Project Shanks Monday Night Movie: Female Trouble (1974)

By John Baggett
PSDC Movie Dude

Note: I kinda spoil this movie, but I don’t think it’ll diminish your enjoyment of the film at all.

In December, NBC will be airing a live production of the musical, Hairspray, following the recent successes of Grease Live and The Wiz. I’m actually excited about the production, as I’m a big fan of the show (and I’m not just saying that because a friend of mine co-directed a production of it last summer). What does this have to do with anything? Well, the connection is that the play was based on a 1988 film of the same name from writer/director, John Waters. And to this day, it remains the only one of his films you could comfortably watch with your family. (Maybe, Serial Mom too.)

Waters would laugh about the success of his film, saying he could imagine a family saying, “We loved Hairspray! Let’s rent another John Waters film!” Only for them to be immediately horrified by what they might see. Waters is often named the Pope of Trash or the Prince of Puke, a man whose career began as a guerilla hippie filmmaker in Baltimore in the 1960s that led to him being one of the kings of the midnight movie in the 1970s, before he went legit(ish) in the 80s. He rose to infamy with his 1972 film, Pink Flamingos, which made him a cult figure and his company of actors, named Dreamlanders, stars (sort of), especially the 300 pound drag queen tour de force known as Divine. Pink Flamingos may be the more obvious choice to cover, but I’m not going down the easy path. This week I’m examining the Flamingos follow up, the 1974 comedy, Female Trouble.

 FemaleTrouble2

Female Trouble is the story of Dawn Davenport (Divine), as told in various stages of her life. We first meet her as a troubled teen in 1960 that is more interested in getting cha-cha heels for Christmas then she is her schoolwork. She and her two best friends, Concetta (Cookie Mueller) and Chicklette (Susan Walsh) cut class, threaten other students, and would rather be expelled than be in school for another female. Besides, Dawn doesn’t need school, she’s gonna be famous one day.

On Christmas morning, after her parents don’t get her the cha-cha heels she asked for, Dawn attacks her parents, pinning her mother under the Christmas tree, and running away from home. After leaving home, she hitches a ride with a man named Earl Peterson (also played by Divine), who takes her to the city dump for some sexy time. Naturally, said sexy time leads to Dawn getting pregnant and Earl refuses to help, telling her to go fuck herself.

Dawn ends up being a pretty terrible mother, unable to control her daughter Taffy (played as a child by Hilary Taylor and as a adolescent/teenager by Mink Stole). Dawn’s idea of discipline includes chaining Taffy to her bed and beating her with a car aerial. She confides in her friends Concetta and Chicklette that she doesn’t know how to control Taffy, even though she is not setting a good example, byu harboring her two friends every time they go out stealing.

Dawn’s life makes a change for the better when she ends up in the Les Lipstick Salon, run by beauty experts Donald (David Lochary) and Donna Dasher (Mary Vivian Pearce). She impresses the Dashers, who allow her to become their new customer and she even catches the eye of Gater (Michael Potter), a hairdresser who lives with his aunt Ida (Edith Massey). Ida refuses to accept that Gater is straight and continues to try and set him up with nice young men. But, Gater has eyes for Dawn and the two soon marry.

Wedded life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for Dawn, as she and Gater are having some problems in the bedroom. The two split, but with the Dashers helping Dawn rise to fame, they help her make Gater’s life rough, even firing him. Dawn becomes a sensation, even after a violent attack by Ida, who throws acid in her face, and becomes a superstar that mixes murder with beauty and art. This career move helps lead her to the biggest achievement in her career – the electric chair.

Now, part of the reason that I picked this film over Pink Flamingos is that I think it’s a better movie. I don’t dislike Pink Flamingos, in fact I might cover it and the other entry in Waters’ “Trash Trilogy,” Desperate Living, at later dates. I just feel like if it didn’t end in Divine eating dog shit, I don’t know how well remembered the movie might be. Female Trouble shows Waters getting better as a writer and a director. It has all of the trashiness of Flamingos but with a slightly more cohesive story.

