Polyester (1981)

R | 86 mins | Comedy | 29 May 1981

Director:

John Waters

Writer:

John Waters

Producer:

John Waters

Cinematographer:

David Insley

Editor:

Charles Roggero

Production Designer:

Vincent Peranio
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HISTORY

Polyester opens with a scene featuring the character “Dr. Quackenshaw” explaining the film’s “Odorama” gimmick. Audience members were provided with scratch and sniff cards featuring numbered circles. When a number appeared on screen, film attendees scratched the corresponding spot on their card to smell the odors that the film’s heroine was experiencing.
       End credits include the following statement: “The producers gratefully acknowledge the cooperation and assistance provided by the County Executive’s Office of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, and the Mayor’s Office of the City of Baltimore, Maryland.”
       The 13 Aug 1980 Var announced that New Line Cinema had four new projects in preproduction, and the second film on their roster was Polyester, budgeted at less than $1 million. An article in the 23 Jun 1981 Us stated that the production was writer-director John Waters’ tenth movie, but it was the first time he filmed in 35mm.
       Us reported the movie starred Divine, a 300-lb transvestite, who had been friends with Waters since high school. According to the 12 Dec 1980 HR, actor Tab Hunter made a “comeback” in the film as the character “Todd Tomorrow.” Polyester was filmed in Baltimore, MD, and the 25 Nov 1980 DV noted the completion of principal photography.
       The 28 May 1981 DV reported that during the first week of its exclusive showing at the Charles Theatre in Baltimore, MD, Polyester set a new record with a box office gross of $18,484, doubling their standing record of $9,200. The 13 May 1981 Var announced that ... More Less

Polyester opens with a scene featuring the character “Dr. Quackenshaw” explaining the film’s “Odorama” gimmick. Audience members were provided with scratch and sniff cards featuring numbered circles. When a number appeared on screen, film attendees scratched the corresponding spot on their card to smell the odors that the film’s heroine was experiencing.
       End credits include the following statement: “The producers gratefully acknowledge the cooperation and assistance provided by the County Executive’s Office of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, and the Mayor’s Office of the City of Baltimore, Maryland.”
       The 13 Aug 1980 Var announced that New Line Cinema had four new projects in preproduction, and the second film on their roster was Polyester, budgeted at less than $1 million. An article in the 23 Jun 1981 Us stated that the production was writer-director John Waters’ tenth movie, but it was the first time he filmed in 35mm.
       Us reported the movie starred Divine, a 300-lb transvestite, who had been friends with Waters since high school. According to the 12 Dec 1980 HR, actor Tab Hunter made a “comeback” in the film as the character “Todd Tomorrow.” Polyester was filmed in Baltimore, MD, and the 25 Nov 1980 DV noted the completion of principal photography.
       The 28 May 1981 DV reported that during the first week of its exclusive showing at the Charles Theatre in Baltimore, MD, Polyester set a new record with a box office gross of $18,484, doubling their standing record of $9,200. The 13 May 1981 Var announced that New Line planned a wide release of Polyester in the New York city area on 29 May 1981, and spent approximately $200,000 in advertising and publicity to launch the film, one of the company’s most expensive advertising campaigns to date. The film was released in Los Angeles, CA, on 11 Sep 1981.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
25 Nov 1980.
---
Daily Variety
28 May 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Dec 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
11 Sep 1981
p. 6.
New York Times
29 May 1981
p. 6.
Us
23 Jun 1981
p. 5.
Variety
13 Aug 1980.
---
Variety
22 Apr 1981
p. 22.
Variety
13 May 1981.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Robert Shaye and Michael White Present
A John Waters Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Prod mgr
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Key grip
Gaffer
2d elec
Still photog
Arriflex cam consultant
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
Dresser
MUSIC
Keyboards, Musicians
Courtesy of Chrysalis Records
Guitar and bass, Musicians
Courtesy of Chrysalis Records
Keyboards and oboe, Musicians
Drums, Musicians
Violin, Musicians
Courtesy Andy Warhol Studios
Banjo, Musicians
Trumpet, Musicians
Trombone, Musicians
Acoustic bass, Musicians
Oboe and duck, Musicians
Mus engineer and mix, Musicians
Rec at, Musicians
SOUND
Sd ed
Asst sd
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des
Gunshot wound eff
Asst, Gunshot wound eff
Gunshot eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Line prod
Video operations
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prop vehicles
Prop vehicles
Bookkeeper
Bonkers trained by
Odorama consultant
Dailies projectionist
ANIMATION
SOURCES
SONGS
Title song: "Polyester," lyrics by Deborah Harry, music by Chris Stein, sung by Tab Hunter
"Be My Daddy Baby" (Lu-Lu's Theme), words and music by Deborah Harry and Michael Kamen, arranged and produced by Michael Kamen, vocal by Michael Kamen
"The Best Thing" (Love Song), words and music by Deborah Harry and Michael Kamen, vocal by Bill Murray.
DETAILS
Release Date:
29 May 1981
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 29 May 1981
Los Angeles opening: 11 September1981
Production Date:
ended late November 1980 in Baltimore, MD
Copyright Claimant:
New Line Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
5 October 1981
Copyright Number:
PA118139
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
86
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Francine Fishpaw, an overweight housewife with an acute sense of smell, lives in suburban Baltimore, Maryland, with her husband, Elmer, who owns a pornographic movie theater, and their two rebellious children, Lu-Lu and Dexter. Francine is horrified when anti-pornography protesters picket outside their house, but Elmer calls the local television station to capitalize on the publicity. Later, Freddy Ashton arrives for his date with Lu-Lu and Francine is thankful he is not like Bo-Bo Belsinger, whom Lu-Lu is forbidden to date. Lu-Lu drives away with Freddy, but Bo-Bo and his friend block the road and threaten Freddy, and she leaves with them. As the trio drives through town, Bo-Bo swats people with a broom, including a gospel singer awaiting her bus. Infuriated, the singer hijacks the bus, chases them, and beats Bo-Bo. Later, Francine and Elmer watch television news coverage of the “Baltimore Foot Stomper,” an unidentified teenage boy who violently stomps on women’s feet. After Elmer falls asleep, he calls out loud to his secretary, Sandra Sullivan, while dreaming. Suspicious, Francine sniffs the air and follows Sandra’s scent to her husband’s clothing where she finds a motel receipt and discovers the infidelity. The next morning, Francine’s mother, La Rue, visits and insults Francine while stealing money from her daughter. Francine is later visited by her best friend, Cuddles Kovinsky, a former cleaning lady who inherited a fortune, and La Rue is contemptuous. After La Rue leaves, Cuddles discusses her upcoming debutante ball. Francine claims her friend is too old to be a debutante, but Cuddles has already rented the hall. As Francine shares her suspicions ... +


