Saturday, April 13, 2024

Without Warning


Without Warning Poster

(1980) Directed by Greydon Clark; Written by Lyn Freeman, Daniel Grodnik, Bennett Tramer and Steve Mathis; Starring: Jack Palance, Martin Landau, Tarah Nutter, Christopher S. Nelson, Cameron Mitchell, Neville Brand, Sue Ane Langdon, Ralph Meeker and Larry Storch; Available on Blu-ray and DVD 

Rating: ***

I’m elated to participate, once again, in Brian Schuck’s (from Films Beyond the Time Barrier) “Favorite Stars in B Movies” blogathon. Be sure to check out all of the great entries! Today’s offering for Alien Invasion April is the little B-movie that could, Without Warning, featuring two Oscar winners and one nominee.

Showdown with the Alien

“…Makes perfect sense to me. They start out here in the country, they establish a foothold, and after they get us, they move in on the cities. That way they got a base to fight from. I’ll be damned if they get me without a fight. They’re not gonna get Sergeant Fred Dobbs easy. Not this time.” – Fred Dobbs (Martin Landau) 

With a handful of notable exceptions (Forbidden Planet, 2001: A Space Odyssey), science fiction movies were once considered strictly B-movie fare before Lucas and Spielberg changed the landscape forever with their mega-budget spectacles. Amidst this paradigm shift, however, there was still a place for cheaper drive-in pictures. Director Greydon Clark’s ultra-low-budget sci-fi thriller Without Warning* was produced in December 1979 and released in Spring 1980. Shooting took place over a three-week period, in and around the Paramount Ranch area in Agoura Hills, California. Clark and crew adopted Halloween’s (1978) formula, with a sci-fi twist: a silent killer from outer space stalks and kills a group of unsuspecting teenagers. The film also appeared under the alternate title, It Came Without Warning, which especially sounds like the ‘50s B-movies that provided its inspiration.   

* Fun Fact #1: The budget was reportedly $150,000, half of which went to Palance and Landau’s salaries.

Four Friends on a Camping Trip

The opening scene sets the tone, when an awkward father/son hunting trip goes horribly wrong. The action shifts to four “teens” (played by actors well into their 20s) heading for a weekend of camping and frivolity. While refueling their van at a remote gas station, they encounter the creepy proprietor, Joe Taylor (Jack Palance). As is always the case, they ignore his warning to stay away from the local lake. It soon becomes apparent (surprise, surprise) that they’re being stalked by someone or something – a realization that becomes painfully clear when two of the teens, Sandy and Greg (Tarah Nutter and Christopher S. Nelson) stumble upon a shack where their dead companions are hanging on hooks. After a hasty retreat, they make their way to a nearby bar, where Greg’s story is met with skepticism by the patrons – except for Fred Dobbs (Martin Landau)*, a paranoid Vietnam veteran with an axe to grind. The situation takes a turn for the worse when Dobbs attempts to take matters into his own hands. Meanwhile, an unseen assailant is lurking about in the woods, searching for its next victim. 

* Fun Fact #2: According to Nutter, she screamed so loudly during the shack scene that the walls, which were made of flimsy cardboard-like material, collapsed, necessitating a quick rebuild. 

** Fun Fact #3: Landau’s character was named after Humphrey Bogart’s character from Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). Like his namesake, he becomes more unhinged as the movie progresses.


Despite the miniscule budget, Greydon Clark took steps to make his movie look like a more expensive production. His ace-in-the-hole was renowned cinematographer Dean Cundey (in his fifth and final collaboration with Clark), who was fresh off his work with Halloween (1978). Cundey utilized hand-held Steadicam shots to simulate the alien’s point of view, and employed a fog machine to provide a reflective surface for the night shots. Keeping in mind the production’s limitations, Clark wisely chose not to reveal the alien until much later in the film. Instead, its presence is implied through shadows and its signature weapon,* floppy flying creatures (resembling something like a cross between a pancake and a sand dollar)** that immobilize its victims. Only Taylor, a seasoned hunter, has the presence of mind to do something about the pesky flying parasites, while everyone else in the movie just passively allows them to suck their blood. The alien***/**** was played by 7-foot-2-1/2-inch performer Kevin Peter Hall, who would go on to play Harry from Harry and the Hendersons, as well as the titular creature from Predator (which is frequently compared to this film for its many similarities). 

