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The 'Flamingos' Flap Back

By Bruce Walker
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 11, 1997

This is the year of the re-release. Some of the best and best-loved films of the last 25 years, all classics of their genres, are back in theaters: the "Star Wars" trilogy, "The Godfather," "Das Boot" and now "Pink Flamingos."

"Pink Flamingos"?

Well, I certainly consider the 1972 film by Baltimoreís own John Waters a classic.

I first saw "Pink Flamingos" in 1973, at a midnight show at the late, great Biograph Theater.

I couldnít believe my eyes or my ears.

The premise of the movie gives lots of room for a nonstop barrage of the bizarre: Two families are competing for the "title" of "The Filthiest People Alive." (Itís good to set realistic, attainable goals.)

Divine, the 300-pound actor-in-drag, is Babs Johnson, who lives in a trailer with her companion Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce), her delinquent son Crackers (Danny Mills), and her mentally-ill mother (Edith Massey). Divine is truly a sight to behold, with his blonde wig, his outrageous makeup and his bulk stuffed into a variety of skintight skirts, pants and gowns.

The other family consists of Raymond and Connie Marble (David Lochary and Mink Stole), she with flaming red hair and he with bright blue hair. They sell babies to lesbian couples, run some porno shops and finance a ring of heroin pushers in inner-city elementary schools.

These are not politically correct characters.

And now, 25 years later, theyíre back!! But is this new version better than the original? Well, despite a very warm spot in my heart for this movie, I must admit I was slightly disappointed with the new, improved version. Wisely, the "new footage" is not actually incorporated into the movie but tacked on at the end, with an introduction by Waters. Most of these outtakes belonged where they were found: hidden away in Watersís attic.

But I was bothered by the new soundtrack. "Pink Flamingos" was a cheesy, trashy movie -- I mean that in a positive way -- and it had an appropriately cheesy-sounding soundtrack. The music sounded like it was pumped through a drive-in movie speaker at full volume, slightly distorted. It was a perfect combination of visual and aural assaults, adding an additional edge to the film. But the screeching, grating music has been cleaned up and now sounds gentler, kinder, smoother. And at least one scene has completely new music that sounds almost. . .nice! Call me a purist, but I donít like my trash sanitized.

Be forewarned: This is not a movie for the kids. Itís probably not a great choice for a first date. There is sex, violence, exhibitionism and that very famous final scene. But if you get your kicks out of sick sick sick, grab your old "Pink Phlegm-ingo Barf Bag" and come on down.

Does the humor stand up today? It depends on how broadly "humor" is defined for you. I still love this movie, but some of us are sicker than others.

PINK FLAMINGOS (NC-17) ó Contains profanity, nudity, graphic sex, violence, etc.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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