Category Archives: John Waters Films

Desperate Living-1977

Desperate Living-1977

Director-John Waters

Starring-Mink Stole, Liz Renay

Scott’s Review #534

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Reviewed December 4, 2016

Grade: B

Desperate Living will certainly not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is a raunchy, late-night comedy, in similar fashion to other John Waters directed cult-classics. This one however, suffers from the absence of Waters staple, Divine, who did not appear due to scheduling conflicts. For this glaring omission, Desperate Living is not the greatest of the Waters films, but it is a fun experience all the same. The film has choruses of political satire, specifically fascism, and overthrowing the government.

Mink Stole (Peggy Gravel) takes on the lead role as a crazed, mentally unhinged, neurotic woman on the lam with her maid, Grizelda, after they accidentally cause the death of Peggy’s husband. Peggy has been in and out of mental hospitals and is clearly off her rocker as she yells at neighbors about communism. After an encounter with a lewd police officer, the duo are banished to Mortville, a town filled with outcasts and social deviants. They align with others in the town to overthrown the tyrannical Queen Carlotta, played by Waters fixture Edith Massey. Carlotta plots to spread rabies throughout the community and is at war with her daughter, Princess Coo Coo.

The issue with Desperate Living really is the absence of Divine, originally set to play Mole McHenry, a self-loathing female wrestler, determined to receive a sex change operation. One imagines Divine in this important role, which was played by Susan Lowe, a capable star, but no Divine. With Divine in the part, the hilarious possibilities are endless. Mink Stole carries the movie well, but traditionally being a supporting player in Waters films, is not quite the star the film needs to be a true success.

This is not to say that the film is a dud- it is entertaining and will please most Waters fans. It contains gross-out moments and vulgarity from the very first scene- as the opening credits role, we see a roasted rat, daintily displayed on good china, on an eloquent dinner table, presumably to be served.

Later, Carlotta meets her fate by being roasted, pig style, on a spit with an apple in her mouth. Another character is executed by being shot in the anus. The offensive moments never end!

There also exists a quite controversial scene that I am surprised made the final cut. Peggy, already in a frazzled state due to a neighbor-boy accidentally shooting out her bedroom window, she is shocked to find another boy playing “doctor” with a little girl in her downstairs basement. Both children are completely naked, leaving not much to the imagination. This scene is tough to watch as one wonders what the child actors thought of all of this. I have never viewed another scene quite like this in film.

Otherwise, Desperate Living is filled with cartoon-like characters, lots of sexually deviant leather men, grizzled men with facial hair, and other odd looking characters, making up the community of Mortville. Water’s set creations for the exterior scenes of the town are great- using mainly cardboard and rubbish he found throughout Baltimore where the film was shot, the sets show a bleak yet colorful underworld.

Desperate Living is a raunchy good time with over-the-top acting, trash filled moments, and laugh out loud fun. The lack of any Divine makes it not the first offering to watch from the Waters collection. Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble would take that honor.

Pink Flamingos-1972

Pink Flamingos-1972

Director-John Waters

Starring-Divine, Edith Massey

Top 100 Films-#96

Scott’s Review #359

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

One of the true, and best, late night gross out films of all time, Pink Flamingos breaks down barriers I never thought possible to do in film, and contains one of the most vomit inducing scenes to ever grace the movies. The film is certainly one of a kind and will only be appreciated by a certain type of film-goer. Pink Flamingos is raw, entertaining, and must be seen to be believed. Outrageous in every way and shot documentary style, the film has weird close ups and amateurish camera angles, only adding to the fun. Personally, I love the film.

In what director John Waters famously dubbed the “Trash Trilogy”, along with similar films Desperate Living and Female Trouble, Pink Flamingos has the dubious honor of being the best of the three. Waters stalwart, Divine, plays Babs Johnson, an underground criminal who lives a meager existence in a trailer along with her mentally challenged son Crackers, and her bizarre, egg-obsessed mother, Edie (Massey). They are joined by Babs’s companion, Cotton. In an attempt to win the “Filthiest Person Alive” contest and usurp Babs from achieving this distinction. the Marbles (Mink Stole and David Lochary) set out to destroy her career.

Pink Flamingos is complete and utter over the top fare, but I have fallen in love with the film over the years. Let’s just say it is a type of the film that is an acquired taste, and one will eventually revel in the madness or be disgusted with its bad taste. Waters, a true creative,  breaks new ground in filthy behavior. On a budget of no more than $10,000, it is more than impressive how he pulled this off successfully.

The antics that Babs and the Marbles engage in are downright crude, but the extreme nature of the fun is exactly what is to love about the film. Hysterical is the character of Babs’s mother Edie. Confined to a crib and constantly inquiring about the Egg Man, she is obsessed with eggs and wants to eat nothing else. She eventually marries the Egg Man. The character is entertaining beyond belief.

