughout a slew of films, and he remains one of the most important American filmmakers ever. Multiple Maniacs is like the THX-1138 (1971) of the Waters universe. Getting this in your queue or even on your shelf is a must-have. When the greats tell you filmmakers out there to just grab a camera and shoot, this is what could happen. While I’m sure a lot of improvisation occurred, I’m also sure a basic scripted spine was there as well, and Waters and his crew put their all into it, all their skills and collective genius as well, all for—I’m saying alleged—budget of $5000, most of which must’ve gone into the giant—oh, I said I wouldn’t spoil that. The Cavalcade of Perversions was shot on his parents’ front lawn, Divine’s apartment in John’s apartment, and the church scenes were shot with permission. Wait, what? Really? If somebody else doesn’t make a list of the movie posters in his apartment my undiagnosed OCD might get the best of me. It’s a classic filmmaking formula: available locations, guerilla locations, borrowed cameras, limited props. Waters’ success with most of his films, however, is his true magic, a large cast and crew, the Dreamlanders, who share and even contribute to his vision. A John Waters film, after all, is not just a John Waters film. He took this film even further though, screening it for admission prices in churches—hey, the internet said so at least five times—and later in an underground cinema. And if you think screening your own movies for the admission price is not part of the success of modern filmmaking you’re not paying attention. Granted, John Waters films are not for everybody—they’re not for the narrow-minded, the status quo, the hoity-toity, the drug-free, those who think there are only two sexes, anybody who ever said “Well, I never,” and meant it, and those locked into an idea of America that no longer exists except in their bunkers. The rest of us can soon catch the new 4k transfer from Criterion and Janus films, though a home video release date has not been set. As of this writing in the summer of 2016, the film is actually experiencing a release—it wasn’t technically ever released—and I had the pleasure of watching it at the Alamo Drafthouse the Ritz in Austin, Texas, on a Weird Wednesday hosted by Laird Jiminez. For more information in a post-4k restoration interview with Waters check out Jason Bailey’s interview on Flavorwire from which I learned some details I learned nowhere else. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... 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