Pink Flamingos

Pink Flamingos ★★★★

Pink flamingos while not John Waters’ grandest achievement in story pacing (Female Trouble, Multiple Maniacs) The film is much more than just shock value, under all the grotesque imagery, innuendos and notorious stomach turning moments it has monumental importance to cinema. Breaking barriers of cinema itself, showcasing raw talent, launching Divine into popular media and having genuine, heartfelt messages. The rebellious edge, political undertones, overacting, sensation performances, sexual fetishes, iconic speeches are all a combination of Water’s determination to bring something unique, bold, refreshing and relatable to the public eye which he succeeded.

Pink flamingos will offend just about everyone who dares to watch having every disturbing, moral twisting element you can imagine however its handled in such a comedic, purposeful way it’s impossible not to chuckle in laughter or squeal at the final sequence. The film shouldn’t on all accounts work and be critically appalled however it works because of its universal message of being yourself, Divines impeccable dynamic energy, memorable supporting cast, extravagant makeup, costume design and hilarious dialog exchangers. I found the film a breeze to watch being used to Water’s other work but still had me gagging, gasping and getting heated at the animal abuse in the chicken sexual scene of which it was slaughtered. (Being an animal advocate and vegetarian.) But apart from that heinous, selfish section I adored the picture relishing in its strange, quirky characters, life style and dark humour that landed mostly.
Appealing to hysteric media outlets, banning the film from being shown and Water’s making the film from his dad’s helping hand this was a passion project that can’t be understated. Revolutionary in its approach for the time serving much as the circus wants to entice an audience in bizarre, mysterious ways having no footage of the picture in the trailers adding more appeal, frustration. Saddening that most people forget the subtle messaging scattered in the film, the transgender coming out section was surprising to witness, yet only to treat like everything in the story a joke. I understood the film on my first watch not looking away at the dog shit eating scene as I knew it was coming and found it quite amusing watching Divine force herself to cheerfully smile for the cameras.
Playing a outlaw criminal mastermind such as her previous ventures into cinema, Divine lives by the identity of Babs Johnson, looking after her mentally-ill mother. Performed superbly by Water’s regular Edith Massey who lights up the screen being the second best presents in the film apart from Divine. Opening onto a lime green trailer surrounded by symbolic objects in the pink flamingo plastic statue, chickens and a marble, shinny ball perched on a scrotum like object. The music very fitting having folk type guitars play & mighty drum beats to a white, drawn flamingo logo having a love heart underneath. Water’s is obsessed with showcasing his delinquent fictional family in the upmost violations of cinematic guidelines, having everyone commit such destructive, inhuman acts treating diabolical themes of rape as pleasurable jokes.
Pink Flamingos in a way tries to escape from categorisation being its own manifesting entity. Every extra no matter how insignificant is stated in a drawn out sequence zooming into the flamingo, plastic bag blowing in the wind, the titles have a 1950s retro design, illustrated around kissing flamingo doodles, various feeding young flamingos and pond spraying. The low budget athletic works in the films favour simplistically suited being backed by the symbolic props scattered around the trailer. A narration by Waters plays cutting to the exclusive filthiest person alive newspaper getting a massive chuckle out of me already in Divines mouth open, arms held back sassy pose in black & white. Ableisum is presented right of the bat in Edie’s living space being in a crib treating her as a baby having a obsession consuming eggs later falling in love with the much discussed egg man. Mother holds a teddy heart cutting to a brief glimpse at Divines slippers and feet going into them. Mary Vivian Pearce as travelling friend Cotton is introduced in her naked men poster covered wall, trumpet covered in a zebra cover. Zooming out from a plate “god bless our mobile home.” As Divine in her evening dress, fluffy white slipper she struts in to the front area. Edie begging for eggs, in the criterion blu ray of which I watched it on you can really see the freezing temperatures they worked, to complete the picture, huddled up the trailer. Edith even has a meat chop toy in her head waving it around, 3900 street sign zoom out that Waters stole from the area revealed in a 2001 commentary I had intrigue to listen to the bizarre facts about the shooting.

