Crossing the Line – Pink Flamingos

We’re back with quite a film!  Probably the most disgusting and disturbing American film to come out of Crossing the Line, Pink Flamingos (1972), was cult director John Water’s first foray into film, and it made quite the impression.

Tagline: The filthiest people alive! Their loves, their hates and their unquenchable thirst for notoriety!

Synopsis: Babs Johnson comes under the crosshairs of Raymond and Connie Marble, who wish to usurp her title as the filthiest person alive.  Raymond and Connie kidnap young women, have their manservant impregnate them, then sell the children to lesbian couples.  The proceeds of this baby ring go towards heroin sales to inner-city schools.  Babs and her tightly knit family will have none of it, and after a series of depraved acts on both group’s parts, Raymond and Connie are captured, tried in a kangaroo court, and executed in front of the press.

Interesting Fact: The dog feces in the infamous final scene are real. According to director John Waters, the dog was fed steak for three days beforehand.

Objectionable material: Nudity, cross-dressing, unpleasant homosexuality, unpleasant heterosexuality, slavery, murder, rape, drug use, cannibalism, the consumption of dog shit, the murder of a live chicken, wooden acting, the use of shock to simulate intelligent critique, eggs on a fat woman’s bountiful cleavage, incest, a naked transvestite, drug dealing, emasculation, kidnapping, a talking asshole, more camp than Adam West’s Batman

Disturbing Quote: Kill everyone now! Condone first degree murder! Advocate cannibalism! Eat shit! Filth is my
politics! Filth is my life!

MBRFT: I want to first point out that I’m writing this review two months after we watched this movie, which would be like if I wrote a detailed analysis of the 2000 Presidential Debate between Gore and Bush right now (sigh).

“Pink Flamingos” is awful in every conceivable way. The acting, cinematography, dialogue, staging and even focus are sorely lacking. It’s not a horror movie, but it’s shockingly gory at times. It’s not a porno movie, but it’s shockingly explicit at times. It’s sort of like a choreographed freak-show. I’d actually compare it to “Jackass: The Movie.” It’s like a group of social misfits and outcasts (who somehow found each other before the invention of the internet) all got together with a camera and played an elaborate game of truth or dare. That’s not to say there isn’t a plot loosely connecting the various gross-out vignettes. The whole mess is edited down into a fairly entertaining package.

The iconic cult flick embodies a true punk rock spirit by thumbing its nose at societal norms and making the art form accessible to any pack of idiots with a camera and a shame deficiency. It washes away the titillating sexual freedom of 60’s cinema by proudly proclaiming that everyone is allowed to be involved, even the ugly. We get to see an extended un-simulated blow job between two men and a sex scene that leaves a chicken dead. And of course a talking asshole makes a second appearance in our film series.

Waters’ film is quintessentially indie because it’s inclusive and promotes the relevancy of the outsider in cinema. He seems to allow anyone to get involved as long as they are committed to making the most tasteless and exploitive trash possible. If Hollywood is Omega House, then Waters’ band of followers are like Animal House, throwing a party that you are kind of curious to go to but are really fucking glad you didn’t. He casts an overweight drag queen as his leading lady and has no problem featuring a subplot about raped women chained in a basement and forced to carry babies to term so they can be sold to lesbian couples (did I mention it’s a comedy?). The movie has no moral center and doesn’t want one. It’s refreshingly free of consequences and judgment. And yet its anti-heroes are strangely likeable. On top of that, it’s funny and clever. I recommend everyone watch it once in their lifetime. And stay until the end.

PsychoLarry: There is a lot of depravity in Pink Flamingos, and a lot of bizarre stuff you would never expect to find in a film made in Baltimore, but that is not what’s shocking about this film.  What’s really amazing is that with only $12,000 John Waters managed to put together a cast that was willing to do on film what he wanted them to do.  He found a couple that had no problem having sex while they killed a chicken between their humping bodies.  He found a cross-dressing man who was willing to give his friend a blow job while calling him “son” then eat real dog shit and smile about it.  Waters’ even found a man who could make his asshole talk and was fine with showing off this skill with a camera pointed so that his lower intestine was visible.  Casting a film with no budget is hard; casting a film with no budget using amateurs and getting them to do the craziest things you can think up is amazing.

Flamingos is absolutely a counter-culture film, spitting in the face of every taboo that Waters could come up with, and it has certainly grown up to be a huge cult hit, but in the end I don’t think it’s a great film by any stretch.  As a comedy it relied entirely on shock value, with the characters droning through their lines like they had better places to be then huffing poppers or raping someone.  It’s not something you’d normally see, but it’s hardly witty, and seems more along the lines of Howard Stern and his school of shock comedy.  In fact I can’t remember anyone laughing at anything that happened in the movie except as a way of covering disgust.  As a critique of the porn craze spawned by “Deep Throat” and “Debbie Does Dallas” it fell just as flat: showing a gay blow job isn’t exactly the most inspired way to mock pornography.

There are plenty of things you could credit Pink Flamingos with inspiring (Two Girls, One Cup, Lemon Party, and Goatse spring to mind), but I don’t know that it spawned any sort of cultural revolution.  Pink Flamingos planted itself firmly in the cultural landscape as something new and different, and something that no one creative really felt like mimicking.  A naked transvestite and a literal shit-eating grin are uses of shock value in the place of intelligent film making or criticism of society.  Also, killing the chicken was a terrible act no matter how Waters feels like justifying it.

Screaming Girl: I haven’t watched Pink Flamingos since this summer, in about August. I was supposed to write this column about a month ago but with my work and school schedule I decided to ignore PsychoLarry and now finally write it. However, I promised him that I would finish by the end of the election so here I go.

I don’t remember much about the movie but here is what I do remember. There was an old fat woman in a baby pen wearing next to nothing and eating eggs. Bad acting. A creepy guy having sex with a girl and killing a chicken at the same time which led to the least exciting sex scene ever. Divine. Slave women forced to have babies in order to sell them to couples. Very bad acting. Awkward blow-job from the characters who were supposed to be mother and son. Finally, a gaping butthole and Divine eating dog poo.

This movie was stupid and gross. Call me prude but if I were going to dress up as a movie character and watch it at midnight I’d rather go to the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Fun factoid: one of the reporters from the movie plays Mr. Conrad in MBRFT’s upcoming movie Sixteen Blue.

Mind Fuckability Rating: If you can do that it’s time to see your proctologist.

-When you stare into the abyss of a man’s gaping asshole, the abyss stares back at you!  Join us again someday, when we look at some other film that I’m sure will disgust and offend everyone!


4 Comments on “Crossing the Line – Pink Flamingos”

  1. well… looky, looky, looky.

  2. Doctor Brown says:

    my dad loves this film. I fortunately have yet to see it. YEEEEEEUUUUUUUCK.

  3. WKR says:

    Perry and Romney and Bachmann, et al. are all talking assholes, prolapsed sphincters, dirt shoot extremities, and flagrant hypocrites. I’l bet “Pink Flamingos” is their beloved icon.

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