Two Thousand Maniacs (1964)
By: Michael Helms on May 2, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Siren Visual Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 4:3. English 2.0 Mono. 83 minutes
The Movie
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Starring: Connie Mason, Thomas Wood, Jeffrey Allen
Screenplay: Herschell Gordon Lewis,
Music: Herschell Gordon Lewis,
Tagline: An Entire Town Bathed In Pulsing Human Blood! Madmen Crazed For Carnage!,
Country: USA
Herschell Gordon Lewis has marvelled at the production values of Two Thousand Maniacs in just about every interview he's given since the early 70s. Yeah, well, there's some nice cherry-picker crowd shots and they're apparently working from a script, but where this flick really expands upon the Blood Feast model is in the attention to genuine sadism. While Two Thousand Maniacs has it's fair share of gore it's not as fetishised as in Blood Feast. Instead, the focus is on the perpetrators of what the ad copy (brilliantly written by Lewis?) succinctly tags as, Brutal...Evil...Ghastly Beyond Belief!

Two separate car loads of travellers in convertibles are diverted by primitive road signs and lured off the main highway into the Centennial celebrations of Pleasant Valley, a sleepy township of two thousand maniacs minus eighteen hundred. The mayor makes them guests of honour, talks up the big BBQ to be held later that night, and packs everyone off to hotel rooms. Dissension soon sets in amongst some of the new guests and before the day's out not only are some of the couples cut asunder by the intervention of the locals but so to are some of their limbs and body parts. At first the locals show some expertise in prank calling before they pull out their butchering equipment. The first victim is perhaps the the most traumatic as one of the male hosts decides to show one of the new girls in town his knife and then cuts off her finger durning an over zealous demonstration. In shock and screaming pitifully she runs to the mayor who's solution to the problem is to lay her on a bench and completely amputate her arm (or rather the arm of an obvious shop dummy). The mayor is soon working the phone with his own brand of crank yanking as some of his yokel bretheren spit roast the appendage to the accompaniement of the Lester Flatt's tune, "Rolling in my sweet baby's arms". Connie Mason asks what they've got on the spit in between attempts to sneak away with road pal Thomas Wood (playing a character named Tom White). Next, the drunkest guest is torn to pieces by the two horses he's tied between. Another male victim is then put in a barrel that's lined with nails and pushed down a hill. Tom and Connie finally make good with their escape while the final female victim is gleefully crushed with a giant rock. Back on the highway Tom attempts to report the activities of the murderous townsfolk to the police who've never heard of Pleasant Valley and only want to breathalyze him. Tom returns to the spot on the highway that they left and finds tire tracks but nothing else. Head hillbilly Hopper is then shown coming out of a swamp just before he disappears in a puff of smoke. Lucky Tom had souvineered a noose to at least prove to himself that it all did really happen.
Like Blood Feast we get another sharp transfer and combined with 20,000 watts of production design colour it's the perfect precursor to the blinding power of She Devil's on Wheels, a film that can really punch you in the eye. Actually, parts of Two Thousand Maniacs are as shocking to look at as some of the depicted mayhem which is customarily fake.
The Dolby stereo version is serviceable enough but the lack of budget in the sound effects department is highly noticeable. The music soundtrack is another matter and I'd wager that more care and attention went here than anywhere else on any other Lewis film. The Pleasant Valley Boys superb string pluckin' of the Lewis-penned material matches the visuals like few other films can boast much less the first hillbilly splatter flick.
Extra Features
Trailers for Two Thousand Maniacs and Blood Feast along with nearly 17 minutes of outtakes that are billed as rare. Like the ones accompanying Blood Feast these scraps of footage don't feature any extra gore but they do make for interesting comparisons with the digitally remastered feature.
The Verdict
Another first of sorts for Herschell Gordon Lewis and one of much far greater influence. Two Thousand Maniacs not only led Lewis to another subgenre (the Hillbilly moonshiners This Stuf'll KIll Ya and Moonshine Mountain) and other types of gang flicks (Just for the Hell of It and She Devil's On Wheels) but once seen it's difficult not to view any film that depicts rural inhabitants without comparing them to the hedonistic funsters that exist in Pleasant Valley. Watching The Cars That Ate Paris the other day I felt an urge to hear a banjo. Interestingly, the clapperboard displayed in the outtakes shows it was filmed under the title Centennial". I wonder if Two Thousand Maniacs would've achieved a fraction of it's notoriety with the original moniker? When trying to explain away the impact of Two Thousand Maniacs on popular culture a recent academic tome accidentally re-titled it itself to "Ten Thousand Maniacs". Highly recommended for all good old boys and girls.
Movie Score
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