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Screen Icon: John Waters

Screen Icon #1: John Waters


There are hundreds of words that can be used to describe film director John Waters. Conventional - certainly is not one of them. Directing such classics as Pink Flamingos, Polyester, Serial Mom and the more family friendly, Hairspray - Waters has become the face of cult 'shock cinema'. He started to make films in his home town of Baltimore with childhood friend Harris Milstead - more commonly known as Divine. Water's stated his aim as making "the trashiest motion pictures in cinema history" and he hit the nail on the head with that one. The pair soon collaborated on Eat Your Make Up, where Divine played a deranged Jackie Kennedy, kidnapping models and quite literally forcing them to eat their make-up.  The pair continued to collaborate, until Divine's death in 1988, shortly after the release of Hairspray.

Water's moved onto feature length films with his his "Trash Trilogy" Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble and Desperate Living. These 'pushed the boundaries of decency' with Pink Flamingo's being particularly controversial with a scene where Divine eats dog faeces. Water's made a move towards the mainstream with the somewhat well received Polyester, starring fifties teen idol, Tab Hunter. Following a seven year break from film, Waters returned with the more family friendly Hairspray, which gained a modest $8,000,000 but has since gone on to critical acclaim and high success in the home video market.

This was followed by Johnny Depp's turn in his film Cry Baby, which never made back it's $12,000,000 at the time of it's theatrical release, but has now gained a cult following. Water's continued to direct with the hilarious Serial Mom - with what I would say was Kathleen Turner's campest and most entertaining performance. Water's followed with the mixed bunch of Pecker, Cecil B. Demented and A Dirty Shame. Worth checking out, is John Waters: This Filthy World where Water's discusses his early career and films! Interestingly, Waters can be seen as a scheming paparazzi in the film Seed of Chucky and as a flasher in the 2007 remake of Hairspray.

Top Three John Water's Films

Pink Flamingos (1972)
This sees notorious Baltimore criminal, Divine, going up against Connie and Raymond Marble, a dirty married couple who's sole aim is to humiliate her and claim her title as "the filthiest person alive". Originally described as "one of the most vile, stupid and repulsive films ever made" (Variety). Every so often we need a film like this to destroy the boundaries of cinema!


Polyester (1981)
Here we see Water's destroy the idea of middle class suburban life. Despite being a Water's film - it's incredibly accessible and probably a good place to start for someone who doesn't want to be too horrified.  Fantastic performances from both Divine and Tab Hunter.


Serial Mom (1994)
Over-the-top, camp, hilarious. The film taps into America's obsession with suburban life and how crime affects that.

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