An exercise in poor taste, indeed. In a few other reviews, notably Vinyl, I mentioned how even bad films, the ones that are revered as bad, were at least trying to do something, even if they got it hilariously inept. Well, Pink Flamingos started out as one of those films, but from there, it just got more horrid with each passing scene. Pink Flamingos made an underground star of its lead, the drag queen Divine, as well as director/writer/producer/editor/cinematographer/damn-near-everything-er John Waters, who has since cultivated a reputation of a living legend. I don’t know if I would go so far as to throw that label at Waters. Or say it in his general vicinity. Or even think about it in relation to him. I have a much more apropos title to give the still-living Waters, and I will now get into what that is and why he deserves it, every little bit of it.
A recent tabloid has labeled Divine (who essentially stars as herself) “the filthiest person alive”, a label that has rankled the egos of Raymond and Connie Marble, two disreputable people involved in a black market baby ring who want the label for themselves. Thus, they set out on ruining Divine’s life, career, and very existence, which works for all of two seconds until Divine, the obvious heroine of the film, turns the tables. I will go no further into the plot, because the plot isn’t what matters. What matters is that this film puts to celluloid some of the most disgusting, repugnant, and, well, filthiest scenes ever committed on screen (and this is after having seen Salo). To spare you from having to watch this yourself, I will list some of them out for you; feel free to skip to the closing paragraph if it gets to be too much for you. A pair having sex on-camera while actually crushing a live chicken between them. Divine and her “son” licking everything in the Marbles’ household, which escalates into Divine giving the man a blowjob. A man who is able to flex his asshole in tune with the song “Surfin’ Bird”. Divine receiving “a bowel movement” in the mail. The Marbles being tied to a tree and tarred and feathered. And, of course, the most infamous closing scene in cinema: an uncut shot of a dog taking a shit on a sidewalk, after which Divine picks it up and eats it, gagging and grinning for the camera. This isn’t like Salo, where there are cuts in between and potential props to simulate the gross factor; Waters wants you to see it and be repulsed by it, so he does it all for real (save for the scene where Divine hacks up some cops with an axe and has her friends and birthday party guests eat the remains, though knowing Waters, he might’ve just been stymied by the fact that doing that scene for real would’ve been completely against the law).
If this film proves one thing, it is not that Divine is the filthiest person alive, or even the filthiest actress. It is that John Waters is the filthiest director alive, and that his creation known as Pink Flamingos is, bar none, the filthiest piece of cinema ever created. That is, of course, the point, and Waters holds that particular trophy aloft proudly. But not me, Mr. Waters. I don’t care if you want to revel in the fact that you did all these horrible things, and that you essentially made everyone who watched your film see all of it just so you can get your kicks out of completely disgusting your audience. No person should feel proud to be the King of Shitty Cinema, in every sense that title connotes, and the fact that you are, Mr. Waters, suggests only one thing to me: that you are literally messed up in the head. Even if you are going for 100% completion on the 1001 Movies list, I think those of us that have come before you will not begrudge you in the slightest if you’d rather pass this one up.
I didn’t want this one to tie with Vinyl for worst-reviewed on the list, but I’ll be damned if this one didn’t earn it.
Arbitrary Rating: 1/10