• Two Thousand Maniacs / Moonshine Mountain

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: May 15th, 2016.
    Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
    Cast: Connie Mason, William Kerwin, Jeffrey Allen, Shelby Livingston, Ben Moore, Jerome Eden, Gary Bakeman
    Year: 1964/1964
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    The Movies:

    “The most diabolical device ever contrived... designed solely for carnage by a town of madmen crazed with BLOOD LUST!”

    Connie Mason and William Kerwin were cast again in this follow up to Blood Feast, this time playing a couple named Terry and Tom who, while out for a drive, wind up in the small southern town of Pleasant Valley. Amazingly enough, they've arrived just in time for the town's centennial celebration, much to the delight of the ridiculously friendly Mayor Buckman (Jeffrey Allen in the first of a few films he'd make for Lewis) who just insists that they stick around and enjoy the fun. When a few more tourists - John (Jerome Eden) and his wife Bea (Shelby Livingston) and David (Michael Korb) and his wife Beverly (future Mrs. H. G. Lewis herself, Yvonne Gilbert) - wind up in town as well, the citizens of Pleasant Valley start to show their true colors when it turns out that the different celebratory events are all based around killing off one of them!

    Yeehaw, the south is gonna rise again!

    Not as deliriously gory as the film that came before it, 2000 Maniacs still manages to serve up some healthy doses of grue but this time tongue is placed so firmly in cheek that you know you're not supposed to take any of it seriously at all. From the troubadours who wander the streets strumming their banjos and singing their songs of the south to the overly hospitable citizenry of the town itself, this is a film that wants to make you laugh as Lewis and company start to get very creative with the gore set pieces. Whereas the earlier film was content to simply show you severed limbs and entrails, this one brings the mayhem to the forefront and makes a spectacle out of each and every death scene in the movie. It's in keeping with the story's nature and with the ridiculously over the top performances and again helps us to overlook the low budget trappings that are evident in some of the acting.

    The film would be remade as 2001 Maniacs in 2005 with Robert Englund playing the mayor, and there'd be a sequel to that remake in 2010 called 2001 Maniacs: Field Of Screams but neither one matches the original even if they're moderately entertaining in their own right.

    If that weren’t enough, this disc includes second feature. Speaking of which…

    Moonshine Mountain:

    “Git set fer the wildest rip-roarin’est screenload of cornball actions and excitement you ever eye-balled!”

    This next film, the first feature that Lewis made after splitting from his partnership with Friedman, tells the story of a country music star named Doug Martin (Charles Glore). He leaves his swanky abode in New York and head south to get in touch with the roots of his raising back in North Carolina. Showing up sometime after his arrival is his main girl, Della (played by the super foxy Marilyn Walters). They figure getting back to the basics in life will help Doug come up with some new material for his next album.

    Shortly after his arrival his coat is ‘traded’ with a local yocal. It’s got all his money in it and so he tries to get it back. This ends up introducing him to Jeb Carpenter (Jeffrey Allen) and his family members Laura (Bonnie Hinson), Mary Lou (Gretchen Eisner) and a few others. They’ve got a moonshine operation going strong, all under the watchful eye of Sheriff Asa Potter (Gordon Oas-Heim) and another man named Ed Basham (Mark Douglas). Before long, Doug can’t help but to give in to the feelings that hit him fast and hard any time pretty Laura pops by – but that Sheriff, he’s about to make things difficult for everybody.

    This one is a whole lot of hicksploitation clichés thrown at you for almost ninety straight minutes! Throw Jeffrey Allen into a good role and you’re already half way there and he’s great as the moonshiner in chief, ending every sentence with a hearty belly laugh. Pat Patterson of Doctor Gore fame pops up here too (he also worked as the assistant director on the film), as does Gordon Oas-Heim (better known as Adam Sorg, who would be used again shortly by Lewis in Color Me Blood Red). It’s also worth noting that Charles Glore, who plays our lead here, was the guitar player in 2000 Maniacs – kind of great when you think about it. He makes for a likeable lead. He’s kind of dopey but he fits the part well.

    The movie has a good sense of comedic timing, Lewis was quite good at this type of thing when he tried, and it goes at a good pace, even if it is ridiculously repetitive. The director’s penchant for country music (Lewis wrote most of the music used in the film) is also a big part of what makes this one as entertaining as it is, and we’re treated to a few different musical numbers throughout the movie – each one quite well done and catchy (the highlight being a tune called ‘Go Tell Aunt Rhodey’ or is it ‘Go Tell That Roadie’ like the subtitles say?)! The opening theme, a ballad about the love of white lightning, is also pretty great.