* Fun Fact #4: In the original script, the alien used a bow and arrows. 

** Fun Fact #5: Closeups of the flying creatures were shot during post-production, in Clark’s garage, with a three-person crew. 

*** Fun Fact #6: The alien head was created by Rick Baker. 

**** Fun Fact #7: The trumpet of an elephant was used for the alien’s final screech.

Greg, Sandy and Taylor

There’s some nice chemistry between Nutter and Nelson, who hold their own against veterans Palance and Landau. Although Sandy starts out as the typical screaming damsel in distress, she shows some backbone by the end of the film, during the final confrontation. While obviously attracted to her, Greg manages to keep his hormones in check long enough to do the right thing and provide emotional support to the visibly traumatized Sandy.

Taylor with Pickled Flying Creature

Jack Palance and Martin Landau seem to be enjoying themselves, playing characters that are, respectively, crazy and crazier. The more we learn about Taylor, the saner he becomes. He believes Sandy and Greg, but with a healthy dose of skepticism. It becomes clear that he knows about the alien and its habits, but he’s a loner, used to doing things his way, without the input or interference of other people. In typical Palance fashion, he hisses his lines with conviction with a self-aware gleam in his eyes. Dobbs, on the other hand, wants an audience, no matter how deranged his ramblings might sound. His paranoia reaches a zenith when he suspects Greg and Sandy are aliens that have assumed the shape of humans. Landau nearly crosses the line into self-parody with his over-the-top performance, yet he somehow reins his role in just enough to remain credible.

Bar Regulars with Bartender

Besides the headliners, the cast of Without Warning is a who’s who of veteran character actors. Cameron Mitchell (who becomes the film’s first victim) appears as a macho, alpha male father on a hunting trip with his reluctant 20-something son. Ralph Meeker (in his final film role) and Neville Brand add some color as a pair of bar patrons, and Sue Ane Langdon enjoys some brief time in the spotlight as Aggy, the spunky bartender. Larry Storch (F-Troop) provides a little comic relief as a befuddled scout master.* Besides the old pros, there’s veteran-actor-to-be David Caruso, in one of his first film roles, as a horny teenager (guess how he ends up).   

* Fun Fact #8: According to Clark, one of the crew members volunteered her son’s scout troop for the movie.

Frank Dobbs

Without Warning wouldn’t be a proper B-movie without the requisite genre clichés, including a cat appearing from nowhere to provide a jump scare, someone saying “This place gives me the creeps,” a vehicle that inexplicably fails to start, and a virginal final girl. In the unintentionally hilarious final confrontation, try not to facepalm as the alien gives the surviving protagonists every opportunity to destroy it, conveniently standing motionless while Sandy fiddles with a detonator. For his part, Taylor forgets everything he’s learned about hunting, running out in the open, yelling “Alien! Alien!” As silly as it can be at times, it’s fair to acknowledge that Without Warning walked so Predator could run. Sure, it’s as rough around the edges as origami made by kindergarteners, but that’s part of its charm. This was made quickly and on the cheap. The fact that it’s entertaining as well is only icing on the bloody cake.


