Pink Flamingos, John Waters....What Is Your Threshold?
Jun 23, 2005 (Updated Jun 24, 2005)
Review by Tom Barnes
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Only John Waters could have made this. It appears the cast had a good time...
Cons:Demented, perverted, sordid, execrable.....you get the idea.
The Bottom Line: Recommended with a very stern warning that this film will offend almost everyone. That was its sole intention.
I remember the shock when I first saw Pink Flamingos at the Varsity Theater, just off the L.S.U. campus near Chimes Street in Baton Rouge. It was, of course, the late, late, late show and the audience was an enthusiastic college crowd. I still wasn't prepared for the squalor I would be seeing on the big screen. What appears fresh when seen at one age may seem vulgar at another. While a scant handful of parts were still amusing, the grotesque nature of the film is such that I could barely sit through it two nights ago.
Recommend this product?
It was with some trepidation that I saw it again on the small screen, as part of an immersion (some might call it wallowing) in John Waters films I'm enjoying with the Doc. I can safely say that while this was indeed a ground-breaking film, it cannot be recommended for most audiences. The film hasn't lost its most important quality, the ability to shock and offend its audience. What was shocking twenty years ago is still shocking today. It's almost painfully obvious that Waters purposefully designed this film to shock, irritate and possibly titillate the Maryland Film Censoring Bureau. I believe he succeeded in his quest. As for the film itself...
As with the majority of Waters' early work, the story is only incidental. Divine stars as herself, bringing her usual lust and obvious enjoyment to the film. Divine must maintain her title of the "Filthiest Person Alive." Contenders for the dubious title, baby ring owners Connie and Raymond Marble, wish to relieve her of the title. Mayhem ensues. Mink Stole, another star of the Waters stable, puts much energy into the creation of the evil persona of Connie. David Lochary is her equally evil, blue haired (this particularly lurid shade was....achieved.. using a Magic Marker) husband. Edith Massey appears as Divine's demented mother, confined to a play pen and sharing her egg fetish for all who would listen... er.. watch. Edith Massey eating eggs is an even uglier sight than you might suppose.
Good and bad are relative concepts here and the best that can be said for its "message" is that it is a commentary on the nature of stardom and fame at any price in our society today. In this, its message still rings true.
The unfortunate qualities of this movie are manifold. Nearly every perversion possible has been squeezed into 93 minutes of torture (or fun, depending upon your viewpoint). The Doc watched with me until the part where Divine and son Crackers (Danny Mills) crawl around on all fours, licking every surface in Raymond and Connie's house.... "This is where they eat." PETA members will not be pleased with a bedroom scene involving, uh, chickens. There is so much more perversion in this film that I will spare you the sordid details. There are reasons for the NC 17 rating it usually receives. Some would say that an X rating is more appropriate.
As for cinematic qualities, the film suffers here as well. Much of this may have been due to the low ($10,000) budget, but we still see shadows of Waters' camera in several scenes. Grainy and hazy in places, the film offers little in the way of polish. Don't expect much and you might be able to sit through this.
Waters fans will be pleased to note the extra features which include commentary from Waters and trailers. Even Waters admits the essential trashiness of the film, calling it an "exercise in poor taste." While there were a few amusing scenes, they don't carry the movie much beyond the door of the packed college theater. Waters' subversiveness and wry humor work much better when placed in an ordinary suburban setting, as in Hairspray or Polyester. Here, Waters simply pulls out all the stops and the result is not pretty. This may be a piece of Americana, but it's mostly about Waters shredding the envelope of filmmaking. Subversive? Recall that this was the Nixon era and you would have to agree that it was. This film should be considered only by true Waters fans, and then only those with iron constitutions need apply. As for the infamous final scene? Yes. It is real.
New Line Cinema
This is part of Stephen Murray's Gay and Lesbian Culture Write-Off. Find out more about it here...
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