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A scene from "Multiple Maniacs," coming soon to a theater near you.
A scene from "Multiple Maniacs," coming soon to a theater near you. (Lawrence Irvine)

Clear the streets and bar the doors! "Multiple Maniacs" is about to be turned loose once again.

John Waters' proudly perverse 1970 meisterwerk, the one in which Divine is violated by a 15-foot lobster, is being lovingly restored by the Criterion Collection in preparation for an August DVD/Blu-ray release and — Oh joy! Oh rapture! — a limited theatrical run that will include three September screenings at The Charles Theatre.

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"Restoration is an amazing thing," Waters said in a news release from Janus Films, which will be handling the theatrical run. "Finally, 'Multiple Maniacs' looks like a bad John Cassavetes film! I couldn't be more thrilled!"

Waters' second feature stars Divine as Lady Divine, the leader of a traveling theatrical troupe (that's as good a label as any) that puts on the utterly unforgettable "Cavalcade of Perversion." The film, which contains perversions too numerous to list, also stars Waters' mainstays Edith Massey, David Lochary, Mink Stole, Mary Vivian Pearce and Cookie Mueller (a group known collectively as The Dreamlanders).

"I tried to move heaven and earth not to release that film," Mary Avara, a legendarily outspoken member of the censor board that once had to approve all films shown in Maryland, said of "Multiple Maniacs" in a 1981 interview.

Fortunately for cineastes throughout the Free State, the court averred. Although the censor board's efforts kept it out of Maryland theaters for a decade, Circuit Court Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan eventually cleared the way for it to be shown at the Charles in January 1981.

"Horrendous, sickening, revolting … most distasteful," Kaplan wrote in his court opinion. But not legally obscene. ("The court's eyes were assaulted," Kaplan added.)

And now it's back.

The restored "Multiple Maniacs" will be previewed June 17 at the Provincetown International Film Festival in Provincetown, Mass. Its official opening is set for Aug. 5 at the IFC Center in New York City.

Its run at The Charles is set for Sept. 10, 12 and 15.

You've been warned.

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