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Herschell Gordon Lewis
Connie Mason, William Kerwin, Jeffrey Allen
Writing Credits:
Herschell Gordon Lewis

Six people are lured into a small Deep South town for a Centennial celebration where the residents proceed to kill them one by one as revenge for the town's destruction during the Civil War.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 87 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 5/15/2018

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director HG Lewis
• “Two Thousand Maniacs Can’t Be Wrong” Featurette
• “Hicksploitation: Confidential” Visual Essay
• “The Gentlemen’s Smut Peddler” Featurette
• “Herschell’s Art of Advertising” Featurette
• Outtakes
• Promo Gallery
Moonshine Mountain Bonus Film


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Two Thousand Maniacs! [Blu-Ray] (1965)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 25, 2018)

Children of the 1980s like me know of 1964’s Two Thousand Maniacs! for one reason alone: the film’s title inspired the name of soft rockers 10,000 Maniacs. As much as I disliked that band, I figured I’d give the movie a look.

The small town of Pleasant Valley Georgia celebrates the centennial anniversary of a Civil War event. As part of this, the locals lure six tourists from the north to be their guests.

The Pleasant Valley residents do this with ulterior motives – violent motives at that. The Yankees struggle to survive their visit to the south.

Though I knew of writer/director Berschell Gordon Lewis’s reputation, I believe Maniacs represents the first film of his I’ve actually seen. John Waters’ Serial Mom references Lewis’s Blood Feast, but that’s as close as I’ve come to anything by the “King of Gore”.

Now that I’ve seen Maniacs, I can’t claim I feel an urge to explore Lewis’s back catalog. Relentlessly amateurish, the film offers little entertainment.

I guess if you like camp and the “so bad it’s good” school of thought, you might enjoy Maniacs, and I do think it comes with a pretty interesting premise. The notion that a Southern city desires revenge for the Civil War activities brings intrigue, so the movie comes with room to go somewhere.

Unfortunately, Maniacs suffers from terrible execution, as there’s little about which I can praise. Most of the acting varies from “bad” to “worse”, with only a couple of exceptions.

Most prominently, erstwhile leading man William Kerwin – under the stage name “Tom Wood” - does surprisingly well as hitchhiking schoolteacher Tom White. He offers the exception to the rule, unfortunately, as the rest seem either flat/wooden or broad/loud, with no nuance in between those poles.

Maybe the bad acting wouldn’t matter if Maniacs managed to do much with plot and characters. In truth, these elements exist as nothing more than cheap setup for the violence to come, so the narrative never draws us in or makes us care about the participants.

Everything else about Maniacs feels amateurish as well. For instance, photography lacks logic, as shots often don’t make sense. We’ll occasionally get close-ups that cut off parts of faces – and not for dramatic effect.

Exploitative drive-in fare, movies like Maniacs wanted to bring us cheap gore and not much more. Given the film’s era, the violence seems surprisingly graphic and probably shocked audiences in 1965.

I can’t imagine modern horror fans will get a charge out of the killings, though, as films since 1965 have easily “topped” this one’s gore. While audacious for its era, Maniacs seems staid now.

All of this leaves us with a slow, boring relic of its era. I guess some viewers find entertainment in Maniacs, but beyond historical value as a “stepping stone” for the more graphic horror of later years, it seems like a dud.

The Disc Grades: Picture D+/ Audio D+/ Bonus A-

Two Thousand Maniacs! appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A text intro lets us know that the transfer had to be cobbled together from a variety of sources, and that hodge-podge nature made this a problematic presentation.

Aspect ratio turned into one of these concerns. While most of the movie remained 1.85:1, occasionally the image would jump to 1.66:1.

Sharpness was mediocre. While the movie displayed acceptable delineation, it never looked particularly precise, and plenty of soft spots materialized.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I witnessed no edge haloes, but print flaws became a major concern. Throughout the movie, these presented specks, scratches, lines and other marks. Some scenes worked better than others, but the defects created a lot of distractions along the way.

Colors were bland. Though a few shots offered moderately vivid tones, the hues seemed somewhat heavy and dense much of the time, which left them as unsatisfying. As with the aspect ratio, occasional anomalies appeared here as well, and those brought us color variations.