Sources for this article: Blu-ray commentary by Greydon Clark; Featurette: “Greg and Sandy’s Alien Adventures: interviews with Actors Tarah Nutter and Christopher S. Nelson”; Featurette: “Independents Day with Dean Cundey”; Featurette: “Producers vs. Aliens: Interview with Co-writer/Co-Producer Daniel Grodnik”

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers

Earth vs the Flying Saucers Poster

(1956) Directed by Fred F. Sears; Written by Bernard Gordon and George Worthing Yates; Screen Story by Curt Siodmak; Suggested by “Flying Saucers from Outer Space,” by Major Donald E. Keyhoe; Starring: Hugh Marlowe, Joan Taylor, Donald Curtis, Morris Ankrum and Grandon Rhodes; Available on Blu-ray and DVD 

Rating: ***½ 

“Saucers were very prominent at that time, and Charles (Schneer) cut out a thing in the paper and said, ‘Let’s make a picture about flying saucers.’ I hesitated… but I thought it was a challenge to get… some sort of personality in the saucers, that there was some intelligence guiding them.” –  Ray Harryhausen (from DVD commentary)

Flying Saucers

If Earth was ever visited by extraterrestrial beings, what would that encounter look like? Would they attempt to hide their presence from us, or would they make some sort of grand gesture, purposely arriving at a prominent location or center of government? Not long after the alleged incident in Roswell, New Mexico, along with many other sightings, UFOs became a hot topic for Hollywood, with genre classics The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Thing from Another World (1951), and The War of the Worlds (1953). A few years after the initial wave, producer Charles H. Schneer approached effects maestro Ray Harryhausen to make their own movie about the subject. The resulting film, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers,* his second collaboration with Schneer after The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) plays like a story ripped from the headlines, taken to its logical, horrible conclusion. 

* Not-So-Fun-Fact: Due to the blacklist of the 1950s, screenwriter Bernard Gordon’s name was left off the credits. His name was only recently restored to the credits, when the film arrived on DVD.

Dr. Marvin and Carol

In the opening scene, we’re introduced to newlyweds Dr. Russell Marvin (Hugh Marlowe) and Carol (Joan Taylor), driving along a deserted road, enroute to a rocket test base. As he begins to dictate through a tape recorder, he picks up strange sounds emanating from a huge disclike flying craft* that buzzes their car. Dr. Marvin and his wife arrive at the base, just in time to witness the impending launch of another rocket (the previous 10 went missing), but they soon discover an unauthorized visitor at the site – (you guessed it) a flying saucer. In typical Hollywood military fashion, our first direct encounter with an extraterrestrial being is marred by shooting first and asking questions later (a decision that doesn’t bode well for the soldiers on base or humanity in general). Meanwhile, in the ensuing commotion and destruction, they abduct Carol’s father, General John Hanley (Morris Ankrum), extracting his knowledge with an “infinitely indexed memory bank.” Dr. Marvin learns, belatedly, that the sounds he recorded were an initial attempt by the aliens to communicate with him.** Defying orders from his superiors, he decides to take matters into his own hands, arranging a second meeting with the extraterrestrials, *** in which he learns their malicious intent. Now, it’s us against them, as Dr. Marvin and his colleagues race against the clock to find a weakness in the invaders they can exploit. 

* Fun Fact #1: The telltale sound of the saucers came from an unlikely source – a recording of sewage moving through the pipes of the Redondo Beach wastewater facility in Southern California. The sewage plant, with its myriad twisting pipes, also served as the “high tech” rocket research lab. 

** Fun Fact #2: If the alien leader’s voice sounds familiar (despite the intentional distortion), it belongs to announcer Paul Frees who lent his ubiquitous vocal talents to many projects (including the “Ghost Host” in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion). 

*** Fun Fact #3: The meeting spot where Dr. Marvin makes his rendezvous with the aliens is Zuma Beach, in Malibu, California.

Attacking the Washington Monument

Since the movie is called Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and not Dr. Marvin and His Delayed Honeymoon, we’re not here for the romantic subplot but to see the aliens blow stuff up. Ray Harryhausen delivers on the promise with his usual aplomb, depicting the obliteration of various Washington, DC architectural landmarks, including the Washington Monument (a scene later parodied in Tim Burton’s 1996 comedy, Mars Attacks). A hallmark of Harryhausen’s formidable skill is imbuing his creations with personality (personality that often eclipses the human characters), which extends to inorganic objects. The flying saucers* are far more than blank, featureless discs, displaying counter-rotating sections on the top and bottom, suggesting a mechanism that provides lift. The nodules on the bottom of the spacecraft served a dual purpose: imparting additional detail to the saucers, as well as enabling a practical location for Harryhausen to anchor the supporting wires. Other than the suits,** we almost never see the aliens, themselves (one is briefly revealed without their helmet). 