Even John Waters has called it his favorite of his early films. In the commentary, he described it as a vehicle for Divine and it really shows. He (and I use that pronoun as Divine was a drag queen, not transgender) was always a performer that gave his all and after his passing, Waters’ films never really felt the same.

Female Trouble is the kind of anarchic filmmaking that we don’t see very often these days. It’s 42 years old now but still packs as much of a punch as I’m sure it did back then. If you’ve never seen a Waters film, I definitely think you should start with Pink Flamingos, but this also isn’t a bad place to start. It’s funnier, more shocking, and more in your face than the “raunchy comedies” coming out today. It’s a brash slice of cinema that was everything it ever set out to be.

Now, where are my goddamn cha-cha heels?

Rating: **** (out of 5)

PSDC Movie Review: Dracula 3D

By John Baggett
PSDC Horror Fiend

Rating: * (out of 5)

Go to any horror convention and ask around if anyone is a Dario Argento fan. No doubt that nine out of 10 people you ask will say yes. But there is a problem with this. Most of us Argento fans are stuck in the past and remember the times when he made cinematic gold. (You can also do the same for John Carpenter, Wes Craven, George Romero, etc.) The man is a legend for a reason. His films Suspiria, Deep Red and Opera are some of the greatest horror movies ever made and some of the most beautiful nightmarish cinema you can find. [Read more…]

PSDC Movie Review: Bad Milo

By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Director Jean-Luc Godard once said, “Photography is truth. And cinema is truth twenty four times a second.” Bad Milo is a movie about a monster living inside of Ken Marino’s ass. That’s one hell of a truth, if you ask me.

Bad Milo is comedic horror film from director Jacob Vaughan. The film is his feature debut after helming a handful of shorts and serving as an editor or assistant editor on a whole lot of mumblecore films (that’s a thing) mostly involving Jay and Mark Duplass who were kind enough to produce this little epic.

bad-milo

The plot is simple – Marino plays Duncan Hayslip, an accountant experiencing some…bathroom issues. As we meet him and his wife, Sarah (Gillian Jacobs), they are at the doctor’s office where Duncan is having an ultrasound. The doctor finds an oddly shaped polyp in his intestines. The doctor says they can remove it but until they do he needs to avoid stress because that is what is causing the problems. [Read more…]

PSDC Movie Review: Blue Is The Warmest Color

By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru

Rating: ***** (out of 5)

For some reason this week I have been all about sexually explicit movies about relationships. One was about sexual addiction, this one is all about love.

Blue-Is-The-Warmest-Color

Blue is the Warmest Color is a three-hour French lesbian drama, something that most readers wouldn’t dare watch. Not because of the lesbian part but because of the three-hour part and the French part. I don’t mean that as an insult, but three hours is a long time to devote to a movie and there not be an epic bank robbery or a horse’s head in someone’s bed. This is a film that follows the relationship of two women over the course of several years. [Read more…]

PSDC Movie Review: Nymphomaniac Vol. 1

By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru

Rating: **** 1/2 (out of 5)

I have a love/hate relationship with Lars Von Trier. I think he’s a talented filmmaker and a terrible human being. The few films of his I have seen caused me to run through the gamut of emotions – fear, anger, boredom, sadness, and wonder, just to name a few.

Nymphomaniac

I can never say I “enjoy” his films like I would say I enjoy films like National Lampoon’s Animal House or Die Hard because those are films designed to be entertaining. Von Trier doesn’t want to entertain you. He wants to make you think, he wants to make you feel, and sometimes I think he just wants to punish you. This is why I keep coming back to the man’s work the way I do the works of Michael Haneke or Pier Paolo Passolini. This is why I was excited for Von Trier’s latest epic – Nymphomaniac. [Read more…]