Pink Flamingos (1972)

Director: John Waters

Stars: Divine, Mink Stole, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce

Release Company: Dreamland

MPAA Rating: NC-17

John Waters: Pink Flamingos


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Pink Flamingos
Pink Flamingos

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I guess there's just two kinds of people, Ms. Sandstone; my kind of people and assholes. It's rather obvious which category you fit into. Have a nice day.

Mink Stole

Similarly, there are two types of movie fans—those who love wacky auteur John Waters and those who can't stomach him. Well, perhaps there is a third group — the ones who tolerate his guerrilla style films with the grade school scripts and see his films only for the sake of being able to say that they've endured them. But if you are a film buff, Waters is required viewing since he makes the kind of underground films that more commercialized independent filmmakers would like to make if they didn't have to cater to an audience.

At least the “early” John Waters did, and Pink Flamingos endures as his crowning achievement in humor and bad taste (literally, when you consider what Divine puts in her mouth in the infamous dog turd scene).

The premise (hesitating to call it a plot) has Divine/Babs Johnson living as a gypsy in a ramshackle trailer in the woods with her mother, son, and lover. Divine prides herself as being the filthiest person on Earth and has the headline story of Tattler magazine to prove it. Before the 300 lb. transvestite scoops up the doggie morsel at the end of the movie, Divine will cram her ample body into a few tight fitting outfits to do his/her traditional walk in downtown Baltimore, shoplift a round steak by sticking it between her thighs, take a dump on a lawn, perform fellatio on her son, and murder a few people.

But she has a strict moral code for murder, killing only convicted assholes after her kangaroo court. As Babs states, “Kill everyone now! Condone first degree murder! Advocate cannibalism! Eat shit! Filth is my politics! Filth is my life!”

Adding to the filth and lunacy of Divine's homestead, her mother Miss Edie (Edith Massey) wears only a slip throughout the movie and stays in a baby crib, continually clamoring for eggs, which may end up smeared all over her body. If her dialog sounds elementary and retarded, there's a good reason for it. The “actress” is actually mentally challenged in real life and could hardly remember her lines, but that's all part of the charm of a John Waters film. He uses real life freaks in all his early movies.

Divine's son Crackers (Danny Mills) diversifies his sexual appetite with other women by adding chickens to the mix while his mother's lover Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce) looks on. Actually, you get to participate as well since Waters “treats” you to full frontal male and female and chicken nudity.

Jealously competing for the crown of filthiest people are Raymond and Connie Marble (played by Waters staples David Lochary and Mink Stole). Waters returns to the toe sucking fetish of Mondo Trasho with the bright red and blue headed Marples, but that's only a minor quirkiness. Their claim to filthiness lies with their practice of kidnapping and impregnating hippies, selling their babies to lesbian couples, running porno shops, and financing heroin pushers in inner-city elementary schools. But it's not until they send a parcel of human waste to Divine and burn down her trailer that they incur his/her wrath.

While the plot sounds like something that evolved out of some late night bull sessions of outrageousness and the special effects are so low budget that they may be no more than a two-foot kielbasa sausage rubber banded to a mans penis, Waters demonstrates visual talent and entertains.

This is a man who knows how to handle the camera and doesn't lose our interest, although we may turn away from the screen from a gross out vomiting scene or that shit eating grin of Divine and the end (realizing that this is no special effect). On a $100 budget, most of which went to purchasing the tin trailer, you'd expect a lot less than you see, but Waters knows how to use close-ups effectively, varies his shots to keep us watching, and uses rock and roll music effectively.

Of course, much of the interest relies on viewing things you'd never imagine you’d see before in a film, or even think of. Masturbation and artificial insemination scenes are done mostly on camera, and there are some Pythonesque scenes like the traveling egg salesman who opens his case to show the egg loving Miss Edie his large and medium whites and browns.

The video re-release contains some interesting outtakes as well. I'm not sure why Walters left out the scene of Divine, Crackers, and Cookie singing “We are the Filthiest People Alive” in Pig Latin, because it's worth a chuckle. The “nature” walk that the Marbles take on their way to Divine's trailer is absolutely hilarious with the way they are revolted by the bird songs, fearful that those creatures may come and take a dump on them.

Walters also introduces the original trailer, which shows absolutely no scenes from the film. It's a black and white compilation of theatergoers who are shocked or amused at what they've just seen. Of course they have just witnessed the final scene with Divine and a miniature poodle that will never be duplicated. And no actor will ever want to.

With more respectable budgets, Waters has gone for uneven spoofs of pop culture in his more recent films like Pecker, Hairspray, and Cecil B.. Demented. This has gained Waters a larger audience, but has ticked off his early loyalists. Nevertheless, Pink Flamingos stands firmly as Waters' landmark film and as his most representative underground cinematic feat. It's a work that film buffs should witness—at least once.


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