Francine Fishpaw, an overweight housewife with an acute sense of smell, lives in suburban Baltimore, Maryland, with her husband, Elmer, who owns a pornographic movie theater, and their two rebellious children, Lu-Lu and Dexter. Francine is horrified when anti-pornography protesters picket outside their house, but Elmer calls the local television station to capitalize on the publicity. Later, Freddy Ashton arrives for his date with Lu-Lu and Francine is thankful he is not like Bo-Bo Belsinger, whom Lu-Lu is forbidden to date. Lu-Lu drives away with Freddy, but Bo-Bo and his friend block the road and threaten Freddy, and she leaves with them. As the trio drives through town, Bo-Bo swats people with a broom, including a gospel singer awaiting her bus. Infuriated, the singer hijacks the bus, chases them, and beats Bo-Bo. Later, Francine and Elmer watch television news coverage of the “Baltimore Foot Stomper,” an unidentified teenage boy who violently stomps on women’s feet. After Elmer falls asleep, he calls out loud to his secretary, Sandra Sullivan, while dreaming. Suspicious, Francine sniffs the air and follows Sandra’s scent to her husband’s clothing where she finds a motel receipt and discovers the infidelity. The next morning, Francine’s mother, La Rue, visits and insults Francine while stealing money from her daughter. Francine is later visited by her best friend, Cuddles Kovinsky, a former cleaning lady who inherited a fortune, and La Rue is contemptuous. After La Rue leaves, Cuddles discusses her upcoming debutante ball. Francine claims her friend is too old to be a debutante, but Cuddles has already rented the hall. As Francine shares her suspicions regarding her husband’s infidelity, Sandra telephones with the news that Elmer will not be home that evening. Cuddles agrees to spy outside the motel with her chauffeur, Heintz. The telephone rings again, and Dexter’s school principal informs Francine that her son was expelled from school for truancy. Meanwhile, the drug-addicted Dexter roams a shopping mall and stomps on a woman’s foot. Lu-Lu comes home and announces that she quit school to become a go-go dancer. That night, Francine discovers Lu-Lu in Bo-Bo’s car, and orders her daughter inside. Lu-Lu declares that she is pregnant, but plans an abortion. Dexter returns and stomps on Francine’s foot. When Cuddles telephones to announce that Elmer and Sandy checked into the motel, Francine joins her friend, breaks into her husband’s motel room and demands a divorce. Elmer leaves with Sandy to celebrate. Depressed, Francine starts drinking alcohol. Elmer continually harasses Francine, and La Rue, Lu-Lu, and Dexter berate her for becoming an alcoholic. As Francine reaches her breaking point, Cuddles arrives to take her shopping, and Francine insists on also attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. During the drive to the store, Francine’s attention is drawn to a handsome man leaning against his car. At the boutique, Cuddles tries on dresses, while Francine deals with a hang-over and vomits in her purse. Elsewhere, Dexter stalks a woman at a grocery store and stomps her foot, but is apprehended. As Francine attends an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, Lu-Lu visits an abortion clinic but protestors swarm into the waiting room. Later, Francine arrives home to find Lu-Lu beating herself to force a miscarriage. Francine telephones a nun for help and two nuns arrive, force Lu-Lu into a car trunk, and take her to their home for unwed mothers. That night, Francine’s dreams are sexual fantasies featuring a pizza delivery man and the handsome stranger. The next morning, she is awakened by police who obtained a search warrant after Derek’s arrest as the Baltimore Foot Stomper. Francine tries to hang herself from the refrigerator but Cuddles arrives, leads her friend through the crowd of reporters outside, and they leave in Cuddles’ limousine. At a nearby stop sign, Francine