* Fun Fact #4: According to Harryhausen, he created eight saucers for the film: four little ones for medium shots, three larger ones for the long shots, and the biggest one (approximately 12” in diameter) for close-ups. The largest model included a telescoping cylinder for entry and exit into the saucer. 

** Fun Fact #5: Besides his animated sequences, Harryhausen made another important contribution to the film, suggesting to the filmmakers that the aliens’ suits were comprised of “solidified electricity.” As someone with a liberal arts background, I’m not sure how plausible that would be, but it sure sounds cool.

Dr. Marvin Tries on Alien Helmet

Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is not without its minor nitpicks, starting with the interior design of the spacecraft. There’s too much empty space in the saucers, leaving a large, cavernous area containing nothing (when space would likely be at a premium for an interstellar craft). And where would the telescoping cylinder (providing egress to the craft) fit? Space efficiency questions aside, probably the most problematic element is the overzealous use of stock footage* throughout. While obviously a cost-saving measure (with most sci-films of the era relegated to low-budget B-pictures), the over-abundance of stock footage causes credibility to strain at the seams at times. In one scene, a shot of jet fighters scrambling against the extraterrestrial threat is intercut with footage of propeller planes crashing. Thankfully, most of the footage used integrates more convincingly, but these momentary lapses demand our suspension of disbelief.   

* Fun Fact #6: In the sequence where a cathedral is blown up, the filmmakers repurposed an effects shot from The War of the Worlds, depicting the destruction of Los Angeles City Hall.

Aliens Use Ray Gun

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is that it glosses over one of the most intriguing themes it raises: conflict started over miscommunication. Arguably, the war between an alien race is at least partially due to our negligence. I can’t help but speculate what could have been if humans had found a common ground with the aliens, but amidst the milieu of paranoia and distrust of the mid-50s, a peaceful solution wasn’t in the cards. There’s much ado about the colorized version in the DVD’s supplemental materials (endorsed by Harryhausen himself), but despite the advances of the process, it looks unnatural and uncanny (and not in a good way). I much prefer the original black-and-white version, with its moody contrast and newsreel footage quality. Whichever version you choose, however, you’re guaranteed to see a film that lives up to its title.

Monday, April 1, 2024

The Mismatched Couples Blogathon – Bonus Day Recap

Mismatched Couples Blogathon Banner

Well folks, this is the end of the line for the Mismatched Couples Blogathon, hosted by Yours Truly and Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews. It’s been a fun ride, but it’s time to say goodbye for now. We’ve had a marvelous turnout, with 31 posts, including today’s late additions. Please let us know if you’re running late, as we’re more than happy to add links throughout the remainder of the week.

Harold and Maude

Once again, thanks to Gill for being such a terrific co-host, and a hearty to thanks to all who participated! We’re excited about our second blogathon, covering the films of [REDACTED], and can’t wait to tell you about it. Until then, we’ll just have to leave you in suspense.   

Glen or Glenda

In addition to today’s links, be sure to visit the previous days’ recaps: 

Day 1  

Day 2

Day 3

Here are the final posts (watch this space for any late additions): 

Fatso Poster

Black Cats and Poppies hangs out with Dom and Lydia in Fatso (1980). 


Road to Zanzibar Poster

Eric Binford from Diary of a Movie Maniac is back for another round with Hope and Crosby in Road to Zanzibar (1941). 

Sunday, March 31, 2024

The Mismatched Couples Blogathon – Day 3 Recap


Mismatched Couples Blogathon Banner

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve already reached Day Three of the Mismatched Couples Blogathon, hosted by Yours Truly and Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my excellent co-host Gill for organizing another blogathon with me, and for her tireless efforts to spread the word out about this event. And of course, thanks to all the participants, old and new, for their awesome contributions to this blogathon. We couldn’t have done it without you. Watch for an announcement this fall about our next blogathon. Believe me, you won’t want to miss it!

