This weekend I got to spend Saturday with one of my oldest and best loved friends, Paul (AKA Vegan Monkey). We hadn’t seen each other in 6 long years and in the time we’ve been apart we’ve both got married, grown older and not a lot else, to be honest.
We go way back, and some of you might remember Paul from my sex toy reviewing days, as I used to help him a lot when he was in the ‘wholesale business’. Remind me, will you, next time I whinge about never having achieved anything, that several of my product descriptions are gracing the cover of dildo boxes across the globe. Not all writers can say that.
But this is a post about a very special film indeed, so I’ll stop talking smut for a moment. Although, given the film, rubber dongs are the least of our worries.
I saw it as fate that this movie was showing in 35mm at the Duke of York’s on the very same day Paul was due to visit. We’re both massive John Waters fans and it’s our love of terrible movies that brought us together 15 years ago, and will keep us together into old(er) age, no doubt.
Just in case *Spoilers everywhere*
Pink Flamingos (1972)
IMDB Synopsis: Notorious Baltimore criminal and underground figure Divine goes up against Connie & Raymond Marble, a sleazy married couple who make a passionate attempt to humiliate her and seize her tabloid-given title as “The Filthiest Person Alive”.
Divine, in hiding and living under the pseudonym ‘Babs Johnson’, has recently been named “The Filthiest Person Alive” by the tabloids. She’s a lowdown dirty murderer and thief, surrounded by a band of like-minded individuals including her mother, her friend, Cotton and her son, Crackers.
They’re hiding out in a caravan in the woods, where they live a simple life. Unfortunately, all that is about to change as they’ve got themselves some competition. Obsessed with stealing the dubious title from Divine, Connie and Raymond Marble have a plan. But will it work and would it ever be possible to out filth the Queen of Filth? We’ll just see about that.
As plans go, the Marbles have a good one. To send a spy in to seduce Crackers and gather intel on the family while she’s at it. Poor Cookie (Cookie Mueller) has to endure possibly one of the most disturbing scenes I have ever seen in my life (chickens most definitely WERE harmed in the making of this scene).
The Marbles, while Cookie is doing her thing, are busy running their black market adoption ring, selling babies to lesbian couples. Don’t be fooled though, this racket involves kidnapped women, a hideous basement and their hyper-fertile man-butler, Channing (Channing Wilroy), who keeps the women impregnated against their will.
Raymond Marble also has an extra curricular hobby; flashing girls in public with cured meats dangling from his junk; then robbing their purses when they run away. I just hope he disposes of those salamis afterwards.
Back from her ‘date’ with Crackers, Cookie reveals what she knows about Divine & Co, mainly that it’s Babs’ birthday soon and that she’ll be having a party. The Marbles send a charming birthday gift to Divine (think *poo emoji*). Addressed to ‘Fatso’, it claims to be from “The Filthiest People Alive”.
Well, what’s a gal to do when her title’s being threatened? Vow to kill the sender, obvs. But first; party!
Divine’s birthday party is eventful and has given me some fresh ideas for my 40th in a few years. She’s spoilt rotten by her friends, who bring her, among other things, a giant axe (I see this coming in handy) and a pig’s head. No book tokens for this Queen.
The Marbles sneak along to witness the hubbub and are so shocked (easily shocked for such a filthy couple, if you ask me) that they call the cops. This makes no sense to me given their own nefarious lifestyle, but never mind. Predictably, the fuzz don’t come out of this well. It’s also war now, with all filthy bets OFF.
Divine and Crackers get word from the local gossip that the Marbles are behind this shit, so they head to Marble HQ where they find Channing, who’s been locked in the cupboard for dressing up as both Connie and Raymond, which for some reason they weren’t very happy about.
Before they stumble across Channing, free the trapped girls in the basement and escape, Divine and son lick every available surface, like you do. I can’t handle spit so this was one of the most disturbing parts for me, even though the next scene sees Divine administer some lovin’ on her own son (vom).
Channing is punished for his misdemeanours by the captive girls, just in case you were wondering. It’s not nearly enough to make up for the horrible trauma they’ve suffered, but it is satisfying.
While all this goes down, the Marbles burn down Divine’s trailer. Luckily nobody’s home, as they’re all otherwise engaged. Normally, Divine’s mother would be home in her playpen but she got engaged to the egg delivery man and was last seen being wheeled away in a wheelbarrow at Divine’s birthday party.
When Divine and crew find out about the arson they go back to the Marble home, kidnap the Marbles and alert the media, because murderous acts are nothing without the national press, everybody knows that. Divine and friends hold a kangeroo court which is quite one-sided and then they do a very bad thing on camera, thus sealing the deal on the ‘Filthiest Person Alive’ argument.
Spoiler: It’s Divine.
I love this movie but let’s be under no illusion, it is designed to shock. And when I say that it’s shocking, I mean it. This is a film about vile human beings who commit horrible acts and give zero fucks about it. The film contains rape, flashing, murder, excrement and a raw steak being thrust up Divine’s dress. It ain’t for the faint-hearted.
John Waters is my kind of guy in that he rarely compromises his unique style and proudly plays up to his ‘Sultan of Slease’ moniker. It’s a different kind of sick and wrong than say, The Human Centipede (2009), which was also designed purely to gross out audiences and push censorship boundaries. At least you can look on Pink Flamingos with humour and it is laugh out loud funny in places. It’s also just about the kitschiest thing I’ve ever seen.
There are parts I found really hard to watch, as you’d expect. Edie eating eggs is one of the milder elements that made my stomach churn. We also can’t talk about PF without talking about poo. I dreaded ‘that scene’ all the way through and then I found myself in it and – yep – it made me gag. Like actually almost blow chunks gag. It doesn’t help that Divine does not look like she’s having fun in that scene.
It does have to be said however, IMHO that there’s something about Divine. I mean, she dominates the screen with her innate sense of style and I imagine, were her character a real person, she’d be a total doll. I mean, if you weren’t on her wrong side.
I really admired both Connie Marble and Cotton’s wardrobes.
All in all Pink Flamingoes is a ride through John Water’s mind that you’ll never forget. You’ll feel ill and possibly toss your cookies but man, you’ll have yourself some fun.
My Rating: 4/5 – It’s more of an experience that a film and for that I rate it highly.