MINK STOLE has bloodlust after seeing Divine stab Mary Vivian Pearce to death. Stole plays a religious whore—a woman who puts churchgoers through the Stations of the Cross, you know, erotically—and she’s decked out in Gloria Swanson glamour. “Isn’t there anybody else we could do it on?” she asks, her caterpillar-thick eyelashes fluttering as she eyes Divine’s knife. “There are hundreds of people I have in my fantasies... Ann-Margret, Tricia Nixon, Shirley Temple, THE POPE!”
This is John Waters’ Multiple Maniacs, a movie filmed two years before Divine (AKA Harris Glenn Milstead) ate dogshit onscreen for the director’s 1972 trash classic Pink Flamingos. But Multiple Maniacs—this disgusting, wonderful piece of the director’s juvenilia—has never seen a theatrical release, which it’s finally getting with a new restoration. This film is a thing of wonder and revulsion, much like the late, great Divine.
It isn’t long into Multiple Maniacs before Divine starts making googly eyes in the mirror, calling herself the most beautiful woman in the world. She’s right, you know—she is the most beautiful woman in the world, at least in a world of Waters’ making. In many ways, Multiple Maniacs is more shocking, more relevant, and more risqué than anything in Pink Flamingos (well, except for that singing butthole, maybe). It’s near equal when it comes to filth, crime, passion, and bad taste. Sure, it doesn’t have the one-line stunner of Divine eating poop, but there is a giant boiled lobster that rapes her. On set, its name was Lobstora.
Like a morally bankrupt William Castle, Waters thrills with scenes of his cast, dressed up as hippies, shaking down and murdering townsfolk for drugs and money. Divine and her band of criminals—known as the Cavalcade of Perversions—travel from town to town performing their circus of tricks (a man eating vomit, a woman licking a bicycle seat, homosexuals kissing). It’s a crude start to a film that hits its stride with a spotlight on Divine, who jiggles down the streets of Baltimore, her falsies wiggle-waggling this and that way. She’s off her rocker, a psychopath who eats her victims’ organs while writhing and moaning in ecstasy.
In many ways, Multiple Maniacs is a glorious, political fuck-you to the ’60s. “As the rest of my generation babbled about peace and love, I stood back, puzzled, and fantasized about the beginning of the ‘hate generation,’” Waters wrote of the film’s inspiration in his hysterical 1981 memoir Shock Value. “Woodstock was the last straw. Sitting in the mud with a bunch of naked hippies and their illegitimate children and listening to Joan Baez was hardly my idea of a good time. Violence was this generation’s sacrilege, so I wanted to make a film that would glorify carnage and mayhem for laughs.”
Waters has always maintained that criminals ooze sexuality, from that certain glint in Charles Manson’s eye, to Squeaky Fromme’s shampoo commercial hair, to the rakish beret on Patty Hearst. In Multiple Maniacs, Divine fully embodies that villainous magnetism. At the height of her rampage, the National Guard brings her down to the strains of “Mars, the Bringer of War,” and it’s like seeing a cornered beast. It’s not unlike watching King Kong fall from his mighty tower, but in this case, Divine has the grace of Fay Wray, wearing a fur coat, metric tons of make-up, kitten heels, and bloodied lingerie. (Fun fact: This was the outfit Divine was sporting when she first met John Waters’ parents.) In other words, it’s definitely something you should see on the big screen.