Two Thousand Maniacs!

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Two Thousand Maniacs!
2000maniacs.jpg
Promotional poster
Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Produced by David F. Friedman
Written by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Starring William Kerwin
Connie Mason
Jeffrey Allen
Music by Larry Wellington
Cinematography Herschell Gordon Lewis
Edited by Robert Sinise
Production
company
Jacqueline Kay (as The Jacqueline Kay, Inc.)
Friedman-Lewis Productions
Distributed by Box Office Spectaculars
Release dates
  • March 20, 1964 (1964-03-20) (US)
Running time
87 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $65,000 (estimated)

Two Thousand Maniacs! is a 1964 American splatter film written and directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis. It follows a group of Northern tourists who are savagely tortured and murdered during a Confederate celebration of a small southern community's centennial. The film starred 1963 Playboy Playmate Connie Mason.

It was the second part of what the director's fans later dubbed "The Blood Trilogy", a trio of films starting with 1963's Blood Feast and ending with 1965's Color Me Blood Red. The film has been noted by critics as an early example of Southern caricature in grindhouse films, as well as for its sensationalizing of national perceptions between the North and South. The film was remade in 2005 as 2001 Maniacs. The story of the film was inspired by the 1947 Lerner and Loewe musical Brigadoon.[1]

Plot[edit]

Six Yankee tourists are lured into the fictional small Southern town of Pleasant Valley by "redneck" citizens, to be the guests of honor for the centennial celebration of the day Union troops destroyed the town. The tourists are initially treated with hospitality and given rooms to stay in the local hotel. However, that evening, one of the women is attacked by a local man; she runs toward the town for help, but is accosted by the mayor and several other locals, who hold her down on a table and dismember her alive with an axe.

The following night, the woman's dismembered limbs are roasted over a barbecue with the townspeople in attendance. Meanwhile, two of the guests discover a park plaque describing the "blood centennial" celebration in which they will be killed. One of the men is apprehended by the townspeople and made to participate in a "horse race," which entails his body being ripped apart limb by limb by horses who are roped to his extremities.

The next day, the remaining tourists are forced to participate in various cruel games which lead to their gory deaths. One man is rolled downhill in a barrel embedded with nails, while a woman is crushed by a boulder held aloft in a contraption resembling a carnival-style dunk tank. After discovering the nefarious plans of the townspeople, the two remaining tourists manage to escape. They then return with a local sheriff, only to discover that the town has disappeared. The film ends with two of the townspeople revealing that they are really vengeful spirits looking forward to the next centennial in 2065, when Pleasant Valley will rise again to resume its vendetta against the Yankees. They walk into the fog and disappear.

Production[edit]

Two Thousand Maniacs! was filmed in 15 days, early in 1964, in the town of St. Cloud, Florida. According to a contemporary report, the entire town participated in the film.[2]

The film was the feature film debut of a nonprofessional Illinois stage actor named Taalkeus Blank (nicknamed "Talky" his entire life) (b. 1910 - d. 1991) who played Pleasant Valley Mayor Buckman. He used the pseudonym "Jeffery Allen" in all of his film appearances because he was never a member of the Screen Actors Guild. Director Lewis was so impressed by Blank's ability to perfectly mimic any type of Southern accent that he hired Blank to appear in many of his later films, among them Moonshine Mountain (1964), This Stuff'll Kill Ya! (1971) and Year of the Yahoo! (1972), playing various Southern-accented characters under the Jeffrey Allen pseudonym.

The film's budget was considerably larger than what the filmmakers had previously had to work with, and afforded the film a more polished production.[3]

Release[edit]

Two Thousand Maniacs! was heavily cut by the MPAA before its release, which resulted in the film being scantily screened across the country.[3] It was formally released on March 20, 1964, and mostly played at drive-in theaters, especially in the Southern United States, where it did considerably well.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Allmovie wrote, "drive-in gore king Herschell Gordon Lewis reached a creative peak with this darkly comic slaughterfest".[4] In a retrospective, Marjorie Baumgarten of the Austin Chronicle called the film "remarkably durable" and referred to it as "one of the sickest movies ever made."[5]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 31%, based on 13 reviews, signifying "rotten".[6]

Critical analysis[edit]

