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Pink Flamingos


Pink Flamingos is a 1972 comedy film directed by John Waters. When the film was initially released in 1972, it caused a huge degree of controversy and thus became one of the most notorious cult films ever made. It made an underground star of the flamboyant female impersonator, Divine. The independent film also stars David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole, Danny Mills, Cookie Mueller, Edith Massey and Steve Yeager. Produced on a budget of only $12,000, it was shot on weekends in the vicinity of Baltimore, Maryland. The majority of the film was shot in Phoenix, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore.

Since its release it has had a rather devoted cult following and is one of John Waters' most famous or downright notorious films due to some shocking scenes and the wide range of perverse, taboo acts performed in the film. In 1997, for the 25th anniversary of the 1972 premiere, the film was re-released. The new version featured an improved stereo soundtrack (which, unlike the original, was made available to the general public, on compact disc), and after the end of the original movie the new version contained a brief video commentary by Waters, plus a few scenes cut from the original release. The re-release was rated NC-17 by the Motion Picture Association of America. This edition was later released on DVD.

The film came in at number 29 on the list of 50 Films to See Before You Die on a show in the United Kingdom.

Plot

Divine lives under the pseudonym "Babs Johnson" with her egg-loving mother Edie (Edith Massey), delinquent son Crackers (Danny Mills), and voyeuristic traveling companion Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce). They reside in a mobile home (in front of which can be found a pair of pink, plastic flamingos, accounting for the film's title) on Philpot Road in Phoenix, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore. After learning that Divine has been named "the filthiest person alive" by a tabloid paper, rivals Connie (Mink Stole) and Raymond Marble (David Lochary) set out to destroy the tight-knit family but come undone in the process.

The Marbles run an "adoption clinic," which is actually a black-market baby ring. They kidnap young women, have them impregnated by their manservant, Channing (Channing Wilroy), and sell their babies to lesbian couples. The proceeds are used to finance a network of dealers selling heroin in inner-city elementary schools. The Marbles send a spy named Cookie (Cookie Mueller) to the trailer in the guise of what Crackers thinks is a date. In one of the film's most infamous scenes, he has sex with her whilst crushing a live chicken between them as Cotton looks on voyeuristically. Cookie then informs the Marbles about Divine's real identity, her whereabouts, and her family, as well as information about her upcoming birthday party.

The Marbles send human feces to Divine as a birthday "gift" with a card proclaiming themselves "the filthiest people alive". Worried her title has been seized, Divine proclaims whoever sent the package must die and her two associates agree. Meanwhile, at the Marbles, Channing dresses up as Connie and Raymond, wearing her clothes and imitating their earlier overheard conversations. When the Marbles return home, they catch Channing imitating them and react with outrage, firing him and locking him in a closet.

As Divine's birthday celebration starts, the Egg Man (Paul Swift), who delivers eggs to Edie daily confesses his love for her and proposes marriage. She accepts his proposal and he carries Edie off in a wheelbarrow for a honeymoon around the egg industry. The birthday party starts as the Marbles arrive to spy on it. They witness a topless dancing woman with a snake, a contortionist who "lip syncs" a song with his exposed anus, and the gifts Divine receives, such as a pig's head and an axe. They call the police, but this backfires when Divine and the other party goers kill the cops. Divine hacks up their bodies with the axe and the revelers eat them.

After the party ends, Divine and Crackers head to the Marbles' house, where they lick and rub everything in their house to spread their "filthiness", which excites them to the point of engaging in oral sex. Licking the furniture also causes it to "reject" the Marbles when they return home: when they try to sit down, the cushions fly up, throwing them to the floor. Divine and Crackers find Channing in a closet, tie him up and take him to the basement where the two pregnant girls are held. They free both girls and allow them to emasculate him with a knife, although the characters mistakenly use the word castrate to describe Channing's mutilation.

Meanwhile, Connie and Raymond burn Divine's beloved trailer to the ground. Afterwards, Crackers, Cotton and Divine find the trailer reduced to flame and ash. This is the last straw for Divine, and as Connie and Raymond find that Channing is dead and the two girls are freed, Divine takes them hostage at gunpoint. She then calls the local media to witness the Marbles' trial and execution, as she proclaims her belief in "filth politics":

Blood does more than turn me on, Mr. Vader. It makes me come. And more than the sight of it, I love the taste of it. The taste of hot, freshly killed blood...Kill everyone now! Condone first degree murder! Advocate cannibalism! Eat shit! Filth is my politics! Filth is my life!

Divine holds a "kangaroo court", asks Cotton and Crackers for testimony, and sentences the Marbles to death for "first degree stupidity" and "assholism". They tie the Marbles to a tree, coating them in tar and feathers. Divine then shoots them in the head and the media leave shortly afterward, satisfied with their scoop of a "live homicide".