Ginger Snaps

Gill and I have reserved a bonus day for any last-minute posts, so we will post any late entries tomorrow. We don’t want to miss anything, so please be sure to send your link(s) to both of us. Post a comment below, email me at, or DM me on Twitter (@barry_cinematic). You may also contact Gill by commenting on her post, or through her blog’s Contact Me page.

Lost in Spac

In addition to today’s links, be sure to visit the previous days’ recaps: 

Day 1  

Day 2


…And away we go with today’s posts:

Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing

Daffny from A Vintage Nerd looks at Love and Pain and theWhole Damn Thing (1973). 

Re-Animator Poster

TigerheartsTales shines the spotlight on reluctant colleagues Herbert West and Dan Cain in Re-Animator (1985).  

In the Heat of the Night

Lê at Critica Retro introduces us to the classic duo Virgil Tibbs and Bill Gillespie from In the Heat of the Night (1967). 

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

On the Town Poster

Kristen from Hoofers & Honeys brings us two reviews: TakeMe Out to the Ball Game (1949) and On the Town (1949).  

Road to Singapore

Eric Binford from Diary of Movie Maniac tags along with Crosby and Hope as they traverse the Road to Singapore (1940).  

The Enforcer

Eddie at Film Authority examines the unlikely pairing of Clint Eastwood and Tyne Daly in The Enforcer (1976). 


Be one of the cool kids, and join John at Tales from the Freakboy Zone as he meets Brooke McQueen and Sam McPherson in the TV series Popular (1999-2001). 

Easter Parade 

Just in time for the holiday, Sally Silverscreen from18 Cinema Lane shares her take on Easter Parade (1948). 


Debbie V. at Moon in Gemini sings the praises of Chandler Bing and Janice Litman Goralnik from the TV series Friends (1994-2004). 


Saturday, March 30, 2024

The Mismatched Couples Blogathon – Day 2 Recap


Mismatched Couples Blogathon Banner

We’re back for Day Two of the Mismatched Couples Blogathon, hosted by Yours Truly and the sensational Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews. If you think you’ve seen it all, well, hold your horses, because we have much more in store for you today, with nine more posts! 

King Kong

Quick reminder: Since Gill and I reside several time zones apart, one of us is usually online. To ensure that your post receives the most coverage, please be sure to send your link(s) to both of us. If you’ve signed up, but your post isn’t quite ready, we’ll feature it on Day Day Three. Latecomers are also welcome (just drop us a line). Post a comment below, email me at, or DM me on Twitter (@barry_cinematic). You may also contact Gill by commenting on her post), or through her blog’s Contact Me page.

Steamboat Bill, Jr.

In addition to today’s links, be sure to visit the Day 1 Recap, and watch out for Day 3!


Here we go with Day Two’s submissions…


The Out-of-Towners Poster

Chris at Angelman’s Place journeys to The Big Apple for The Out-of-Towners (1970). 

The Banshees of Inisherin Poster

What happens when best friends Padraic and Colm drift apart? David from Movie Reviews in the Dark looks at The Banshees of Inisherin (2022).  


Grumpy Old Men Poster

Grumpier Old Men Poster

Kayla from Whimsically Classic takes a deep dive into the Grumpy Old Men series (1993/1995).  


The More the Merrier Poster

Carol from The Old Hollywood Garden invites you to join her for her review of TheMore the Merrier (1943).  

What a Carve-Up Poster

Virginie at The Wonderful World of Cinema reviews What a Carve-Up! (1963). 


High School Musical

Emily at The Flapper Dame has a reunion with High School Musical (2006). 


Rampage Poster

Toni Ruberto from Watching Forever tells us if Dwayne Johnson has met his match in Rampage (2018). 


Lillies of the Field Poster

Rebecca from Taking Up Room takes a moment to admire Lillies of the Field (1961).  


