By Steve D. Stones
Multiple Maniacs (1971) – The title of this black and white carny film is in reference to Herschell Gordon Lewis’ 1964 cult masterpiece – Two Thousand Maniacs. Cross dresser Divine leads a group of freak show artists who perform in a show known as “Lady Divine’s Cavalcade of Perversions.” The performers kill the audience members after each performance to pick their pockets. Watch carefully for the puke eater, a bike seat licker, and a giant paper mache lobster named Lobstora. Divine’s masturbation scene with a rosary in a church tests the limits of good taste.
Pink Flamingos (1972) – Considering what Johnny Knoxville has achieved in the Jackass movies, Pink Flamingos may not have the over-the-top shock value that it once had upon its release. It remains Waters’ most discussed film. The film concerns the life of Babs Johnson, a transvestite living in a rundown trailer in Baltimore, played by frequent Waters actor – Divine. Babs lives with her traveling companion and son, and claims to be “The Filthiest Person Alive.” She proves it at the end of the film by eating a pile of dog pooh, causing viewers to throw up whatever they had for lunch that day. A print of Pink Flamingos is archived at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Female Trouble (1973) – Many Waters fans consider this to be a sequel to Pink Flamingos. Divine is cast once again – but this time as teenage drop out Dawn Davenport. Davenport leads the stereotypical, dysfunctional, white trash lifestyle. She gets pregnant while still in high school, runs away from home for not receiving a pair of cha-cha heels for Christmas, works a few dead end jobs, and eventually commits murder. She is executed in an electric chair, but feels no remorse for her life of crime. Female Trouble may be Waters’ comment on the media’s obsession of crime and serial killers.
Desperate Living (1977) – This film was made famous by a bizarre nude scene of busty Liz Renay when she was in her late 40s. Waters steps up the poor taste and graphic violence a few notches by showing a castration scene, and nude gay men servicing pleasantly plump Edith Massey – in the role of bitchy Queen Carlotta. Waters calls this film his “monstrous fairy tale.” Cheap wooden sets were built to give the impression of a fairy tale castle. It’s all good (but not clean) fun.
Serial Mom (1994) – Ever had a neighbor who appeared to be so perfect and squeaky clean that you swore they lived an “Ozzie & Harriet” lifestyle, but later discovered they had a few skeletons in the closet? If you have, then you can relate to this film. Kathleen Turner plays the picture perfect, June Cleaver mother who hates her neighbors and is driven to murder. Once again, Waters is out to make a social comment about the news media’s obsession with serial killers and high profile court cases of celebrities – even before the O.J. Simpson trials of 1995. Waters also pays tribute to one of his director heroes – Herschell Gordon Lewis – by showing a scene of Lewis’ 1964 gore hit “Blood Feast” on a TV screen.