Pink Flamingos (1972)

8:46 PM

The incomparable Divine

I'm on what I'm calling a 'sick kick'. Bring on the guts and gore and let's have an intimate viewing of Cannibal Holocaust! We might follow it up with von Trier's Antichrist...though in comparison with the former, Antichrist would be positively suffocated with whimsy. But on this 'sick kick', I'm taking a breather and bowing down to the king of camp, the father of foul and the purveyor of all that is perve, John Waters. My knowledge of John Waters started out innocently enough. I discovered him at the height of my Johnny Depp obsession in 2005 with his film Cry-Baby (1990), and my exposure to his work has been maintained at a relatively PG-13 level ever since. Then, way way back in 2011, I got my second taste of him, rather uncool-y via The Lonely Island's SNL comedy skit, "The Creep", in which the director introduces the skit with a delivery as slick as his pencil-thin moustache. "Hi, I'm John Waters, and this is the creep". John Waters. Embellished in history as the quintessential creep. And you know what, I bet he fucking loves that. Which brings me to my most recent Waters encounter, Pink Flamginos (1972), the one that started it all. An often disgusting, frequently degrading, and constantly confusing and hilarious piece of campy cinema. 

Set in Waters' favourite location, Baltimore, Pink Flamingos follows Divine, a criminal drag queen who operates under the pseudonym Babs Johnson and who is vying for the title of 'Filthiest Person Alive'. Divine lives in a cramped trailer with her mentally-ill, crib-confined, egg-obsessed mother, Edie (Edith Massey), her backwards delinquent son, Crackers (Danny Mills), and her relatively normal companion, Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce). Divine has long been the undisputed Filthiest Person Alive, but is now facing some opposition from The Marbles (Mink Stole, David Lochary), a couple who inspire gag reflexes with every scene. The Marbles run an 'adoption clinic' for lesbian couples - a sweet idea, though not so much when their supply of babies come by way of kidnapped girls who are impregnated by The Marbles' man servant, Channing. To add fuel to the fire, the funds from this 'clinic' go towards financing heroin rings in inner-city elementary schools. Divine and her trailer trash posse are pretty dank, but in all honesty, in the war for Filthiest Person Alive, my money would've been on The Marbles. 

David Lochary and Mink Stole (The Marbles)

Almost every scene in Pink Flamingos is memorable in some bile-regurgitating way. One famous moment has Divine receiving a birthday present of a literal piece of shit (sent of course by the lovely Marbles), while another one features a full view of an anal sphincter flexing to the beat of Surfin' Bird. Cheeky. But like any gem, Pink Flamingos has its flaws that can't be so easily concealed under the guise of fulfilling theatrical camp. One scene involving a reluctant woman, a live chicken, and the over-zealous horny bastard, Crackers is particularly regrettable. The sequence brought me back to the level of discomfort I felt during Evil Dead's (1981) infamous 'tree-rape' scene (which was inexplicably left in the 2013 remake??). But then, with a film like Pink Flamingos, if we start picking off the offensive aspects, we won't be left with anything at all. Roger Ebert famously gave the film no stars, not out of a disdain for the work, but rather because "stars simply seem not to apply" likening it to an object, rather than a film. Likewise, I don't even know how I'd begin assigning this one a cat rating. But it's funny, it's crass, it's verging on the pornographic, it's ridiculous, and it's amazing. Basically, John Waters is a perverted fuck and I love him for it. 

Pink Flamingos (1972)
dir. John Waters
Starring: Divine, Mink Stole, David Lochary, Edith Massey, Danny Mills
93 minutes | USA

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