Next to a behind tree branches shot of Marble home the rivals that sabotage Divines famous reputation to the public, law enforcement. Mink Stole is fabulous as Connie Marble in her bright red hair in a uncut shot due to getting it in one take for money is something I really found heart-warming, a log budget passion project made to entertain its cult followers. The characterization is stellar here having Stole perform in a cold hearted manner not caring about the interviewees having quotable lines throughout the film. Her makeup, fashion sense, hair, pointed witch like glasses, flower pin, attitude is striking, eye catching to the viewer. A detailed touch is the five cigarettes placed in the glass in her so called professional interview room, flowery curtains behind and a type writer that is Waters presumably using their office as the set.
The interviewee calls her a “C**t” asking how can she be so mean in herself indulgent response “there are two types of people.” Cutting to the white chickens in their coop as Divine shouts at her son played realistically by Danny Mills. Crackers has some of the most intense section of the entire picture in the chicken rape, torturous scene yet adding a light hearted innocence to other moments shocking me. The setting is in Phoenix, Maryland only seeing the home of Marbles and the outdoor area of the trailer mostly.
Edih is told nursery rhymes of humpty dumpty and panicing doomsday events of no chicken being left to lay her precious eggs Edith even admits she loses eggs more than her husband the eggman who they get married later on around act two. The Marbles run a black market baby ring, kidnapping helpless women then impregnated them by a manservant to deal with lesbian couples. The documentary spirit of the film gives it a unique viewing experience using non professional actors working towards a comedic stick to the system in no remorse. Divine slams the trailer door shut, fur scarf around her, circler pattered dress, eye brows reaching the heavens, yellowish hair – all ready to hit the town not before meeting Cookie outside for the business requirements. Walking past a spooky little hut entering the 1970s classic car when the window opens backed up by funky guitar music. Cleverly the audio is cut out to Divines monstrous laughing using silence as the image of Divine belting open her mouth is enough expression used twice in the car ride, taunting hitch hikers looking for a ride.
Laughing at a young lad, swearing at mail man almost getting in the car then falling over having unconvincing side burns. People around you can make you sick as Channing’s reads the articles in the news paper next to him interesting objects of religion like a Marry statue contrasting to the Marbles disgraceful life style. Doll having a queen’s hat on placed upon the rooms table but is actually the saint Prague that appears in Multiple Maniacs & Female Trouble that I previously watched on my 21st birthday. Then cutting to an influence wall by Waters having movie & television posters of works he admires. (I a women series, Boom Tim Burton. The sickest plot line in cinema I’ve seen up to this point reveals its ugly head in which a child, mother arrive to the Marbles house to get noodles a baby for the lesbian couple. Its fine now in our society but back then it was seen as a horrid act of shame; the pit was filmed in the farm basement that is effective appearing Closter phobic, the women dressed in white dresses is cut up, rugged and dirty.
Saxophone music plays to Divines car pulling up, she confidently struts down a walkway past an illegally graffiti drawn political statement by Walter’s friend which at the time pissed a lot of people off.”Free tex wats son xx” Divine shoplifts meat under her dress to certain areas (complete with fake pubic hair.) whiling filming in the store, behind a young girl going about her day was this first real shocker points in the film apart from the mother in the crib. The music says “delinquent” just as a random man eyes Divine up to extreme eye roll, the man also holding sausages I’m not sure this was foreshadowing for later surprise or just a sexual thing. The second best scene in the film is next being only behind the iconic red dress speech in act three. Close ups of Divines heels to a fantastic song choice leads to the walking down town in public sequence. I absolutely loved everything about the scene from the way it was shot, purpose and free spirited not caring what other people think of her, she’s Divine in the vengeance element of attention.
Artistry here is key Waters thought about every detail in the way to present Divines sassy walk leaving behind a trail of anarchy, or only to the ones that are not open minded. Divine climbs up the steps leading to a excellent wide shot of harbour place (a popular American destination.) Waters filmed everything having a eye for standout location shots to fit the story in a visually pleasing way or in some quite the opposite. These first 20 minutes is quite tame compared to the explosive weight of emotions viewers will feel later on, so I recommend relaxing to these serene melancholy paced scenes before Waters decides to push everything upon you from the gates of the abnormal, fetish realm. Open space of river, buildings, lesbian bars cutting to Divine walking down the steps, in the back a waving American flag to the lyrics “the girl can’t help it, she can’t help it.” Previously Divine stood in front of Harbour place could represent her goal to take over the world of filth, her dominating personality and drag queen apiece.
