Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)

Article 2023 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-28-2006
Posting Date: 2-25-2007
Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Featuring William Kerwin, Connie Mason, Jeffrey Allen

A group of northerners travelling in the South find themselves guests of honor during a centennial in a small southern town called Pleasant Valley. What they don’t know is that the guests of honor are slated to die in horrible ways as vengeance for an atrocity that occurred during the Civil War.

Herschell Gordon Lewis’s best film? Based on what I’ve seen of his work so far, I’m inclined to agree. Sure, it’s got plenty of problems; some of the acting is quite awful, (though both William Kerwin and Connie Mason are better here than they were in Lewis’s earlier BLOOD FEAST) and the final revelations are cliched and run on too long, to name a couple. But the movie lacks that static hangdog air that plagues so many of Lewis’s other movies; it’s the only movie I’ve seen of his that doesn’t seem to flaunt how low its budget is. Instead, there’s a surprising amount of energy here most of the time, and I attribute this to a variety of reasons. For one thing, it wasn’t produced by Lewis himself, and the budget was somewhat higher than is usually the case for his movies. But the biggest reasons may be the use of crowd scenes and the bluegrass music of the Pleasant Valley Boys; both of these elements add a marked energy to the proceedings.

There are also some striking and unusual moments here; the scene after the bloody “horse race” where one of the party organizers has to browbeat the shocked residents and the Pleasant Valley Boys into enjoying the proceedings really leaves one wondering whether this vengeance is the agenda of the whole town or only of a selected dictatorial few. I also liked a moment where a couple of the residents marvel at the invention of the car and speculate as to what sort of inventions they’ll have to play with at the next centennial. It’s moments like these which add a bit of dimension to what would otherwise be a one-note affair.



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