The Film (3.5/5)
OK, so I hate to gush over a label like this, but I have to start this review with a big thank you to the Criterion Collection for getting Multiple Maniacs out of John Water's attic and on to a legitimate physical media release. This film has been only available on bootlegs for far too long, and finally having it, not only with a legitimate release, but also on the most gold standard of labels makes it all the better. Also, Waters’ films have not been treated well on the Blu-ray format at all with only Hairspray and Cry-Baby already on the format. So this at least adds one more to the Waters filmography in high definition.
Multiple Maniacs is a very early Waters film, which means it is also very raw. Most of his earliest fan favorites like Pink Flamingos and Desperate Livings also have a certain rawness to them, but Multiple Maniacs feels more like a low budget experimental film than an entirely fully fledged feature. That being said the film features the early Dreamland crew with Waters at the helm doing what they do best, creating the finest trash in cult cinema history.
The film's plot is quite simple. Divine leads a group of misfits who run their own circus sideshow. This show is not traditional by any means, and features gay man making out, bicycle seat lickers, and so on. Once people arrive and view the attractions they are murdered. Things are not entirely calm within this group of murderous misfits, and they begin to betray one another. The film ends with the greatest act committed by giant lobster ever committed to film.
The film like most of the Waters early efforts is a reason to commit shocking acts to films, and that he does. I do doubt a modern audience will have any extreme reaction to the acts he has committed, yet the film still has a raw campy charm to it that is the main common ground that unites Waters early efforts.
Criterion presents Multiple Maniacs in a splendid 1:66:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The transfer here looks nothing short of amazing considering the quality of the bootlegs, and the condition the film was in before Criterion got a hold of it. Contrast here is stable, detail is excellent and every thing is solid that isn't inherently a production related issue.
Audio is presented with a DTS-HD MA 1.0 track in English. The track sounds decent, dialogue comes through well enough, as does the score.
Not a huge amount of extras, but what we have here is spectacular. We get an enlightening commentary by director John Waters who goes into facets of the production memories of the cast and crew. It's just fantastic. We also get interviews with the surviving Dreamlanders, a video essay, and printed liner notes.
Multiple Maniacs is not John Waters best film, but a delightfully trashy early entry in his oeuvre. Criterion does a wonderful job cleaning this one, and releasing it to Blu-ray with some great extras. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.