Divine walks past a theatre as everyone is stopped in their tracks at her casually looking at people. A African American family turn & glare, a man in black glasses is embarrassed having hand over mouth in his car. The reaction of these unknowing general public people being greeted by Divines fabulousness is priceless to cinema, Waters secretly shot the scenes driving in his car what are apparent but gets the glorious people reaction trying to ignore her putting their heads down in fearful submission. Divine opens her mouth at one point to passing people, she walks past the busy area of Christmas shoppers, traffic in a hurricane of her attention. The scene represents Divines unstoppable character persona, attitude to life and can be seen as an allegory for lack of gay rights in the 1970s. The next shots are clumsily shot in haste, one of Divine tripping slightly on a corner, a beautiful mansion with Divine going up to the gates luckily the crew not being seen up the owners.
Waters team broke all the rules for Pink Flamingos and is highlighted even more vividly watching it a second time aided by Criterions superb commentary by Waters speaking about the events. Divine takes a pee in the front of the mansion, wiping herself chucking the singular tissue on the grass escaping into the Night. Miss Marble tears up the filthiest person paper starring Divine in frustration wanting there self to be known as the rules of the filth. David Lochary plays Raymond Marble on a side quest of stalking young women with binoculars having bright blue hair contrast to Connie’ red hair, having a red scarf around him in front of the employ me building (Water’s got money from here to make film!) Two girls jump on the stone ledge as the score does a goofy sound effect, shirtless underneath Raymond stubbles down a leafy slope to a tree to watch them. Raymond earns money by exposing himself having a sausage (or later turkey.) tied to his penis that almost made me throw up in my mouth, thank you Mr Waters.
“Here chick, chick, chick.” Song plays as Raymond wearing an opera mask (Reminding me of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange,) flashes himself steal their purses. The chick, chick song referring to the chickens feature in the film presenting another example why the song choices are spectacular also increases the black comedy element much more making some moments more watchable. Raymond returns home in a black 70s Cadillac having these red bullets like rear lights, blinkers on headlights while the back the camera pays attention to them.
A women is seen running from the taxi without paying (Waters crew did this on a daily basis to avoid paying for the film, the drivers went metal.) Cookie Mueller plays Cookie and is introduced behind frame stills from the film night game randomly pinned on the wall & a absurdist picture of a woman shooting up drugs. The Marbles enlist Cookie as a spy, gathering information about Divine by hanging out with the unhinged son Crackers who has the most devilish of hobbies. The Marbles take about their porn businesses & selling heroin around school ventures seeing Channing their servant as beneath them being fertile, discussing Divine as a common murderer nothing more special. Raymond proclaims they are the filthiest people alive cutting to the glazing ball, flamingo in front of the trailer as Cookie now undercover dating Divines son is greeted by Edith covered in food going into her cleavage. “What’s wrong with her!?” Cookie asks to the son’s response of nothing being the norm that she’s kept within a baby’s crib.
Cotton & Crackers talk of their master plan leading to film's most infamous, disgracefully shown moments in the chicken rape scene that Water’s himself knew what he was doing and doesn’t feel guilty to this day, comparing it to the fast food companies of which he has a point. He discusses this on the criterions commentary two alongside it celebrating its 50th anniversary. Eddie as Edith has an impeccable laugh 27 minutes, 45 seconds into the film that I recommend checking out, she wore crocked, rotting fake teeth for her career from this point onwards. After killing the chicken they later eat it as Water’s crew had no food out in the woods filming in freezing trailers, outdoors resorting to making camp fired. Cookie gets introduced to all the family apart from Divine being cheerfully reassured of a normal evening by the mention of pet chickens but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.(I have pet chickens myself.) Raped by Crackers while crushing a live chicken Cookies is watched to Cotton’s amusement making her horney. Such a sentence is one I thought I would never write but this is the peak of disgracefully realised cinema shot in a time of politics discomfort and much more freedom in what you filmed. I almost stopped watching the film after this scene, unwatchable to the eyes of a kind hearted person that will put many off Pink Flamingos not even mentioning its importance to cinema.
