DirectorHerschell Gordon Lewis
Release Date(s)1964 (May 15, 2018)
Studio(s)Friedman-Lewis Productions/Box Office Spectaculars (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: C+
- Overall Grade: B-
Arrow Video re-releases two of their offerings from The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast multi-film boxed set with Two Thousand Maniacs!, and as a sub-feature, Moonshine Mountain. In Two Thousand Maniacs!, a pair of couples find themselves in the small southern town of Pleasant Valley where they are happily greeted by all of the local townsfolk, including its mayor. They are immediately invited to the town’s annual celebration, only to find that its inhabitants have murder and mayhem on their minds. In Moonshine Mountain, a successful country singer makes his way to a small town where, despite the sheriff not being too keen on outsiders, he is taken in by locals as one of their own.
A personal favorite of H.G. Lewis, Two Thousand Maniacs! may be one of the better films that he ever made. While the gore moments are there to be had, the story itself is more interesting than usual. You keep wondering if the new arrivals are ever going to discover their plight as the locals descend upon them one by one, separating them from each other and committing bloody atrocities against them. For fans of Saw and Hostel, there’s certainly some foreshadowing when it comes to the execution of the kills. Whether it’s a man being put into a barrel filled with protruding nails and rolled down the side of a hill or an unlucky woman having a large rock dropped on her, the thrill of the kill is most evident. Mix that with a southern-fried atmosphere and a song proclaiming that the “south will rise again” and you have yourself a low budget thriller that lacks polish, but builds well to its mystified conclusion.
In Moonshine Mountain, we are treated to the same type of laid-back, hillbilly folk from Two Thousand Maniacs!, but on the other end of the spectrum. They’re not necessarily murderers and the plot isn’t really about killing innocent people. It’s more about spending time amongst a town of simple people, complete with ho-downs and locally-brewed spirits. The sadistic tendencies of the sheriff don’t even warrant screen time until nearly an hour into the film, and without much of a hint of it prior. So it’s a mess structurally, but it’s clear that Lewis was going for something a little cleaner than what he would normally make. It’s a fairly toothless film in that regard, other than containing an abundance of local color, but it unmistakably incorporates some of Lewis’ usual traits as far as its characters and settings. In an odd way, it’s almost a companion piece to Two Thousand Maniacs!, or at the very least, a bizarre prequel of sorts.
The following text accompanies Two Thousand Maniacs! before the film begins: “2000 Maniacs was restored in High Definition by Something Weird from the original elements. Additional sections sourced from standard definition tape masters were also used to create the most complete version of this film possible.” While the transfers for both of the films in this set offer picture quality that’s quite variable, Maniacs! is perhaps the more ideal of the two. The SD inserts are less frequent than the follow-up, and it’s also a bit more clean overall. Scratches, speckling, and instability run rampant, but decent color reproduction is on display with mostly natural-appearing grain. As poor as it’s described, it’s not so bad that it can’t be enjoyed, despite the lower grade elements used to complete it. The audio presentation, which is featured in English mono LPCM with optional subtitles in English SDH, is narrow with only decent dialogue and score and music reproduction. It also contains many of the same weathered element problems including crackle, hiss, distortion, and drop-outs.
The following text accompanies Moonshine Mountain before the film begins: “Moonshine Mountain has been exclusively restored for this release by Arrow Films. The film was restored in 2K resolution using a selection of 35mm prints, as the original negative has been lost. Additional sections sourced from standard definition tape masters were also used to create the most complete version of this film possible. Due to the extremely poor condition of the film elements available, this presentation exhibits extreme color fading that could only be corrected to a minimal degree through digital grading. This presentation also includes numerous instances of damaged and missing frames that were impossible to restore digitally. The audio was similarly affected and as a result the soundtrack contains many noticeable instances of damage. There is occasional loose audio sync but this is as per the original source materials.” Definitely the lesser of the two presentations, it acts more as an archival piece than anything else. It’s incredibly damaged and contains many more instances of SD inserts, missing frames, scratches, staining, and instability. One must remember though that, as of this writing, this is all that’s available to be seen so be thankful that it exists at all. The audio is also featured in an English mono LPCM track with optional subtitles in English SDH. Not unlike the video portion, many of the same problems can be heard aurally, much more than its predecessor.
TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C-/C/C
MOONSHINE MOUNTAIN (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): D+/D/D+
Extras for this release include optional introductions to both films by Herschell Gordon Lewis; an audio commentary on Two Thousand Maniacs! with Lewis, producer David Friedman, film rights owner Jimmy Maslon, and Something Weird’s Mike Vraney; Two Thousand Maniacs Can’t Be Wrong with Tim Sullivan, a 10-minute interview with the director of the remake about Maniacs!; Hicksploitation: Confidential, a 7-minute visual essay about Maniacs!, specifically its depiction of the south, by a southern-accented David Del Valle; David Friedman: The Gentlemen’s Smut Peddler, a 9-minute tribute to the titular producer featuring Lewis, filmmakers Fred Olen Ray and Tim Sullivan, and editor Bob Murawski; Herscell’s Art of Advertising, a 4-minute segment on Lewis’ approach to marketing; nearly 17 minutes worth of silent outtakes from Maniacs! from a standard definition source; and a promo gallery featuring trailers for both films. Not included from the Something Weird Video DVD release of Maniacs! is an exploitation art gallery containing 68 stills.
Arrow Video’s treatment of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ body of work is to be commended. Despite not being armed with the finest film elements available, they’ve still managed to cull together watchable presentations and secured Lewis’ films for the future. If you’re like me and you couldn’t afford to fork over upwards of $300 for the aforementioned Feast boxed set, this is another great disc that’s a little easier on the ole wallet, with more releases on the way.
- Tim Salmons