Blacks came across as a bit inky, and low-light shots tended to be moderately thick. They weren’t overly dark, but they suffered from some muddy qualities. The image suffered from too many problems to rate above a “D+”.

Don’t expect a whole lot from the film’s LPCM monaural soundtrack, as it offered a flawed presentation. Speech remained intelligible but showed a mix of concerns, as lines tended to be edgy and reedy.

An odd anomaly occurred during the “barrel roll” scene, as speech became strangely “slowed down”. An awful lot of bad recording made the dialogue distant and murky as well.

Effects tended to be rough and harsh, whereas music was shrill and without much range. A fair amount of background noise also interfered. Even given the movie’s age and low-budget origins, this became a weak soundtrack.

When we hit the disc’s extras, a major bonus comes from the inclusion of Moonshine Mountain, another 1964 film from director Herschell Gordon Lewis. It runs one hour, 24 minutes, 46 seconds and tells a tale of Doug Martin, a popular singer who visits hillbilly country to research folk music and gets involved with the locals.

Essentially, this acts as an excuse for a bunch of country music sequences. Though we do get some plot and character elements, these feel tacked on, as the movie prefers to indulge in all sorts of singin’ and hollerin’.

None of this feels very interesting. Mountain seems slightly better made than Maniacs, but not by much, so don’t expect an entertaining, professional effort.

The quality of the transfer leaves a lot to be desired as well. Mountain shows a slew of print flaws, and colors always remain dull and drab. This might be the best the disc's producers could do, but the end result remains ugly.

Mountain can be viewed with or without a two-minute, six-second introduction from Lewis. He provides a few good notes about the movie.

The remaining extras look at Maniacs, and these open with an audio commentary from writer/director HG Lewis and producer David F. Friedman. Along with moderators Mike Vraney and Jimmy Maslin, they discuss sets and locations, cast and performances, effects, music, and a lot of subjects related to genre, era and low-budget filmmaking.

Though this becomes a screen-specific chat, it covers on-screen action fairly infrequently - which is fine with me, as Gordon and Friedman provide a lot of good notes even without a tight movie-oriented take. We learn nice insights connected to the film overall as well as connected domains. This turns into a fun, informative piece.

Like Moonshine, Maniacs comes with an optional introduction from Lewis. In this one-minute, 59-second reel, the filmmaker gives us a few additional thoughts that add to the experience.

A program called Two Thousand Maniacs Can’t Be Wrong goes for nine minutes, 54 seconds and offers notes from filmmaker Tim Sullivan. He discusses his introduction to Maniacs as well as an appreciation for the film. Some of this offers useful material but overall, this feels like a lackluster piece, as it feels more like praise from a fan.

Next we get a visual essay entitled Hicksploitation: Confidential. It lasts seven minutes, 14 seconds and provides a look at the depiction of the US South in genre cinema. It becomes a short but decent overview.

With The Gentlemen’s Smut Peddler, we find a nine-minute, 22-second piece with Lewis, Sullivan, filmmaker Fred Olen Ray, and editor Bob Murawski. This acts as a tribute to David F. Friedman, who died in 2011. It’s a nice look at the producer, though it seems a little odd this package didn’t add a tip of the hat to Lewis since he passed in 2016.

The three-minute, 33-second Herschell’s Art of Advertising gives us more notes from Lewis. He tells us his theories of how to sell movies. Lewis brings us a short but interesting collection of thoughts.

A collection of Outtakes takes up 16 minutes, 28 seconds. These offer a slew of essentially random snippets, none of which come with original audio.

Instead, we get music and some dialogue from the finished Lewis film. The absence of source audio makes this a largely forgettable compilation, though a few behind the scenes shots related to effects offer minor intrigue.

Finally, we locate a Promo Gallery. It offers trailers for Maniacs and Mountain.

Many horror movies from decades past hold up well, but 1965’s Two Thousand Maniacs! never becomes anything more than a remnant of its era. Cheap, tacky, amateurish and dull, the film lacks much merit. The Blu-ray provides problematic picture and audio but it packs a strong roster of supplements. Leave this one to dedicated Herschell Gordon Lewis fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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