• Gabe Powers

Two Thousand Maniacs! Blu-ray Review (originally published 2018)

The victims of a Union Army attack magically reappear on the 100th anniversary of their slaughter to wreak bloody vengeance on six Yankee tourists. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)



The Godfather of Gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis, peaked pretty early in his professional career. His first gore movie, Blood Feast (1963), was his most influential work and his second gore movie, Two Thousand Maniacs, was his masterpiece. Obviously, masterpiece is a relative term when describing Lewis’ work, but even detractors and serious cineastes can agree that he hit upon something special with this oddball fusion of Brigadoon, Confederate resentment, and grand guignol silliness. During his intro on this very Blu-ray, Lewis expresses a feeling of guilt that Blood Feast was such a hit, because he had put so little effort into making it. He wondered what might happen if he tried to make a good movie and this is about the closest any of us will every get to that milestone. Two Thousand Maniacs’ gore gags are creatively constructed to be macabre carnival games, skirting the line between hilarity and horror in a way the director would never quite capture again (Wizard of Gore [1970] comes the closest, but is way too mean-spirited). While Tim Sullivan made a lackluster semi-sequel in 2005 called 2001 Maniacs, I think the current political climate could easily accommodate another sequel/remake – one that acknowledges the harsh truth of modern social parallels and ends with the hillbilly antagonists getting their comeuppance. Just a thought.



Video

For a long time, Something Weird Video was H.G. Lewis’ home on North American home video. It appears that most of their releases are still in print (and the ones that aren’t are available for download from SWV’s site). Over the years, SWV only issued five Lewis flicks on Blu-ray (with help from Image Entertainment). These include a triple-feature Blood Trilogy release of Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs, and Color Me Blood Red (1965), and a double-feature containing Wizard of Gore and Gore Gore Girls (1972). Arrow Video originally collected fourteen of the maestro’s films in their Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast collection and is slowly reissuing the big ones as standalone double-features (edit: I think they’re done as of 2020). According to their notes, Arrow scanned most of the source materials in 2K and the completed film grading and digital restoration in house – except for Two Thousand Maniacs, which, according to the title card, was sourced from SWV’s original restoration. This reissue features that same transfer in 1.78:1 (note that the Feast collection includes an alternate 1.33:1 framing), 1080p transfer and the quality is just about as high as we can expect from the material, minus the handful of standard definition inserts SWV used to fill in holes in their source. Details are superior to their older DVD counterparts, including tighter element separation (the use of soft focus and zoom techniques mean that patterns are usually somewhat fuzzy), but the extremely vivid colors are the more worthwhile upgrade, given the almost Technicolor-esque hues Lewis used to set his film apart from its grimy grindhouse counterparts. Grain levels vary from scene to scene, but tend to appear natural, rather than noisy/snowy. Small white flecks and scratches shimmy over most frames, but the effect is minor and there’s very little compression noise (aside from the SD frames/shots).


Audio

The original mono soundtrack was apparently transferred from various prints and existing DVDs by SWV and is presented in uncompressed 1.0 LPCM. As it is in all of Lewis’ earliest movies, the sound design is particularly patchy, because so much of the footage was shot without production sound. On top of this inherent aural inconsistency is the fact that the multiple audio sources can shift the sound quality suddenly from shot to shot. The most severe shift occurs during the barrel-roll stunt, where the tone of the vocals drop about two octaves; however, this was an error on Lewis’ part, not damaged film or bad SD sources. Distortion effects are largely corrected, though there are still buzzes and pops sprinkled throughout every movie. I’m reasonably positive that nothing could be done to make the vocal performances less tinny, so we’re just gonna have to live with it. The music, some supplied by Lewis himself and some by Larry Wellington, tends to have decent depth and bass accompaniment (I suppose there were clean soundtrack albums lying around somewhere?).



Extras

  • Newly recorded director intros (1:59, 2:09, HD)

  • Two Thousand Maniacs commentary with director H.G. Lewis and producer David F. Friedman, moderated by Something Weird Video’s Mike Vraney (from the SWV DVD) Bonus movie: Moonshine Mountain (1964, 1:25:00, HD) –

  • Moonshine Mountain (aka: White Trash on Moonshine Mountain) is a hillbilly companion piece to Two Thousand Maniacs that sat at the forefront of yet another exploitation boom – hicksploitation. Hicksploitation or rednecksploitation if you prefer (perhaps hixploitation?), really broke-out about a decade after Lewis’ film with the likes of Harry E. Kerwin’s God’s Bloody Acre (1975), Bethel Buckalew’s The Pigkeeper’s Daughter (1972), and, of course, Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). In other words, Moonshine Mountain is basically ground zero for Rob Zombie’s entire career. Lewis has compared the film to Arthur Ripley’s bootleggers vs. mobsters classic, Thunder Road (1958), which is a good indicator of his dramatic ambition. This is a valuable curiosity for Lewis completists and almost works as a folk musical (it’s basically a feature-length episode of Hee Haw with a little more plot and no celebrity guests), but the yokel jokes wear thin during the first 15 minutes. The next hour is utterly mind-numbing.

  • Two Thousand Maniacs Can’t Be Wrong (9:54, HD) – Tim Sullivan, who directed the remake/semi-sequel 2001 Maniacs (2005), shares his memories of the original movie.

  • Hicksploitation: Confidential (7:14, HD) – A visual essay that explores the depiction of Southern culture in exploitation movies.

  • David Friedman: The Gentlemen’s Smut Peddler (9:22, HD) – A tribute to the late producer featuring Lewis, Sullivan, fellow schlock filmmaker Fred Olen Ray, and editor/Grindhouse Releasing CEO Bob Murawski.

  • Herschell’s Art of Advertising (3:33, HD) – The director’s how-to guide for selling exploitation movies.

  • Two Thousand Maniacs outtake reel (16:28, SD)

  • Two Thousand Maniacs and Moonshine Mountain trailers


The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.


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