Two Thousand Maniacs! was one of the earliest films to introduce audiences to the formulaic plotline of Southern gore films: Northern outsiders who are stranded in the rural South are horrifically murdered by virulent, backwoods Southerners.[7] This subgenre of grindhouse peaked with the release of Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), and Two Thousand Maniacs! has been credited as being influential on Hooper's film.[8]

During the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, television and mainstream narrative films used the "rednecks" caricature rather than a realistic depiction of white Southerners like the televised news of the era.[7] However, Lewis’ plotline in Two Thousand Maniacs! focused on the ghost of a violent, vengeful Confederacy, and acknowledged the region’s violent history and place in the anxiety of the rest of the United States.[9][10] The film has been noted by scholars as sensationalizing historical anxieties that the rest of the nation held towards the South’s history (and that of its white inhabitants) of extra-legal violence, perceived primitivism, and unresolved regional conflict.[11] The 2005 remake, 2001 Maniacs, recreates the grotesque "yokelism" of the original.

In his essay "Remapping Southern Hospitality", Anthony Szczesiul explained the film’s use of Southern hospitality and other Southern stereotypes: “The film’s ironic parody of southern hospitality highlights the performative nature of the discourse. When Mayor Buckman delivers his promise of southern hospitality in his thick, cartoonish accent, the reference is immediately recognizable to all–the characters in the film, its actors and director, its original audience, and by us today–but here the possibility of southern hospitality is transformed into a cruel joke: the visitor becomes victim.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

Alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs were named in homage to this film.[12]

Deaths[edit]

  • Dismembering a woman with an axe, and thereafter roasting her in a barbecue pit.
  • Staging a "horse race" in which a man is ripped limb from limb.
  • Rolling a man downhill in a barrel embedded with nails.
  • One of the townspeople falls into quicksand when giving chase and drowns.
  • Crushing a woman with a boulder held aloft in a contraption resembling a carnival-style dunk tank.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Doll & Morrow 2007, p. 163.
  2. ^ Romer 2000, pp. 63–64.
  3. ^ a b c Quarles, Mike. Down and Dirty: Hollywood's Exploitation Filmmakers and Their Movies. McFarland & Co. pp. 169–170. ISBN 978-0786411429. 
  4. ^ Cavett Binion. "Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)". Allmovie. Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  5. ^ Baumgarten, Marjorie (2002-02-12). "2000 Maniacs! - Film Calendar". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2015-05-10. 
  6. ^ "Two Thousand Maniacs". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Graham, Allison. Framing the South: Hollywood, Television, and Race during the Civil Rights Struggle Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2001. ISBN 0-8018-7445-9. p. 168-169.
  8. ^ Peary, Danny. Cult Horror Movies: Discover the 33 Best Scary, Suspenseful, Gory, and Monstrous Cinema Classics. Workman Publishing Company. 
  9. ^ Szczesiul, Anthony. "Re-mapping Southern Hospitality: Discourse, Ethics, Politics." European Journal of American Culture 26.2 (2007). pg.133.
  10. ^ Cloke, Paul; Little, Jo (eds.). Contested Countryside Cultures: Rurality and Socio-cultural Marginalisation. Routelidge. ISBN 978-0415140751. 
  11. ^ a b Szczesiul, Anthony. "Re-mapping Southern Hospitality: Discourse, Ethics, Politics." European Journal of American Culture 26.2 (2007). pg.132.
  12. ^ Deusner, Stephen (May 12, 2014). "Natalie Merchant: "When I talk to friends who have creative lives and children, we commiserate about all the time we wasted in our youth"". Salon. 

Notes[edit]

  • Doll, Susan; Morrow, David (2007). Florida on Film: The Essential Guide to Sunshine State Cinema & Locations. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida. ISBN 978-0-8130-3045-6. 
  • Graham, Alison (2001). Framing the South: Hollywood, Television, and Race during the Civil Rights Struggle. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. ISBN 0-8018-7445-9. 
  • Romer, Jean-Claude (2000). "A Bloody New Wave in the United States (July 1964)". Horror Film Reader. New York: Limelight Editions. ISBN 0-87910-297-7. 
  • Szczesiul, Anthony. "Re-mapping Southern Hospitality: Discourse, Ethics, Politics". European Journal of American Culture 26.2 (2007). pg.132. 

External links[edit]