1970s Crime Horror Hidden Gem From Cult-Favorite Director, Stream Right Now

By Nikola Pajtic | Published

multiple maniacs 1

John Waters is known for several transgressive cult classics, like Female Trouble from 1974 and Polyester from 1981. However, before these cult classics came into existence, the Pope of Trash wrote and directed the criminally underrated dark comedy horror, Multiple Maniacs

Multiple Maniacs From John Waters

Multiple Maniacs is John Waters’ second full-length feature. It follows his Mondo Trasho debut, which already had a bizarre premise. Nevertheless, this one takes things up a notch.

Waters wanted to create an underground film drawing inspiration from the works of Andy Warhol and other avant-garde artists of the era. Made in the shadow of the Manson Family murders, Multiple Maniacs reflects the violence of the era and fears within the society. 

Multiple Maniacs follows Lady Divine, owner of The Cavalcade of Perversion, a traveling freak show featuring some acts that will shock you. Together with her partner is luring people to witness circus shows. This is a pretty naive premise, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you, except that the freak show routine escalates to rather violent acts. 

Lady Divine And Others

In addition to Lady Divine, Multiple Maniacs has a very colorful cast. David Lochary plays Lady Divine’s partner, Mr. David, then we have Mary Vivian Pearce who plays Bonnie, caught in the love triangle, Cookie Mueller as Lady Divine’s daughter, Cookie, and Edith Massey in a double role. 

Other cast members include George Figgs as Jesus Christ, and Michael Renner Jr. as The Infant of Prague, who all help bring to life one of John Waters’ dark, satirical horror gems that will leave you both disturbed and entertained. 

Bizarre Influences

Nevertheless, the film is not all about the gross-out scenes and outrageous humor. There is so much more in this John Waters gem that makes it worthwhile. At least that is what I believe in.

There is a scene at the end of the movie inspired by a bizarre combination of Salvador Dali, LSD, and a postcard. Moreover, throughout Multiple Maniacs, John Waters takes the hat off to B-movie trash films of Hollywood of the era. So, if you are a fan, like me, you will adore this creation.

Raw Aesthetics

Multiple Maniacs

The film is full of raw aesthetics. The budget was non-existent to say, and many of the props are sourced from everyday life, including a real cow’s heart. 

Waters has used the film to explore the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. Lady Divine has a massive monologue in the church about feeling different and questioning faith. Moreover, she goes into an even more bizarre moment reciting the Stations of the Cross.

Low Budget And Outrageous Premise

Multiple Maniacs

On the other hand, the Motley Crew of freaks now come in dressed as religious characters including Jesus Christ, mocking the Catholic Church with their personality traits. 

With a low budget and a premise that can outrage many, Multiple Maniacs didn’t have its Hollywood premiere. Instead, John Waters screened the film on April 10, 1970, at the First Unitarian Church in Baltimore. 

He then toured with the film across the USA, showing it at small arthouse theaters and other similar venues, which eventually resulted in an international premiere in Englan in early 1971. 

Multiple Maniacs was greeted with mixed reviews, but it holds a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, enjoying the cult classic status among the fans of transgressive cinema. 

Streaming Multiple Maniacs

Multiple Maniacs


The film has a special place in film history as a true cult classic and a true indie horror-comedy gem. Multiple Maniacs isn’t shy of pushing boundaries, and while some will be offended by outrageous humor, or disgusted by some scenes, it certainly isn’t made for everyone.

But if you are a fan of bad-taste films like I am, you will see it as a source of entertainment. 

What is more important about Multiple Maniacs, it was the groundwork for Waters’ later cult classics like Pink Flamingos. Waters made it with his friends, who will appear throughout his later films, it is far away from the mainstream, which has become has running topic. Yes, he has faced a few controversial decisions along the way, but he has continued to walk a different path.