Hairspray and Pink Flamingos have been getting plenty of buzz lately, but another John Waters film may soon share the spotlight. Multiple Maniacs, a 1970 film starring Divine and not currently in commercial distribution, is headed to the market.

Waters broke the news during a radio interview last week on WYPR with Maryland Morning host Tom Hall. The interview was about Waters at 70 maintaining his reputation as an “enfant terrible” and the Hairspray in Concert shows last weekend with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

As the interview was ending, Hall said to Waters, “we’ll have you back again when your next project comes out. It’s a book from what I understand…” That’s when Waters brought up the film: “No, I think the next project is Multiple Maniacs is coming out again, restored completely,” he said. This is big news for many Waters and Divine fans, who have been waiting for some of the earlier Waters films to be released commercially in a Blu-ray format.
The distribution rights to Multiple Maniacs are held by Criterion, which has a series called the Criterion Collection. Criterion has created an Ebay page that invites people to pre-order a Blu-ray version of the 1970 version of Multiple Maniacs, but the page doesn’t give a release date. “To be notified when Multiple Maniacs becomes available on Blu-ray,” it says “simply submit your email below.”

Shot in grainy black and white, Multiple Maniacs was Waters’ second feature film, after 1969’s Mondo Trasho. It’s perhaps best known as the movie with the scene in which a giant lobster rapes Divine. The cast includes several other actors who were part of Waters’ Dreamland gang, including Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole, Edith Massey, Cookie Mueller, George Figgs and David Lochary. Waters reportedly filmed it for $5,000.

In the movie, Lady Divine is the owner and operator of a traveling sideshow called “The Cavalcade of Perversions,” which  is actually a front for a group of kidnappers. Divine is the most depraved performer of all, but her life changes after she gets raped by a 15-foot lobster named Lobstora. Foaming at the mouth, she attacks innocent people on the street until the National Guard shoots her down, accompanied by the sound of Kate Smith signing “God Bless America.” There arememorable Baltimore settings, memorable characters (the Puke Eater) and memorable lines (“You’re a maniac now, Divine.”)

Fans say they would like to see Multiple Maniacs and Mondo Trasho released together, possibly with some of Waters earlier “celluloid atrocities,” such as The Diane Linkletter Story and Hag in a Black Leather Jacket.

But Mondo Trasho includes a long list of songs from the Sixties, and there has been speculation that it would cost a fortune for a distributor to get the rights to release it with all of them today.

Waters was once quoted as saying he didn’t think Multiple Maniacs would ever be released either, but he has changed course and dropped hints in recent years. During a question and answer session following one of his Christmas shows several years ago, Waters indicated it was a possibility. He has also been seen at Criterion, prompting speculation that the visit may be connected to the release of one or more of his pre-Pink Flamingos films.

Waters’ statement to Hall is the strongest sign yet that a release of Multiple Maniacs is in the works. Waters didn’t give a date, but he added one tidbit that indicates a restored copy exists. In its restored state, he said, “It looks like a bad John Cassavetes movie.’’

Recent commenters on Facebook say Multiple Maniacs can’t be released soon enough for them.  Some said they have bootleg copies on VHS and would pay for better quality versions. “I have it on VHS,” said a Waters fan who goes by Paisley Parque. “If this is true, that would be fabulous.”

“My VHS is well worn,”  Jack Demus wrote on the Divine Facebook page. “Hope Mondo Trasho gets a treatment too.”

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.