TWO THOUSAND MANIACS!(director/writer/cinematographer/music: Hershell Gordon Lewis; editor: Robert Sinise; cast: Thomas Wood (Tom White), Connie Mason (Terry Adams), Jeffrey Allen (Mayor Buckman), Ben Moore (Lester), Shelby Livingston (Bea Miller), Mark Douglas (Harper Alexander), Vincent Santo (Billy), Gary Bakeman (Rufe), Jerome Eden (John Miller), Yvonne Gilbert (Beverly Wells), Linda Cochran (Betsy Dunn), Michael Korb (David Wells), Andy Wilson (Sheriff); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: David F. Friedman; Something Weird Video; 1964)
“It’s films like this that give B-films and Southern hillbillies a bad name.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The king of schlock, Herschel Gordon Lewis (“Blood Fest”), is at it again in this cheesy horror/comedy film. The production values were nothing to write home about, the acting amateurish, and the story was torturous. It’s about six (three couples) vacationing Yanks who are cheerfully lured into being the reluctant guests for the town’s 1965 Centennial celebration of the day a band of renegade Union troops destroyed the Southern town of Pleasant Valley (the low-budget film was shot in St. Cloud, Florida for about $65,000). This revenge theme is taken from the Broadway play Brigadoon, as producer David F. Friedman stole the idea about ghosts seeking revenge and substituted Pleasant Valley for the Scottish village that comes out of the mist every hundred years.
It’s films like this that give B-films and Southern hillbillies a bad name. The town appears creepy from the moment it puts out detour signs to lure the travelling Yank tourists. The respectable locals (all ghosts), such as the mayor, are so gleefully taking part in this ritualized slaughter, that they seem almost as frightening to behold coaxing the tourists to their death as they are when they commit the mutilations. Two Thousand Maniacs! is rife with graphic gore. To start the ball rolling, one woman is hacked apart with an axe, her husband has his arms and legs tied to four horses that are sent galloping in different directions, another man is rolled down a hill in a barrel from whose sides sharp nails project, and his wife is tied to a platform and has a boulder dropped on her. Connie Mason and Thomas Wood are the only guests who escape.
To add to the folksy country atmosphere (ugh!) some solid bluegrass music is played throughout and there’s a melodious theme song called “The Rebel Yell” (composed and sung by the director himself).
The film was carefully scripted and allocated a bigger budget than most Herschel Gordon Lewis films. It did well in the box-office, but not as well as the shoddier and more low-budget Blood Fest (filmed for about $24,000). Lewis must have thought, why bother trying to fancy things up as he went back to making his trademark bad film that wows them in the drive-in. This is a must-see for cult fans of this so-far undiscovered B-film auteur director, others should proceed with caution as the film might prove entertaining but in a deleterious campy and kitschy way.
REVIEWED ON 6/16/2004 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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