Pink Flamingos Review
by Joshua Handler
1972, 93 minutes
Rated NC-17 for a wide range of perversions in explicit detail
Starring Divine, Edith Massey, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce and Danny Mills, Pink Flamingos is John Waters' most notorious film and is the most disgusting film that I have ever seen (and I have seen some nasty films). Can you imagine a film that features sex involving chickens, unsimulated coprophagia, cannibalism, and furniture-licking? Well, if you can, then this is that film. And, this does not even scratch the tip of the iceberg!
Pink Flamingos follows Babs Johnson, a woman (Divine, a transvestite) who is hell-bent on being "the filthiest person alive". But, another couple, the Marbles (David Lochary and Mary Vivian Pearce), try to take the title away.
When originally released, this film garnered much press and eventually found success on the midnight film circuit (probably one of the first to do so) where it continues to be a "classic" of sorts today. It truly is a movie to be shown at midnight because this movie never should have seen the light of day. However, it did, and has had a huge influence on film.
Made for $10,000 and easily making it back, Pink Flamingos was the first hit of John Waters' "trash" films and was one of the first to push the limits that it did. It pushed the limits so far that I do not think that anything has rivaled, or for that matter will rival, this movie. It signaled the "talent" of a new director that would have a very successful career in making campy films about Baltimore. While the NC-17-rated Female Trouble and the hilarious Polyester are definitely fun, Pink Flamingos is, for better or for worse, John Waters' greatest achievement.
This film is an achievement not in that it is by any means good, or even remotely close to fair, but that it is so crazy, and dare I say, fun? Yes, there is a scene of real animal killing, but the rest of the movie is so amusing and gross that it is not necessarily made up for, but is slightly mitigated. John Waters pours all of his dirty heart and soul into this film and doesn't hold back. Just when you think "he won't go there," he does and goes one step further. I can't tell whether John Waters is a pervert for thinking of this or is a genius. You can decide that for yourself.
Divine is perfect for the role of Babs Johnson. She is demented and a terrible actress, but fits in this role. And, she is willing to do anything. The acting from the other actors is so bad that it can't even be evaluated. However, the terrible acting adds to the midnight-movie feel.
The production values make a typical grindhouse film look great, and the camerawork is so bad that a beginning filmmaker could have done better. However, all of these terrible aspects of the film only make it that much funnier. I cannot tell why this movie is funny. Is it the dialogue? The acting? Or the fact that it is so crazy that you must laugh at it?
Whatever it is, Pink Flamingos is the movie to beat for pure sickness. Saw, Hostel, and whatever else combined cannot even equal the depravity and sickness of this movie. And, it is all real. Watch this movie at your own risk. I am not recommending that you do or do not watch this. I will say, however, that Pink Flamingos is a landmark in film history and should be seen if you are up for it.
I cannot give this film a star rating. This is a movie that I would hesitate giving someone to watch on a dare. It is in a league of its own and cannot be judged.
Unable to give a star rating.