Movie Project #37: Pink Flamingos [1972]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Pink Flamingos [1972]

Pink Flamingos [1972]
Director: John Waters
Genre: Trash
Starring: Divine, David Lochary and Mary Vivian Pearce
Runtime: 93 minutes

Sometimes my curiosity gets the best of me.

I have a habit of seeking out films that have garnered notoriety over the years for any number of reasons. Cult films, “so bad they’re good” flicks, disgusting endeavors… you name it, I’ll watch it. One of my biggest blind spots in this regard is the work of director John Waters. Dubbed the “King of Trash”, his early 1970s output is frequently hailed as some of the filthiest, most rotten films ever created. Pink Flamingos is perhaps his most notorious full-length feature, and that seemed like an appropriate choice for this project.

Pink Flamingos [1972]

Amusingly dubbed as a “transgressive black comedy exploitation film” by Wikipedia, the movie revolves around the character of Divine (played by the drag queen actor of the same name) who has been dubbed the “filthiest person alive” by local tabloids. She lives in a small trailer with her family, including her large egg-loving mother, Edie (Edith Massey), her sex-crazed son, Crackers (Danny Mills), and her good friend Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce). They are living a seemingly happy life until a rival couple, Raymond and Connie Marble (David Lochary and Mink Stole, respectively), develop a plan to sabotage Divine’s career and take over the “filthiest person alive” title. The film follows both sides as they attempt to “out-filth” each other.

The plot is basically a moot point because this is all about shock value. This is one vile, disgusting film that completely shattered my preconceptions of how trashy a movie can be. I had heard of one scene beforehand, the infamous eating of dog feces, but I did not know that this was 100% real. That’s what makes this so gross — everything in this is legit, aside from the human murder scenes. There is a certain scene early in the film involving a chicken that will upset any and all animal rights activists. There’s also a character that is credited as “The Singing Asshole”, and yes, that title works literally. There is a scene with unsimulated oral sex, and full-frontal nudity is a common occurrence. Needless to say, this movie has no boundaries at all, and most people will not be able to handle this.

Pink Flamingos [1972]

Pink Flamingos was made on a ridiculously low budget of $10,000, and the cast is comprised almost entirely of friends of John Waters. As such, the acting is terrible, and overall there is very much a “home movie” presentation. This is amateur to the full degree, but I suppose that is partly what has helped give this a cult following. Not many people could make a trash film of this magnitude on that type of budget, but then again, there isn’t anyone like John Waters.

By and large, Pink Flamingos is a bad film. It piles on the trash and never lets up. There are a few genuinely quality scenes — primarily when the 50s rockabilly tunes are featured prominently — but this lives and dies by its shock value. A film of this magnitude did not need to be made, and I am quite shocked that this holds an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I suppose I am content with seeing this once just to remove my curiosity, but I cannot recommend doing the same for anyone else. Also: I will never hear Surfin’ Bird the same way again.


Pink Flamingos [1972] - title screen