Golden Oldies: John Water’s Pink Flamingos

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Ignoring advice from worried looking friends, I decided to go into this film completely unaware of what I was about to see. No IMDB reviews, no wiki search: the only thing I knew before seeing it up close and personal, was that the 1970’s famous drag queen Divine eats some actual dog shit. Shit that you see directly exiting the arsehole of a dog, into her mouth. You might have thought that this snippet of information would have prepared me for what I saw, but I don’t think anything could.

The only other information I had, was that my Spanish friend had advised me that ‘someone makes music out of their butt’; I’d had a sweet naïve image of a Family Guy cartoon where a friendly bottom toots an amusing tune – alas, it’s a close-up shot of an actual butthole, flexing as if it were a muscle-man.

The film follows Divine, ‘the filthiest person alive’, living under the name of Babs with her son (who’s partial to a bit of bestiality), her egg-obsessed mother and friend Cookie. The couple are desperately trying to claim to be the filthiest people alive, and do some pretty disgusting things in their attempts. There were probably four times throughout the film when I had to resist the urge to throw-up; once when a messy sex/rape/bestiality scene involved both a live (although later, dead) chicken and some disturbing voyeurism; another was mainly because I think eggs are gross, especially when smeared on top of the breasts of the grandmother, Edith Massey (eggs are a motif in Waters’ third classic).

“There were probably four times throughout the film when I had to resist the urge to throw-up”

I left the cinema half pissing myself laughing, half feeling as if I’d been inwardly groped and violated by the cast. My feeling of discomfort may be a result of my prudish nature, or because director John Waters, better known as the Prince of Puke/Rapscallion of Repulsion, with a budget of $12,000 created a film which incorporates rape, murder, necrophilia, bestiality, cannibalism, masochism and sadism all in highly explicit real-life quality. People left the New York Elgin Theatre in 1973 when it was first released, in a sort of disturbed state, staggering around unable to un-see what had just been seen. It was declared illegal in Hicksville, Long Island and interestingly Switzerland for decades (the Swiss just can’t hack the notorious dog shit scene), and to be honest I don’t blame them.

As fabulous and obscene Pink Flamingos is, I won’t rush to put my stomach through it again.

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