Pink Flamingos (1973)

90 or 95 mins | Black comedy | 1973

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HISTORY

A title card appears in the opening credits with the following dedication: “For Sadie, Katie, and Les, February 1972.” The names referred to Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle, and Leslie Van Houten, three disciples of Charles Manson, according to a 19 Dec 2010 article in The Observer. Waters later referred to the dedication in his book, Role Models (New York, 2010), apologizing for the reference which was a sarcastic nod to the cult leader’s “Manson Family” and the murders they committed. Allen Lee Optical also receives a "Special Thanks" in the opening credits.
       The budget for Pink Flamingos was reported by modern sources as $10,000 in 15 Apr 1997 issues of The Advocate and Village Voice; however, an Apr 1997 issue of Detour magazine as well as the 16 Dec 1974 HR review, a contemporary source, claimed it cost $12,000. According to a 14 Apr 1997 news brief in People, Waters’s parents, Patricia and John Sr., provided the financing.
       Filming took place in Baltimore, MD, in 1972 over the course of five months, as stated in screening notes from The Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Film for a 9 Dec 1976 screening. Waters edited his original, “sound-striped” 16 millimeter film footage to create the final version, which was “nicely aged” by the process as stated in a 15 Apr 1997 article in The Advocate written by director Gus Van Sant. A sound delay accompanied each edit in the early prints due to Waters’s rudimentary technique, and the look and style of the director’s low-budget filmmaking came to be known as ... More Less

