‘An entire town bathed in pulsing human blood! Madmen crazed for carnage!’
Two Thousand Maniacs! is a 1964 American horror feature film written and directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis and starring Playboy magazine model Connie Mason.
The story of the film is inspired by the 1947 Lerner and Loewe musical Brigadoon. It is the second part of what the director’s fans have dubbed “The Blood Trilogy”, a trio of films starting with 1963’s Blood Feast and ending with 1964’s Color Me Blood Red.
The movie was remade in 2005 as 2001 Maniacs, starring Robert Englund.
Six Yankee tourists are lured into the fictional small Southern town Pleasant Valley by the redneck citizens to be the guests of honour for the centennial celebration of the day Union troops destroyed the town. The tourists are separated and forced to participate in various sick games which lead to their gory deaths. The methods employed by the festive townspeople include:
Dismembering a woman with an axe, and thereafter roasting her in a barbecue pit;
Staging a “horse race” in which a man is ripped limb from limb;
Rolling a man downhill in a barrel embedded with nails;
Crushing a woman with a boulder held aloft in a contraption resembling a carnival-style dunk tank.
After discovering the nefarious plans of the townspeople, the two remaining tourists manage to escape but when they return with the sheriff, the townsfolk have one final surprise…
Two Thousand Maniacs! was filmed in only two weeks, early in 1964, in the town of St. Cloud, Florida. According to a contemporary report, the entire town participated in the film. Somewhat ironically, the land the town is on is now owned by Disney World.
The film follows the pattern of many exploitation/horror films which were popular in American drive-ins, that of well-to-do city folk finding themselves embroiled in the affairs of backwoods/redneck yokels and their ‘crazy ways’. This can be seen in many films including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and S.F.Brownrigg’s Scum of the Earth.
Buy A Taste of Blood: The Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis book from Amazon.co.uk
Director H.G. Lewis considers the film to be amongst his best. Although now somewhat cartoony with its obviously fake dismembered limbs and lurid poster paint blood, the violence was extremely strong for the day and was very influential in prompting horror directors afterwards to use increasingly more vicious and gory methods to off their on-screen victims. Lewis’ skill is in balancing the violence with effective humour and a storyline which is quick in getting off the ground and sustains the viewer’s interest until the very final frame. The film is now available uncut in the UK but still commands an ’18’ rating.
Two Thousand Maniacs! is elevated to even greater heights by the terrific soundtrack, several of the songs written by Lewis and performed by The Pleasant Valley Boys, who repeatedly appear throughout the film in a rather Greek Chorus kind of fashion. Of particular interest is the main theme ‘Rebel Yell (The South’s Gonna Rise Again)’ which is a real ear worm; Lewis had been known to perform the song on-stage himself at conventions over the years. Viewers will also be entertained by some of the barely credible ‘hot diggity’ Southern dialogue. Singer Natalie Merchant was clearly sufficiently impressed by the film to name her alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs.
Daz Lawrence, MOVIES and MANIA
The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast: 17-Disc Limited Edition Box Set – Arrow Video Blu-ray + DVD (US and UK)
” .. it may not have the ‘tremendous production values’ claimed by its maker but, technically, it’s undeniably an advance on Blood Feast, with a more literate script, varied and attractive locations […] reasonable acting and a relatively mobile camera. It’s still extremely gory, however…” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia (Horror)
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