    The movie also features some weird exploitative material, the most obvious being that the sheriff tends to dispose of those he doesn’t like by stomping people to death, roughing up the bodies and disposing of them in the moonshine still! There’s also a weird rape scene in here that you probably won’t expect to see coming. At the same time, it’s the same joke over and over again and it starts to get old well before the movie reaches its fairly predictable conclusion. Lewis states in the introduction to this that it was made to cash in on the success of Thunder Road and that the locals in the area the shot the film in thought that the giant still they built as the movie’s central prop was real. As such, they kept trying to get into it, hoping to steal some hooch!


    Two Thousand Maniacs! Is presented in AVC encoded 1.78.1 widescreen while Moonshine Mountain is framed at 1.33.1 fulllframe. The main culprit, in terms of video quality is concerned, is Moonshine Mountain. It’s presented here culled together from multiple 35mm prints of varying degrees of quality and with some scenes taken from tape sources. This was done in order to create the most complete version of the film as possible but it’s in pretty rough shape. Expect plenty of big, nasty scratches, plenty of other print damages and fairly regular frame jumps that just simply could not be eliminated. Other films in the set are also presented here as composite versions so that they’re able to be presented in their most complete form but the inserts aren’t as jarring or as frequent in any of the other movies as they are in the Moonshine Mountain presentation.

    As to Two Thousand Maniacs!, print damage definitely shows up now and then. The film looks reasonably clean even if it does show its share of print damage. It’s all very watchable. If you’re familiar with past presentations you’ll likely be quite pleased with how things shape up here in the video department. Colors are typically good but do vary from scene to scene depending on lighting, condition of the elements and other factors. Compression artifacts and edge enhancement don’t really factor into things here at all.

    Audio is presented in English language LPCM Mono with optional subtitles presented in English only (selectable from your remote but not off of the main menu). Sound quality is fine, is low-fi in nature. Again, Moonshine Mountain does sound worse than Two Thousand Maniacs!, but it all stems back to the elements that were available here. Hiss is evident occasionally, sometimes more evident than others depending on the movie, but for the most part the tracks clear enough and properly balanced.

    The extras on the disc start out by carrying over the audio commentary from the SWV DVD release of Two Thousand Maniacs! with Lewis and Friedman. This track is just as good as the one recorded for Blood Feast. They talk about how they came up with the idea to outdo the first gore film with this second attempt, distributing the film, some of the controversy that arose around it, casting the picture, the locations, the effects work and loads more. That same sense of camaraderie and humor that was on the first track is here as well, which makes it a lot of fun to listen to.

    Two Thousand Maniacs Can’t Be Wrong is a ten minute piece where Tim Sullivan (the director of 2001 Maniacs) talks about discovering Lewis through an issue of Fangoria and how he saw enjoying his films a ‘something you weren’t supposed to do.’ From there he talks about his appreciation of Two Thousand Maniacs!, seeing movies on 42nd Street in his younger days where he saw a double feature of Phantasm and 2001 Maniacs! He then shares some thoughts on what makes Lewis’ movie work, the importance of music in the film, what makes it enduringly popular and what he tried to bring to the table in 2004 when he remade the movie.

    Hicksploitation: Confidential is a seven minute ‘visual essay on the history of the American South’s representation in cinema’ written by Gillian Wallace Horvat and narrated by David Del Valle. Here we get a short but sweet look at the history of how the South has typically been depicted in American cinema from the era of D.W. Griffith through to more modern films, Lewis’ pictures of course included in that talk. There’s discussion of the clichés and stereotypes that are exploited in the genre, how race pictures stemmed off from the studios’ desire to not alienate black audiences, and how poverty row studios came in and filled a lot of the void for product.

    David Friedman: The Gentlemen’s Smut Peddler is a ten minute ‘tribute to the legendary producer’ that includes insight into his personality and his legacy not only from Lewis, who talks about how he met him and how they came to work together in the first place, but also from filmmakers that were clearly inspired by him such as Fred Olen Ray, Tim Sullivan and from editor/Grindhouse Films head honcho Bob Murawski (who duly notes that he tried to get Friedman mentioned in the ‘no longer with us’ section of the Oscars the year he passed away but they weren’t having any of it – at least he tried!).

    The disc also features a three minute segment called Herschell’s Art of Advertising in which Lewis gives viewers some well-informed opinions on what it takes to sell a movie the way that he did, both with and without Friedman. You could call it hucksterism, or you could just call it good salesmanship, but this is a fun little piece worth checking out.

    Moving right along, we come to sixteen minutes of Two Thousand Maniacs! Outtakes (there’s no audio for these so the soundtrack plays over top) as well as trailers for Two Thousands Maniacs! and Moonshine Mountain (that is in much nicer shape than the feature itself).

    The Final Word:

    If you don’t already have the ‘Feast’ boxed set, then Arrow’s Blu-ray release of Two Thousand Manias! Is well worth picking up for anyone with an interest in the ‘Godfather Of Gore’ and his filmography. The film itself is a classic of its type, and the inclusion of the oddball Moonshine Mountain and the other extra features rounds out the package very nicely indeed.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!