A title card appears in the opening credits with the following dedication: “For Sadie, Katie, and Les, February 1972.” The names referred to Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle, and Leslie Van Houten, three disciples of Charles Manson, according to a 19 Dec 2010 article in The Observer. Waters later referred to the dedication in his book, Role Models (New York, 2010), apologizing for the reference which was a sarcastic nod to the cult leader’s “Manson Family” and the murders they committed. Allen Lee Optical also receives a "Special Thanks" in the opening credits.
       The budget for Pink Flamingos was reported by modern sources as $10,000 in 15 Apr 1997 issues of The Advocate and Village Voice; however, an Apr 1997 issue of Detour magazine as well as the 16 Dec 1974 HR review, a contemporary source, claimed it cost $12,000. According to a 14 Apr 1997 news brief in People, Waters’s parents, Patricia and John Sr., provided the financing.
       Filming took place in Baltimore, MD, in 1972 over the course of five months, as stated in screening notes from The Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Film for a 9 Dec 1976 screening. Waters edited his original, “sound-striped” 16 millimeter film footage to create the final version, which was “nicely aged” by the process as stated in a 15 Apr 1997 article in The Advocate written by director Gus Van Sant. A sound delay accompanied each edit in the early prints due to Waters’s rudimentary technique, and the look and style of the director’s low-budget filmmaking came to be known as the “Baltimore aesthetic,” a term allegedly coined by Providence, R.I., art students.
       Screenings may have taken place as early as 1972, but the Apr 1997 Detour article as well as the 15 Apr 1997 Village Voice cited the Feb 1973 opening at New York City’s Elgin Theater as the film’s theatrical debut. According to Van Sant’s article, Pink Flamingos ran as a “midnight-movie” for ninety-five weeks in New York City and for “ten consecutive years in Los Angeles.” However, the Apr 1997 article in Detour provided different figures, stating: “ Flamingos played 50 weeks in New York, 101 in Philadelphia, [PA], and over four years in Los Angeles, [CA],” to that time. In a 15 Apr 1997 Village Voice article, J. Hoberman stated that Waters’s controversial picture “enjoyed the most sustained midnight popularity of any movie until David Lynch’s Eraserhead ”; according to Detour, the film took in more than $5 million in box-office receipts by 1980.
       The film opened to mixed reviews, although several critics conceded that Waters’s work would be considered a success by his limited audience. In the 13 Dec 1974 LAT review, Kevin Thomas stated that the film was “as funny as it is outrageous” but warned that Pink Flamingos was “for the very open-minded.” Less positive, the 11 Dec 1974 Var review called it “surely one of the most vile, stupid and repulsive films ever made.” Waters’s own parents, Patricia and John Sr., also the film’s financiers, never saw Pink Flamingos. In the 14 Apr 1997 brief in People, Patricia was quoted as saying, “We’re very proud of John, but we just don’t see any point in subjecting ourselves to that film.”
       A 6 May 1974 Box news item announced that Saliva Films, the New Line Cinema subsidiary that released Pink Flamingos in 1974, was being replaced by Gross National Pictures, a distribution arm set to handle “exploitation films for the commercial market.”
       A re-release of the film to commemorate its twenty-fifth anniversary in Apr 1997 was announced in an 18 Nov 1996 Var brief. Though the original release was unrated, the 1997 version was given an NC-17 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). According to The Advocate, updates to the re-release included ten minutes of director commentary added to the end of the film as well as “entire unused scenes from the movie.” The Los Angeles, CA, premiere for the re-release was attended by actress and Waters collaborator Traci Lords; transvestite-performer Alexis Arquette “in pink flamingo drag”; and director Gregg Araki among others, according to a 3 Apr 1997 LAT item.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
6 May 1974.
---
Daily Variety
9 Dec 1974.
---
Detour
Apr 1997
pp. 46-49.
Esquire
Apr 1997
p. 48.
Evening Outlook
28 Apr 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 1974.
---
L.B. Press-Telegram
7 Apr 1997.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1974.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Apr 1997
p. 5.
People
14 Apr 1997.
---
The Advocate
15 Apr 1997
p. 40.
The Observer
19 Dec 2010
p. 38.
Variety
11 Dec 1974
p. 18.
Variety
18 Nov 1996.
---
Village Voice
15 Apr 1997.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Filmed by
SET DECORATOR
Set des
COSTUMES
Divine's cost
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles
Titles
MAKEUP
Divine's makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech asst
Tech asst
Tech asst
Tech asst
DETAILS
Release Date:
1973
Premiere Information:
New York opening: February 1973 at the Elgin Theater
Los Angeles opening: 14 December 1974
Production Date:
filmed in 1972 in Baltimore, MD
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
gauge
16mm
Duration(in mins):
90 or 95
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Baltimore, Maryland, Divine, who has been named “The Filthiest Person Alive” by a tabloid, takes on the alias, “Babs Johnson,” and goes into hiding in a mobile home outside town. There, she is accompanied by her son Crackers, her friend Cotton, and her mother Edie, who suffers from mental illness and an obsession with eggs. On another side of town, Connie and Raymond Marble are scheming to overtake Divine as the filthiest person alive. Channing, the Marbles’ assistant, ushers a lesbian couple in to see Connie, who is arranging for the couple to adopt Noodles, a baby born in the Marbles’ basement to a young girl who died in childbirth while enslaved there. When Connie grants them the baby, the lesbian couple showers her with thanks, telling her what a good person she is. At a deli in town, Divine orders a large cut of meat, then hides it between her legs, and later, walking around, Divine urinates outdoors. Meanwhile, Raymond Marble exposes his genitals in the park before returning home to Connie. They meet with Cookie, who plans to spy on Divine by going on a date with Crackers. Connie explains to Cookie that she and Raymond want to prove they surpass Divine in filth, describing their primary business, a “baby ring” in which they keep two girls impregnated by Channing in their basement and sell their babies to lesbian couples. Connie further explains that they invest the money in businesses around town, including pornography shops, and they also lend capital to heroin dealers who service inner-city elementary schools. Later, on her date with Crackers, Cookie meets Edie and Cotton at the trailer. Cotton pulls Crackers aside ... +