The sequence of the chicken is terrible but so is the cow slaughter in Apocalypse Now, Nostalgias crow burning scene and Dry summers dog death. Cinema history is full of animal abuse in section, all we as a audience can do is point it out and make sure it doesn’t happen again as art should never involve any life form being killed! The egg man arrives in a use of comedic props in the selection of different types of eggs of brown, miniature, fresh eggs in a suite case. “The finest of the fine!” the egg man states feeding into Edith’s obsession of consuming the eggs. The Marbles pickup a travelling women wanting to dropped off at the nearest town escalating to a gagging becoming their next victim. The camera work in the back ofthe car is shaky,audio muffles slightly and its helps the atmosphere that its shot at night.
Zooming out of a chained up leg to another horrid display of Waters sickest plot point, writing an insemination of masturbating in your hand putting it in a needle and finally putting it in a syringe! Impregnating the pickup girl from before in a rather vile, detailed long shot of spine tingling dread. The consequences of trauma is never explored into the film focusing on the actual comedy side of darkness of humanity in a generation of hatred towards the government in 1970s.I would jokingly say your only a true film critic when you are brave enough to review in depth, Pink Flamingos because it tests your ability of how much mayhem you can handle at once while looking at the historical effect, meanings and way it was created. A person without humour or understanding the context & reasons for this films place in the 1970s most likely will despise every second of this possessed ride of sexual intensity.
The Marbles are scene comparing their self to the greatest things in life, sucking each other’s feet creating the theme of another odd fetish to a lime blue background. This section we don’t see Divine for a while often developing the Marbles insanity motivations as Cookie informs them about Divines Babs' real identity, whereabouts, family and the birthday party. The reason Pink Flamingos is a cult classic, drew massive hippy audiences at the time is because it’s so punk, anti government, making fun of itself and Divine became a popular mascot for rebellious, fanatic rage. Researching, studding the film has been a honour because its reflects on important time in America, represents things I believe in and it’s not afraid of anyone going beyond the norms of film making.
Cinema made in struggle often turn out be the most special, there’s really nothing else out in cinema like Pink Flamingos even Waters other delicious Divine trash experiences seen tame compared to the crudeness, revolting nature of this filthy 90 minutes.
The film plays with gender expectations in that the Marbles wear the opposite underwear, Raymond having her underwear on & Connie men’s pulling them back making a slapping sound. In the back is a picture of a man stood a raft, The actress who plays Connie is very skinny here and in a intriguing fact Waters named Divine Babs after a monkey TV show he watched in which the monkey was dressed up like a glamour girl. Next scene the Marbles go to a post office all shot on real location having the authentic post man receive a parcel from them to Divine. Theirs a picture of President Nixon then happy birthday theme plays in its classic form as the man stamps the box on the side reading “the filthiest people alive.” The colouring on the costumes is artistically wonderful with the Marbles wearing the opposite colours of their dyed hair on t shirts. Cutting to the grill the murdered chicken was cooked on to Divine outside the trailer in the daytime black spotted, golden humongous bra strap outside waving the spatula in the air.
Divine applied to all types of audiences bikers, hippies, punks, gays or just people who wanted entertainment, something unique and her purpose was make fun of the whole drag queen situation. Waters friend from high school plays a mail man who gets held up by Divine on his neck worrying about how he found the area while Edith suckles on eggs trying to calm her down about the chicken nightmarish thoughts. “The next package you send is getting shoved up your little arse, can you comprehend that!” as the actor laughs unprofessionally on camera before running off. Divines bra matchers with the back of the trailer patterning in the next scenes. (Facts that Divine did shit in box while filming and just kept it on the side!) “God all mighty someone’s sent me a bowl movement!” Divine shouts “A turd mum, a turd!” Crackers points at the Marbles box of human feces to Divine in party celebration, having a card addressing "Fatso" then self indulgently stating themselves "the filthiest people alive.” Frightened Divine declares that whoever sent the package must die on all account! Divine is extremely skilled at getting overly angry rolling her eyes and her blue eye shadow up to the top of her head is very expressive.
