Pink Flamingos (1972)

pink flamingos poster 1972 movie divine
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 3/10
Acting: 1/10
Visuals: 4/10

Pushes decency to the limit and beyond, counter-culture classic

Intentionally bad style and difficult to watch gross-out scenes

Movie Info

Movie Name: Pink Flamingos

Studio: Dreamland

Genre(s): Comedy/B-Movie/Adult

Release Date(s): March 17, 1972

MPAA Rating: NC-17

pink flamingos divine danny mills

The mother-son relationship helps define the filth

Divine (Divine) has just been ruled the filthiest person, and Divine and her brood including son Crackers (Danny Mills), her egg-obsessed mother Edie (Edith Massey), and their friend Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce) are enjoying the pleasure of rolling in the filth.  When Connie Marbles (Mink Stole) and Raymond Marbles (David Lochary) learn of the title, they vow to steal it from Divine through their kidnapping and impregnating of young hitchhikers so they can sell the babies to gay and lesbian couples.  Divine isn’t going to let her title be taken away from her and she will do anything to keep it…including murder!

Written and directed by John Waters, Pink Flamingos is an exploitation NC-17 comedy.  The ultra-low budget film quickly gained a cult following and was banned in many places after its premiere in 1972.  The film’s counter culture style and subject matters received both criticism and praise from critics.  The film was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry in 2021.

I knew a lot about Pink Flamingos and had seen some of Waters’ other more mainstream films.  I finally decided to set down and watch it.  The film has lots of similarities to his works like Multiple Maniacs but feels a lot different than movies like Hairspray and Polyester.

pink flamingos edith massey egg man

Oh Egg-Man…I love you!

Part of the reason the movie feels so different than Waters’ later films is the budget.  The movie feels like something made by friends and aspects like continuity between shots and set design are not always that strong.  The film often is shot in an almost guerrilla style and the quality of the film picture changes from scene to scene.  Despite the quality changes throughout the picture, it works with what the picture is doing.

The movie plot is paper-thin, but that too is by design.  Much of the dialogue reads like a porno and is delivered in a style fitting it.  When the story doesn’t make sense, a narrator pops in to fix the plot holes, and the movie also pushes the idea of surreal to the max by pretty much including whatever the story felt like at the time.  The “bad taste” stuff ranges from simple stuff like gross out behavior to talking butts to oral (incest) sex…all to the culminating last scene of infamy.

pink flamingos dog feces shit eating scene divine

Yep…Divine does it

The show largely works because of Waters and his friends.  The actors don’t feel like actors and they largely don’t try to act.  Edith Massey is notoriously bad in all of Waters’ films, but for some reason you can’t look away.  The star of course is Divine who goes all in (including the oral sex scene) and made cinematic history-infamy by eating dog feces right from the dog as it falls on the ground.  It is disgusting but also a gimmick (which is what the film is all about in a way).

You have to be able to tolerate a lot for Pink Flamingos, but the fact that it exists is one of those reasons why the cinema has so much power and range.  It is the type of movie that scores poorly on all accounts (story, acting, visuals) but still manages to work because of the intentions of the filmmaker.  The movie is both an object of the time and ahead of the time by pushing the boundaries of decency while mocking stereotypes of fringe culture.  The characters are every conservative’s nightmares of counter-culture “filth”…and Divine and the gang love every minute of it.  Even after decades, Pink Flamingos remains “an exercise in poor taste”.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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