Pink Flamingos: Even filthier on VHS!
The first installment of the three part documentary feature Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time premiered on numerous VOD platforms this week. Here are three essential exploitation epics for further research.
Pink Flamingos trailer
Pink Flamingos (1972)
In this sparkling vivisection of the post-JFK nuclear family, Raymond and Connie Marble (David Lochary and Mink Stole) wage battle against the Notorious Beauty Divine to secure the title of the Filthiest People Alive. How do you top a musically-inclined annular muscle, a mentally out-of-order mother figure (Edith Massey), brassiered, girdled, and living life in a playpen, or a 360lb. transvestite devouring dog doody without a cut? You don’t! (It is still hard to fathom how directly John Waters, the man who made filth fashionable, went on to direct PG-13 films for Universal Studios.) I was among the handful of curious first-nighters standing on line at Chicago’s 400 Theater that cold November night when the film made its debut. It was moved the next week to the Devon, its sister theatre down the street, where for the following year I spent one, sometimes two nights a week waiting for at least one audience member to hurl. This was my Rocky Horror... without the audience participation. (One can only imagine a movie theater floor covered with dead chickens, eggies, liver-lined panties, and pooch droppings.) According to Waters, “If someone vomits while watching one of my films, it’s like getting a standing ovation.” Ushers deserved hazard pay. A cult item not fit for the matinee set — the mere thought of watching Pink Flamingos during daylight hours puts a bad taste in one’s mouth.
Plan 9 from Outer Space trailer
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
Camp isn’t made, it’s born. Anyone who sets out to intentionally bring forth a bad movie will find the goal an easy (if not particularly rewarding) one to reach. Say what you will about the finished product here — the cardboard sets and flying percolator lids that wage a rear-screen attack over Hollywood skies are more convincing than any of the performances — Ed Wood was a man of conviction and resourcefulness. Morphine-soaked Bela Lugosi’s last role was cut short by death, causing the enterprising Wood to “double” him with his (much younger) chiropractor. Tor Johnson makes Casey Affleck’s mumblings sound like Rod Serling, Bunny Breckinridge checking out his fellow actors’ crotches is sublime, and never have the seams in a backdrop been more laughably noticeable. All this and Criswell, the man with the hypno-spitcurl, alerting viewers to the perils of “future events that will affect you in the future.”
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! trailer
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)
Russ Meyer and screenwriter Jack Moran took one look at Tura Satana and both agreed that she was “definitely Varla.” True that. The rapacious, ass-kicking force of nature proved to be a career-defining role for the actress. The salacious ring to the film’s title best sums up Meyer’s philosophical approach to his art. Originally called The Leather Girls, the name was retooled to reflect the director’s three favorite preoccupations: speed (Faster), sex (Pussycat) and violence (Kill! Kill!). The scorching desert shoot turned a few degrees hotter thanks to Satana’s pronounced contempt for teenage co-star Susan Bernard. (The ingénue’s stage mother was constantly causing a commotion of which the tough-minded Satana wanted no part.) Plus, there was constant friction between the director and his star. Still, Meyer admired Satana, saying she “was extremely capable. She knew how to handle herself. Don’t [email protected]#k with her! And if you [email protected]#k with her, do it well! She might turn on you!” He also lauded the actress’ remarkable performance and incalculable contributions to the film’s tone and visual style. But public back scratching aside, Meyer later cited their on-set antagonism as the primary reason for the film’s lasting fame. (I credit a prurient society and a noticeable lack of nudity.) it was the only time the two worked together, much to Meyer’s financial regret.