“Remember the Chinese are not as intelligent as you or I.” A blatantly racist line spoken by Raymond entering their home coming back from the package was unexpected. A twist in that when the Marbles are gone, Channing dresses in Connie's clothes dress, makeup,even underwear and imitates their fanciful sentences from earlier having a deep transgender message that is very clear in coming out situations or being caught doing acts to your parents. The film is embracing its themes yet can go over people's heads in a misunderstanding of comedy. Connie slaps Channing after overhearing the play acting conversations with him, I found this particular scene went on too long. Outraged they start mocking him, they lock him in a closet (actually the houses pantry.) outside a palm tree sculpture and in the closest another painting of a women sitting on a stone in the middle of the ocean and glistening stars above. Themes of classism, race are explored moving to a outside view of the trailer of the sweet moment of Edith & egg man hold hands and kiss. But you can she actress Eddie teeth chattering on screen due to the weather then cutting to the party with one kid having a Nazi swastika arm band on, reused extras from Waters crew and members in drag gobbling the buffet up.
Marbles go to spy on Divine's birthday party having a gigantic pink cake but her gifts as you can imagine won’t be remotely normal. Waters cleverly uses unknown B side record tracks to play within Pink Flamingos in a classical noir drum type beat when the Marbles first see the trailer walking out behind the fields. Divine dressed in a white, marriage gown receives A-200 cigarettes fake vomit, lice shampoo and the goulash image of the film Divine laughs, no audio just Walters jazz music to her holding a pig's head. Communist reference or just plain weirdness it works as an unforgettable image also cleverly being an audience misdirection looking like a Champagne bottle, opened to reveal a snout that she squeezes. Edith swallows fried eggs in a close up, Divine gets high on drugs, naked girls dance to accordions (That is the costume designer.) Snake acts in back to bongos playing while the Marbles applaud at the party phone the police in order to win the war of filth. A contortionist who shows off his shoulder dislocating skills, prolapsed anus to the rhythm of the song "Surfin' Bird" (Known by modern audiences to the Family guy episode of Peter being addicted to the song.) The crimes the picture committed is numerous, but people forget that it was all made in joyful innocence of creating something bigger than themselves, a statement of a time period.
David E. Gluck plays the Egg Man who in a raw, wholesome scene confesses his marriage, carted Edith off in a wheelbarrow, attached are tin cans. (The actor struggling to push her visibly from her weight) The police arrive with one having glasses looking like a student prodject hilariously, one man appearing authentically as a cop and one holding a radio. Crackers in watch out post sat on tree hops of to warn the guest running separately into different directions, some staying to fight or so it seems. The front of the trailer is a mess from the party, abandoned bath tub, litter every wheir and Divine preparing her plan for action, Waters discussing in the commentary the legal troubles he had banning dancing bum hole scene but not being able to take out the final shit eating scene because it didn’t break any laws or in Water’s own words “It’s not even in the bible” Waters the director seems like a down to earth fellow in the audio making the defensiveness of the film have meaning or admitting he did in fact break laws.
Sirens, fake wigs, hand guns blazing across an ambush on the officers, chopping up bodies, eating them introducing the cannibalistic theme later lamented by Divine in her famous red dress speech the film’s best moment. “Eat shit, condone cannibalism, filth is my life.” And her standout line “I am Divine!” The film turns into a redneck horror comedy for this brief sequence watching them claw their way picking up their organs ( Props by the butchers that provided them with the pigs head.) Night of the living dead inspiration in this but not having the same impact in the gore element because modern audiences are used to this now. 50 years on still jaw dropping in the portrayals of heavy themes, watching Divine gets hungry for excitement hitting a meat cleaver into the police as crude, gothic and maddening.
Shots of surrounding parks as the black Cadillac drives speedily to its next target that backfires on Raymond's perverted money making plot. Stalking a woman dressed in a black spotted dress, brushing her hair is interrupted but Raymond flashing his bacon dangling of his penis, the women is at first thought to be kinky herself getting involved grabbing her own breast. But Water’s smartly once again uses deception to the audience showing that’s it’s a transgender woman who’s not completed her reassignment surgery. I adore this scene as Raymond flees getting his comeuppance; the women still stays in touch with John Waters to this day in a delightful fact I learnt, who is happily married. Elizabeth plays the transgender woman, apparently a very early or the first example of this in cinema history that really freaked people at the time.