Pink Flamingos Poster

And finally, let me be your guide as I discuss a budding romance between Edie the Egg Lady and The Egg Man in John Waters’ notorious Pink Flamingos (1972). 



Friday, March 29, 2024

Pink Flamingos


Pink Flamingos Poster

(1972) Written and directed by John Waters; Starring: Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole, Danny Mills, Edith Massey, Cookie Mueller and Paul Swift; Available on Blu-ray and DVD 

Rating: *** 

This post is part of the Mismatched Couples Blogathon, hosted by Gill Jacob from Realweegiemidget Reviews and Yours Truly, covering some of cinema’s greatest odd couples. Be sure to check out all the fun posts over this three-day blogging event!

Edie the Egg Lady

“The only thing that ever happens to me in this movie that shocks me is when the audience groans disgustedly when the Egg Man kisses Edie (Edith Massey), and I think that’s so mean, and they do do it, and they’ve always done it, and it really saddens me, because I didn’t mean that to be a shock shot. That was a tender moment in the film.” – John Waters (from 1997 Criterion commentary) 

Connie Marble

The term “critic proof” gets thrown around haphazardly to describe anything that captures the imagination (and dollars) of the public despite the lack of perceived artistic merit. While I’m not a big fan of the term, it occasionally serves its purpose. The mere mention of the title Pink Flamingos conjures a host of unsavory mental images, even for those who’ve never seen it. Denouncing it as trash is reductive, although praising it as a wickedly subversive satire about suburban malaise might be pushing things a little too far. John Waters wanted to raise eyebrows with his film, not preach to the audience.* He achieved his objective with “an antisocial group effort” comprised of family, friends, and general malcontents, known collectively as the “Dreamlanders.” They shared a common disdain for the hollow peace and love ethos of hippie culture, using the Manson family as a template.** Waters economically utilized the house he was renting with his friend (and the film’s co-star), Mink Stole, for the Marble residence. For Divine’s family,* Waters and his crew purchased a dilapidated old trailer for $100, added a wall, furnished it with tacky decorations from thrift stores, and painted it pink and gray, only so it could be burned down in a later scene. His landlord’s 1958 Cadillac*** became Divine’s mode of transportation in the movie. Waters shot the film guerilla-style, without permits, on 16 mm reversal stock (his first color feature). With a self-imposed “X” rating at the time (it would easily land an “NC-17” now), Pink Flamingos quickly earned its gross-out reputation, amusing and horrifying filmgoers everywhere. Yet, amidst this symphony of scatological humor, is a (dare I say) sweet subplot? You’ll learn more about this, dear reader, in a moment… 

* Fun Fact #1: Per Waters, “I hate message movies and pride myself on the fact that my work has no socially redeeming value.” 

** Fun Fact #2: The opening credits include, “For Sadie, Katie and Les,” a reference to a few of the so-called “Manson Girls.” Another direct Manson family reference is a framed picture of Susan Atkins in the Marbles’ living room whom Waters would later befriend through correspondence. 

** Fun Fact #3: The jogger that Divine gleefully tries to hit and run is Waters’ brother Steve.

Cotton and Divine

Waters himself narrates the movie, using the most self-consciously obnoxious Baltimore accent he can muster* to set the stage. Divine (Divine, aka Harris Glen Milstead), living under the alias “Babs Johnson” has settled in a dumpy mobile home in Phoenix, Maryland with her family: her mentally unbalanced but affable mother, Edie, “The Egg Lady” (Edith Massey), who sits in a playpen all day, consuming huge quantities of eggs, demented son Crackers (Danny Mills), and voyeuristic daughter Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce). Divine holds the undisputed crown as the “Filthiest Person Alive” until Connie and Raymond Marble (Mink Stole and David Lochary)** vow to take that distinction away. The Marbles run a black-market baby ring, keeping women chained up in their basement, where they’re impregnated by the Marbles’ butler Channing (Channing Wilroy), ultimately selling their newborns to lesbian couples. 

