Blu-ray Review: Two Thousand Maniacs!

Many directors find themselves in a bit of a quandary after they finally get a hit under their belt. They want to expand as a filmmaker, but they also want to remain commercially viable so they can make more films. They want to be able to get the people that saw their first film back in the seats and bring a friend. In the early ’60s, Herschell Gordon Lewis created a sensation with Blood Feast. The gory film captured gruesome action in color during a time when outside of Hammer, horror was a black and white affair. Lewis needed something horrifying that wouldn’t just be another tale of a psychotic man looking for a human sacrifice. And the found the perfect project when he turned an entire town into the killers looking for fresh victims with Two Thousand Maniacs!.

During the early ’60s, the South was constantly in the news as the Civil Right struggles came to a head. To make matters more emotion was the Centennial of the Civil War. This gave folks in Southern states a reason to cover the streets and NASCAR races with Confederate flags and constantly talk about the South is going to rise again. In the midst of this climate, Herschell found the perfect follow up film. What would happen if you combined this pent up anger between the South and the North with the tale of Brigadoon?

There’s a detour on the road that brings travelers into the town of Pleasant Valley. But those couples forced to take the long way around are in for a treat since it is the Centennial celebration of when the Union troops arrived and put an end to the original town. The locals are ready to celebrate and forgive with their guest from the North. Or are they? Turns out very quickly that the various group activities are intended to get revenge. Is anyone going to survive the Southern hospitality?

Two Thousand Maniacs! is my favorite film by Herschell Gordon Lewis. This is the film that is best to show to anyone curious about the Godfather of Gore’s cinematic career. Production and craftsmanship wise, it’s a major step up from Blood Feast. There’s even a trio of folk singers that set the stage for so much of the action and attitude as they lurk and play in the mysterious town. The film looks like a demented Disney film or that episode of The Andy Griffith Show that you swore should have been made. While Herschell plays up the conflict between North and South, he doesn’t even do a sly of civil rights. The unsuspecting tourists are all white middle class folks with convertibles. Herschell was looking to make an exploitation film and not a socially conscious horror film. Oddly enough the film could play both sides as “heroes.” The Southerners are looking for a touch of revenge for what the North did to their town. And Northerners watching had a great excuse for why they were better off flying to Florida than driving through Georgia. The tortures Herschell inflicts on the tourists are colorful and graphic. He truly upped his game on all levels with Two Thousand Maniacs!

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The color pops on the screen especially when the blood drips from the lucky guests to the town. The audio is Uncompressed PCM Mono Audio. The mix is clean so you can hear silence when the band isn’t playing. The movies are subtitled.

Moonshine Mountain (1964 – 85 minutes) is about a Nashville star visiting the country to pick up playing tips. He ends up getting involved with folks that make white lightning. The film is edited together from various prints. Things sounds fine even as the transfers vary wildly. This is gore-lite.

Introductions to the films by H.G. Lewis allows him to discuss elements of both movies. Lewis passed away in the Fall of 2016 so there’s were on previous releases.

Archive audio commentary on Two Thousand Maniacs! by H.G. Lewis lets him share the tales of getting a small town in Florida to get excited about torturing Yankee visitors.

Two Thousand Maniacs Can’t be Wrong (9:54) recounts how filmmaker Tim Sullivan got into the movie. He talks of the nasty theater in New York City that ran the film. Later Sullivan would make 2001 Maniacs.

Hickspoitation: Confidential (7:14) is visual essay about the South in exploitation films. There’s talk of the traits of films that get into the folks below the Mason-Dixon line.

David Friedman: The Gentlemen’s Smut Peddler (9:22) is a tribute to legendary producer David F. Friedman featuring interviews with H.G. Lewis, filmmakers Fred Olen Ray and Tim Sullivan and editor Bob Murawski. Lewis and Friedman were a good match because Lewis made the films and Friedman knew how to promote and sell the films. David Friedman was a beloved guy.

Herschell’s Art of Advertising (3:33) lets H.G. Lewis speak of the art of selling movies. How do you get people wanting to see your film and create a state of mind.

Two Thousand Maniacs! Outtakes (16:28) is shots not used in the movie. The sound is from the film.

Trailers include Two Thousand Maniacs (2:14) and Moonshine Mountain (1:29). Two opens with a warming for children to leave the theater before the trailer and the promise of Playmate Connie Mason. Moonshine is a about the massive still.

Arrow Video presents Two Thousand Maniacs. Directed by: Herschell Gordon Lewis. Screenplay by: Herschell Gordon Lewis. Starring: William Kerwin, Connie Mason & Jeffrey Allen. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 87 minutes. Released: May 15, 2018.

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