Divine and Crackers head enter the Marbles' house, she’s dressed in blue holding a revolver ready to kill spouting insults that Miss Marble has chapped lips. Uninspired conversations and a few things contrary to what they actually talk about. They lick, rub the furniture picking up cow glass statues, then getting Horney leading to a overlong blow job scene, Divine fellates Crackers in the theme of incest, adding even more disgusting, unwatchable, pornographic scenes to the already naked loving script. Divine in her long tong slides her tongue down the banister on the stairs, spitting on the table with Divine saying “Juicy.” Waters would cut the hardcore sex scene between Divine & Crackers if he wanted to, but then it technically would be censored and people complain. This section is easily the worst in the film, just feeling like wasted time for other cut scenes that have more substance.
The Marbles burn Divine's home, the beloved family hide out trailer in fiery shots of flames swooping consuming everything, Miss Marble calls the fire beautiful reflecting on her red hair. Breaking every safety protocol using gas canister poring it all over inside the trailer, then just throwing a lit stick inside the door, we finally see the structure collapse and I found it quite depressing to watch even thought the characters are hideous, you still in a strange way find yourself caring wanting them to win. The winter, dry woods could have started a forest fire but Waters needed the money shot of the trailer, Divine & Crackers hustle with Channing tied up in a classic Divine slap lots of dialog is said underneath in the basement here the overacting is terrible but all said correctly at least. The pit is a classic horror necessity almost being featured in low budget & Hollywood movies for the most part. Water’s leaves the camera fixated on one point to long without any interesting cuts, angels but her couldn’t do it at the time due to his equipment; he used tactical thinking to capture most tricky elements such as the cold freezing the lens. The three journey home on a mud path to the trailer fading away, previously the close up Waters used to Divines cackling laugh was superb and the audio is silent for the fire scene so the audio used is rattling objects.
The Marbles return home, their furniture cursed showcased in moving cushions like some carnival set. Channing has bled to death from being emasculated by castration by the two girls revenge. Divine and Crackers return to the Marbles' home, kidnap them in explosive yelling, gunpoint, and bring them to their woodland area. The local tabloid media witness the Marbles’ execution, one member holding the camera made the documentary Divine trash that’s also featured on the criterion blu ray. Gagged they are labelled by Divine in amazing quotations of "first-degree stupidity" and "assholism". The trail is a comedic classic sequence watching Divine in her iconic blood red dress; rectangle ear rings that flicker, extreme make up is wonderful. She poses for the cameras, smirking then threatening the news men before they change their appearance, names again. The kangaroo court it’s called, having a miniature wooden judges table they point out the horrors of the Marbles acts who are really the villains of the film as Divines family never killed anyone before hand, they are just disgustingly flamboyant in its highest form. Divine is asked are you a lesbian she says “yes I have done everything!” The filth rant of the century each sentence most intense than the last in Divines sassy delivery, she takes the spotlight feeling like a political speech or I guess it is in many ways.
The movement begins as Divine grabs her breasts sticks her tongue out next up the Marbles are tied to a tree, coated in sticky tar, feathers, shot in head in by Divine. The court represents theatrical protest, getting attention, “I will be queen one day!” Divine hails to the world before the critical support came or any attention from the public. “Shoot, shoot, shoot, kill, kill, kill.” The film is rebelling against the boundaries of cinematic expression in away never before seen. “I didn’t invite you to jerk off you know!” the front shot view of Divine is much like the great train robbery from 1904 used by Scorsese gangster flicks. The gun that was used is real Waters said in the commentary. Divine, Crackers, and Cotton enthusiastically move to Idaho wanting pink hair.
They three walk down the street, Divine dressed in a golden top here, Cotton holding a Boise sign but in a flash spot witnessing a tiny terrier dog defecating. Divine famously eats the d og shit proven on the footage, filming the dog actually producing shit they Divine eats it to “theirs that doggy in the window. The voice over by Waters says "not only the filthiest person in the world, but she is also the filthiest actress in the world.” Finishing the picture on the ultimate shocker as Divine winks starting a cultural phenomenon.
Overall this is a masterpiece in terms of its message, appeal of being different but on such a low budget there are flaws however that matters very little giving it golden charm above other cult films I’ve seen. A manufactured world like ours at the moment needs John Water’s films now more than ever before giving a beautiful politically incorrect experience that says “F” it I’m making fun of everyone! (Review written in 5.345 words by Film Critic Danny Kay on 28th of July 2022, I watched it on Criterion collection blu ray on 26th July 2022, Listened to audio commentary on the 27th)

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