Pink Flamingos (1972)

“I love you even more than my own filthiness!”

Synopsis:
When a murderous rivalry ensues between the Filthiest Human in the World (Divine) and her competitors (David Lochary and Mink Stole), no action is too low or disgusting to enter the fray. Babs (Divine), her companion Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce), and her son Crackers (Danny Mills) retaliate against a spy (Cookie Mueller) sent by Lochary and Stole — who employ a cross-dressing butler (Channing Wilroy) to impregnate women they kidnap in order to sell their babies to lesbian couples — to scope out their trailer, then celebrate Divine’s birthday in trashy style while Babs’ obese, baby-like mother (Edith Massey) is romanced by The Egg Man (Paul Swift), who wants to marry her — but Lochary and Stole are so consumed with envy and fury, they resort to fiery revenge.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “John Waters’s cult classic, one of the most successful midnight movies and arguably his best film, is a movie you can’t believe was actually scripted, storyboarded, acted in, shot, and shown in legitimate theaters.” He notes that “the ‘King of Sleaze’ wants to shock people out of their complacent viewing habits”, and “invariably succeeds by writing the most obscene storylines, shooting the most vulgar images, and presenting the most repulsive characters imaginable.” Peary argues that Waters “can make you laugh uncontrollably even when you’re repelled”, and that “you’ve got to respect a guy who can make ‘stars’ out of the weirdos who stock his Baltimore repertory company”. However, he concedes that “you have to be disturbed by his anything-different-is-positive theme and by the fact that he succeeds in making people laugh by depicting pain, destruction of property, and strong violence.”

So, is Pink Flamingos worth sitting through? Yes, for its cult status. However, don’t expect to be entertained, simply disgusted — again, and again, and again. As I’ve noted about Waters’ earlier films, degeneracy for its own sake — or, in this case, “filth”, defined by Merriam Webster as “moral corruption or defilement” — doesn’t offer any inherent value. The characters are ridiculous and loathsome, and one shudders to think of them existing anywhere close to real life. What’s the point? However, I don’t think film fanatics will want to miss seeing Divine (who Peary nominates as one of the Best Actors of the Year in his Alternate Oscars!) in his infamously outrageous wig, make-up, and gowns (his red mermaid dress is perhaps the most memorable). Speaking of memorable… Yes, the final scene remains as disgusting as ever; once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it. Be forewarned. Discussed at length in Peary’s Cult Movies book.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Many classically outrageous, colorful, memorable scenes



Must See?
Yes, once, as a cult favorite.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Pink Flamingos (1972)”

  1. A once-must – for cult/camp enthusiasts only. The average film fanatic will most likely not be able to either handle it or stand it.

    Even though this is a step above ‘Multiple Maniacs’ (and the film that really got Waters the notoriety he craved), that ultimately isn’t saying much. There is a little bit of variety in the script but it leans toward being one-note and, after awhile, it mostly becomes tiresome. But it served Waters well; it gave him the opportunity to go on to (thank God) making a few better films. He would at least start making good on his ‘promise’ with ‘Female Trouble’.

    (This is, I think, only the third time I’ve seen ‘PF’ – and this last time was purely for the purpose of this review. ~which is to say, it’s not a flick I feel the urge to return to.)

    I first saw this film (appropriately, at midnight) at a theater in Philadelphia – while I was there with my college theater company (doing a production of – of all things – ‘A Man for All Seasons’). A female friend and I went. My friend (who, several years later, came out as a lesbian – a surprise to me) went nuts over the film, and esp. Divine. ~so much so that she insisted we go to New York City when we found out Divine was going to appear off-Broadway in a play (Tom Eyen’s ‘Women Behind Bars’). My friend also insisted that we *meet* Divine. So…when we went to the play, we took a bouquet of flowers and left them at the box office, where we asked if we could say hello to Divine after the performance. Word came back that we *could* (!). So, after the show, we went backstage.

    Divine greeted us – not in drag but as…himself, as a man. He was very soft-spoken and very gentle with us. Thanked us for the bouquet. We chatted briefly, explaining that we were theater students and how we were introduced to Divine’s work (see above paragraph). It was all very nice and my friend was on Cloud 9 when we left. 😉

    …which brings me back to ‘PF’. Even though I hardly think this is Waters at his best, I’m sure there are cult film lovers who watch it repeatedly. I can understand seeing it for its cult status but if you’re of a mind to go back to it again and again – well, there might really be something wrong with you. Waters was joking. I get the joke; it’s adolescent and meant as a total goof. It’s still kind of dumb.

    That said …I do like the kangaroo court sequence near the end. I think that’s the closest ‘PF’ comes to revealing what Waters would get better at later.

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