* Fun Fact #4: Waters originally approached his idol at the time, local celebrity Mr. Ray, who owned a wig store, to narrate his movie. When Ray flatly refused, Waters took matters into his own hands, as “Mr. Jay.” 

** Fun Fact #5: The vibrant blue, red and yellow hair colors sported by Lochary, Stole, and Divine couldn’t be found on a drugstore shelf, so they had to improvise with ink, Magic Marker and food coloring.  

Raymond and Connie Marble

Pink Flamingos is a cavalcade of ickiness guaranteed to test your intestinal fortitude, and just when you think it couldn’t possibly get any worse, Mr. Waters has something else up his sleeve (but don’t worry, it’s all in bad taste). Get ready for a sex scene involving a live chicken,* artificial insemination (thankfully simulated), and Divine’s birthday party scene (which may have the film’s second-most-talked-about sequence). When the police are called out to investigate Divine’s home, they’re ambushed by her crazed followers and eaten.** Steel yourself for the movie’s pièce de resistance, when Divine asserts her dominance as the filthiest person alive by eating a poodle’s poop (for real). After your retinas have absorbed all they can stand, be prepared to never again be able to hear the songs “Surfing Bird” or “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?” without associating images from this movie. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. 

* Fun Fact #6: While the chicken’s onscreen demise is understandably hard to watch, Waters pointed out that the cast cooked and ate it later that day. 

** Fun Fact #7: Waters acknowledged this scene was heavily influenced by Night of the Living Dead.

Divine in a Butcher Shop

Divine chews the scenery (and I do mean, “chews the scenery”) with gusto, owning every scene that she’s in. She’s an unstoppable force of nature reinforced with her signature look, thanks to makeup man Van Smith, who shaved the front part of Divine’s head to accommodate the exaggerated eye makeup. Waters is quick to point out that Divine wasn’t going for glamorous, but quite the opposite (“I wanted him to be the Godzilla of drag queens.”). Divine’s wrath is unleashed after the Marbles unwisely send her a giftwrapped bowel movement,* and you just know they don’t stand a chance. 

* Fun Fact #8: The real human turd belonged to none other than Divine, who donated it for the cause and boxed it up. The scene where the Marbles mail the package was shot in Waters’ neighborhood post office, with a real-life mailman (who was blissfully unaware of the package contents). 

Edie the Egg Lady and the Egg Man

But amidst the ample distribution of manure, a lovely flower blooms, a romance between Edie the Egg Lady and the Egg Man (Paul Swift). Sure, it’s mostly based on supply and demand – Edie has an insatiable desire for eggs and he’s got the goods (“Oh, I do love you Mr. Egg Man. Even though I do love my little eggies just a little bit better, I do love you more than any man I have ever known.”). There’s something oddly innocent and pure about their love. Sure, they probably have at least a 20-year age difference, and she prefers the sedentary lifestyle, while he’s always roaming the neighborhood peddling his wares, but they somehow make it work, based on a mutual affinity for hen fruit.

Crackers, Divine and Cotton

Appropriately enough, the Criterion Blu-ray for Pink Flamingos is equipped with a barf bag, which might tell the uninitiated all they need to know. John Waters asserted, “Pink Flamingos is about the most American subject there is, competitiveness.” He’s quick to point out, however, that Divine and her family are happy (in their own twisted way), while their enemies, the Marbles, are bitter and resentful. 50-plus years later, it’s still hard to watch in places, but if you can get past the truly tasteless gags, you might have fun in spite of yourself. Anyone who’s only familiar with John Waters’ work through Hairspray or Cry-Baby will be in for a surprise. Waters pointed out that audiences laugh at the outrageously disgusting things that are occurring onscreen – they’re not simply disgusted. You’ll either laugh hysterically or clutch your pearls. You know who you are. If you belong to the former category, enjoy. If not, steer clear.


Sources for this article: Criterion Blu-ray commentary by John Waters (1997); Shock Value, by John Waters (1981); Trash Trio, by John Waters (1988); Divine Trash (1998 documentary)

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