notices as the handsome stranger pulls up beside them and winks at her. Cuddles and Francine attempt to picnic at the park, but are invaded by ants and a skunk. Later, at Francine’s home, La Rue discovers that her daughter’s divorce is finalized, with a settlement of $2,000 per month and the house. The doorbell rings and two teenaged trick or treaters demand candy, but La Rue refuses. The boys burst inside, tear the room apart, pull out a gun and shoot La Rue in the leg. They continue to destroy furniture, but La Rue retrieves the gun and shoots one of them. Lu-Lu returns and is heartbroken to discover that Bo-Bo is the dead trick or treater. When Francine arrives home, Lu-Lu is attempting to kill herself in the gas oven, and the family dog left a suicide note before hanging himself from the refrigerator. Later, a clean-cut, rehabilitated Derek is released from prison and returns home, embracing a new career as an artist specializing in pictures of feet. He received drug counseling while in prison, and encourages Francine to stop drinking alcohol. Lu-Lu joins them, and shares that after Bo-Bo’s death and her miscarriage, she found peace through macramé. Francine is happy they have become a normal American family. She visits La Rue in the hospital, and declares that she has always been a loving daughter, but only received abuse in return. On the way home, Francine notices the handsome stranger is a bystander at the scene of an automobile accident. She stops and meets Todd Tomorrow, who offers her a ride in his new Corvette. She accepts and they embark on an adventure in the country, strolling through fields and feeding horses, before driving back to Francine’s home. Todd meets Derek and Lu-Lu, then makes love to Francine. In the morning, he roughly nudges her, but is charming as she awakens. Todd asks to marry Francine and she agrees. That evening, they dress for Cuddles’ debutante ball, but stop at Todd’s upscale drive-in theater first. Francine waits in the lobby while he goes to his office, claiming he needs to check receipts. However, La Rue, who is his actual girl friend, and his friend, a pimp, greet him in the office and share cocaine. Energized by the drug, Todd returns to Francine and they attend Cuddles’ party. Cuddles makes a grand entrance with Heintz, and, as they dance, he proposes and Cuddles agrees to marry him. Later, Francine and Todd return to her home and have sex. After Francine falls asleep, Todd sneaks out of the room. Meanwhile, Elmer and Sandy, carrying a gun, break into the house. Francine awakens, searches for Todd, and discovers him downstairs kissing her mother. Francine attacks but they overpower her. La Rue holds out a bouquet of flowers to please her daughter’s sense of smell, then shoves old sneakers into Francine’s face to drive her insane. As Francine screams, Dexter and Lu-Lu rush out of their rooms, but hear intruders sneaking up the stairway. They retreat as Elmer and Sandy sneak past. Dexter jumps out and stomps on Sandy’s foot, causing her to shoot Elmer in the back, killing him. Sandy runs, but Lu-Lu catches her on the stairs and strangles her with a macramé project. When Todd and La Rue rush to investigate, Todd grabs Sandy’s gun, and decides to blame the deaths on Francine. The kids object but Todd calls for the pimp and orders him to take the kids away. Francine cries on the floor as Todd calls the mental hospital, and declares she is an insane murderer. He and La Rue discuss draining Francine’s bank accounts, and selling the house, the kids, and the drive-in, but Francine escapes. They chase her onto the street as Cuddles and Heintz drive up. Francine runs past the car, but Todd is killed, and then Heintz backs over La Rue. As the pimp runs away, Derek and Lu-Lu run to Francine. Cuddles and Heintz join the family, and everyone embraces each other. +

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

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