In Baltimore, Maryland, Divine, who has been named “The Filthiest Person Alive” by a tabloid, takes on the alias, “Babs Johnson,” and goes into hiding in a mobile home outside town. There, she is accompanied by her son Crackers, her friend Cotton, and her mother Edie, who suffers from mental illness and an obsession with eggs. On another side of town, Connie and Raymond Marble are scheming to overtake Divine as the filthiest person alive. Channing, the Marbles’ assistant, ushers a lesbian couple in to see Connie, who is arranging for the couple to adopt Noodles, a baby born in the Marbles’ basement to a young girl who died in childbirth while enslaved there. When Connie grants them the baby, the lesbian couple showers her with thanks, telling her what a good person she is. At a deli in town, Divine orders a large cut of meat, then hides it between her legs, and later, walking around, Divine urinates outdoors. Meanwhile, Raymond Marble exposes his genitals in the park before returning home to Connie. They meet with Cookie, who plans to spy on Divine by going on a date with Crackers. Connie explains to Cookie that she and Raymond want to prove they surpass Divine in filth, describing their primary business, a “baby ring” in which they keep two girls impregnated by Channing in their basement and sell their babies to lesbian couples. Connie further explains that they invest the money in businesses around town, including pornography shops, and they also lend capital to heroin dealers who service inner-city elementary schools. Later, on her date with Crackers, Cookie meets Edie and Cotton at the trailer. Cotton pulls Crackers aside and begs him to make his sexual encounter with Cookie special because she plans to watch and wishes to see him do something new. When Crackers takes Cookie back to his shed, Cotton observes through the window as he forces Cookie to have sex with him while shoving two live chickens between their bodies. Meanwhile, the Egg Man comes by the trailer and kisses Edie hello while she screams excitedly about his delivery of eggs. That night, Connie and Raymond kidnap a hitchhiker, drug her, and take her to their basement to replace Noodles’s mother who just died. Channing masturbates into his hand then uses the semen to inseminate the new girl, still unconscious. Cookie calls the Marbles, tells them where Divine lives, and informs them of Divine's alias, Babs Johnson. Connie and Raymond rejoice that their plan to attack Divine is now in motion, grabbing a gift box they plan to send to her. The next day, Divine receives a delivery and reprimands the postal worker for coming onto her property. Angered that someone would send her a package, she opens the box from the Marbles, finding human excrement inside along with a note wishing her a happy birthday from “the filthiest people alive.” At their home, the Marbles catch Channing imitating them and lock him inside his room. Before Divine’s birthday party, the Egg Man proposes marriages to Edie and she accepts. The Marbles sneak up on the party, taking place outside Divine’s trailer, and watch as Divine opens various gifts such as a pig’s head and a hatchet. The Marbles call the police to report Divine’s party as “lewd and disorderly.” As the police approach, the partygoers grab weapons, kill the officers, and eat their flesh. After talking to a local gossip, Divine finds out that the Marbles are responsible for the excrement she received and locates their address. While the Marbles are out, Divine and Crackers break in and examine their home, licking everything in sight. Excited by their filthy act, Divine performs oral sex on her son, but is interrupted by a noise. Realizing someone else is in the house, Divine and Crackers find Channing, who leads them to the pregnant girls in the basement. The girls explain how they were kidnapped and impregnated, and Divine orders Crackers to free them. Once unchained, the girls castrate Channing. Meanwhile, the Marbles have set fire to Divine’s trailer, and when she finds it burning, she guesses they are the culprits. Soon after, the Marbles decide something is awry at their home when the furniture begins to move on its own, and they find Channing on the floor of the basement, castrated. Divine, Cookie, and Crackers ambush the Marbles and kidnap them. Later, three tabloid reporters arrive outside Divine’s destroyed trailer to witness the public trial and execution of the Marbles by Divine, Cotton, and Crackers. Divine announces to the reporters that she believes murder and cannibalism should be legal, amongst other things, and pronounces that filth is her life. After conducting a short trial, Cookie and Crackers tar and feather the Marbles, and Divine shoots them dead. The reporters take pictures and leave, and Divine’s crew happily plans their next move to Boise, Idaho. As Divine, Crackers and Cookie solicit a ride to Boise, Divine spots a dog having a bowel movement and rushes to eat the dog’s excrement. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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