Divine, Crackers, and Cotton talk about where to base their seat of operations next and they enthusiastically decide to relocate to Boise, Idaho. The infamous ending starts as Crackers, Cotton and Divine walk down the street, where they spot a dog and its owner. The dog defecates on the sidewalk, and Divine sits down next to it. She takes the feces with her hand and puts it in her mouth, proving that not only is she the filthiest person alive, but the filthiest actress alive as well.

Cast

Soundtrack

The film used a number of obscure and not-so-obscure hits of the late '50s/early '60s, supposedly in John Waters' record collection when he made the film. They were released as a soundtrack CD in 1997 on the 25th anniversary release of the film on DVD.

  1. "The Swag" - Link Wray and His Ray Men
  2. "Intoxica" - The Centurions
  3. "Jim Dandy" - LaVern Baker
  4. "I'm Not a Juvenile Delinquent" - Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers
  5. "The Girl Can't Help It" - Little Richard
  6. "Ooh! Look-a-There, Ain't She Pretty?" - Bill Haley & His Comets
  7. "Chicken Grabber" - The Nighthawks
  8. "Happy, Happy Birthday Baby" - The Tune Weavers
  9. "Pink Champagne" - The Tyrones
  10. "Surfin' Bird" - The Trashmen
  11. "Riot in Cell Block #9" - The Robins
  12. "(How Much is) That Doggie in the Window" - Patti Page

The song "Happy, Happy Birthday Baby" is used as a replacement for "Sixteen Candles", which appeared in the original 1972 cut of the film. (For the 1997 reissue, "Sixteen Candles" could not be used in the film or the soundtrack due to copyright problems.) The original version of Pink Flamingos also used a brief excerpt of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, which was removed for the re-release.

DVD release

Pink Flamingos was released in the John Waters Collection DVD box set along with the NC-17 version of A Dirty Shame, Desperate Living, Female Trouble, Hairspray, Pecker, and Polyester. It was also released in a 2004 special edition with extra features.

Alternate versions

  • The 25th anniversary re-release version contains a re-recorded music soundtrack, re-mixed for stereo, plus 15 minutes of deleted scenes preceded by the film, introduced by John Waters.
  • Because of this film's explicit nature, it has been edited for content many times all over the world. Canadian censors recently restored five of the seven scenes that were originally edited in that country. The United Kingdom has never seen the complete version of the film. A town on Long Island, New York banned the film altogether. The Japanese laserdisc version contains a blur superimposed over all displays of pubic hair. Prints also exist that were censored by the Maryland Censor Board.
  • The first UK video release of Pink Flamingos in November 1981 (prior to BBFC video regulation requirements) was completely uncut. It was issued by Palace as part of a package of Waters films they had acquired from New Line Cinema. The package included Mondo Trasho (double-billed with Sex Madness), Multiple Maniacs (double-billed with Cocaine Fiends), Desperate Living and Female Trouble. The 1990 video re-release of Pink Flamingos (which required BBFC approval) was cut by 3m 4s, the 1997 issue lost 2m 42s, and the pre-edited 1999 print was cut by 2m 8s.

Audience participation

The film has a reputation as a midnight movie classic cult with audience participation similar to The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

  • The Funday Pawpet Show holds what is called the "Pink Flamingo Challenge," in which the ending to the movie is played to the audience while they eat a (preferably chocolate) confection. Videos of the show are forbidden from showing the movie clip, only the reaction of the audience.
  • People watching it in the theater often received free "Pink Phlegmingo" vomit bags.

Banned

The film was banned in Australia, some provinces in Canada and Norway. It was eventually released on VHS in Australia in the late 1980s, but distribution of the video has since been discontinued[citation?].

Sequel

John Waters wrote a sequel to this film entitled Flamingos Forever. It takes place 15 years after the action of the original film, showing Babs' return to Baltimore with Cotton, Crackers, Miss Edie, and her new son/grandson Dwayne (the result of incest with her elder son, Crackers), an 8-year-old transvestite. Their foe in this film is Vera Venninger, Connie Marble's sister, and her husband, Wilbur, a necrophile who runs a mortuary. Troma Films offered to finance the picture for $600,000 but it was never made because of the death of Edith Massey, and later that of Divine, whose roles were integral to the plot. Waters was also uncomfortable with TROMA's editing facilities, which at that time were Moviolas from the very early days of film editing. The screenplay to this work is available with those of Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living in a collection entitled Trash Trio. Waters said in an interview that the sequel would have to involve Divine defecate and the dog eating it; however, this scene does not appear in the screenplay. The sequel is considered by both Waters and fans as being impossible to make without Divine.

See also

References

External links

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