The Marbles run a clinic in which they sell stolen babies to lesbian couples for cash.  When they send Babs a box of human excrement and a card that says “fatso”, the war between the two sides is on. The highlight of the film is the main sequence in which Babs holds a birthday party. A male contortionist flexes his anus in rhythm to the song “Surfin’ Bird”, which may be the only film featuring an anus. How Waters got away with some of this stuff is mind blowing.

The most disturbing scene occurs at the very end when Babs watches a dog do “its business” on the street and proceeds to pick up the excrement and eat it, revealing to the audience a toothy (and brown) smile. Reportedly Divine actually did this act. As the film ends, Babs truly is “The Filthiest Person Alive”.

Thanks to the genius of John Waters and Divine and the superlative supporting cast, Pink Flamingos is a reminder that creativity and unique humor does not have to conform to a specific style or follow a road map. Waters takes any film criteria and throws it right out the window, instead creating a masterpiece in warped fun and disgust.

Female Trouble-1974

Female Trouble-1974

Director-John Waters

Starring-Divine

Scott’s Review #146

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Reviewed August 4, 2014

Grade: A

Female Trouble is a deliciously naughty treat by famous Independent film legend, John Waters. Not exactly family friendly, it is a gem for those desiring more left of center fare with depravity and gross out fun mixed in for good measure. Water’s theme of the film is “crime is beauty” and the film is dedicated to Manson family member, Charles “Tex” Watson.

Clearly meant for adult, late night viewing, the film tells the story of female delinquent Dawn Davenport, who angrily leaves home one Christmas morning after not receiving her desired cha-cha heels as a Christmas present. Her parents, religious freaks, disown her and she is left to fend for herself on the streets of Baltimore. The film then tells of her life story of giving birth and subsequently falling into a life of crime in the 1960’s.  Her friends Chicklet and Concetta are in tow as they work various jobs and embark on a career of theft. Female Trouble stars Waters regulars Divine, Mink Stole, Edith Massey, Cookie Mueller, and others.

Interestingly, Divine plays a dual role- Dawn Davenport (in drag, of course) and also the father of her bratty child- Earl Peterson. Dawn and Earl have a less than romantic interlude on a dirty mattress on the side of the road, when he picks her up hitchhiking, which results in the birth of Taffy. Also featured is the hilarious feud between Dawn and her love interest’s (Gator) Aunt Ida, as the women engage in tactics such as acid throwing and chopping off of limbs as they constantly exact revenge on each other.

Favorite scenes include Dawn’s maniacal nightclub act in which she does her rendition of acrobatics and then begins firing a gun into the crowd. Another is of Dawn’s dinner party with Donald and Donna Dasher- serving a meal consisting of spaghetti and chips, Taffy’s tirade ruins the evening in hilarious fashion.

This film is certainly not for the prudish, squeamish, or uptight crowd, but a ball for all open minded, dirty fun-seekers. The film contains one over-the-top, hilarious scene after another. The line “just cuz you got them big udders don’t make you somethin’ special” is a Waters classic.

Female Trouble is one of a series of outrageous, cult-classics featuring the legendary camp star, Divine. Not meant to be overanalyzed or some might say, analyzed at all, Female Trouble is unabashedly trashy and makes no apologies for its outrageousness.

Hairspray-1988

Hairspray-1988

Director-John Waters

Starring-Ricki Lake, Divine

Scott’s Review #130

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Reviewed July 23, 2014

Grade: B+

Hairspray (1988) is one of Director John Water’s later and much more mainstream comedies. Influencing the Broadway musical of the same name that was created years later and inspiring a successful remake in 2007, the film is a wonderful watch one late night accompanied by spirits- it is fun, fun, fun.

The film tells the story of a cute, yet insecure, overweight teenager named Tracy Turnblad, wonderfully portrayed by Rikki Lake. Tracy lives in Baltimore in the racially conflicted 1960’s, and she battles to appear on a local talent show. With Waters directing, one might expect comedic raunchiness, but Hairspray is quite tame. In fact, it is the only Waters film to be rated PG, the others rated X. Not to be outdone however, Hairspray does contain its share of light naughtiness.

The film itself, while campy and over the top, is an important film as it does its best to break down racial barriers, including interracial relationships, and sends an important message. Tracy and her best friend Penny Pingleton judge people for who they are, not on race, income, or anything else.

Those characters in Hairspray who are written as racist or less than welcoming to interracial cohabitation (again the film is set in the early 1960’s) clearly look like buffoons and not with the progressive social times. The supporting cast is high caliber- Divine and Jerry Stiller are perfectly cast as Tracy’s open minded yet cautious and concerned parents. Famous musicians appear in cameos- most notable are Debbie Harry, Ric Ocasek, and Sonny Bono in small but zesty roles.

The musical dance numbers are plentiful and perfectly fit the time period of the film. Hairspray is an entertaining, relevant, free for all with a powerful message mixed in with the entertainment.