Polyester (1981) B-
After the underground gross-out features, such as “Pink Flamingos,” Female Trouble,” and “Desperate Living,” Waters made a bid for wider acceptance with this black comedy. By standards of his previous work, the story and humor are sedate and a tad too trivial.
“Polyester,” which was not quite as foul as the previous movies, became notable for casting faded movie star Tab Hunter and for introducing a gimmick, a set of scratch-and-sniff cards called Odorama, which contained a range of stimuli matching the sensations experienced by Divine’s housewife.
Divine plays Francine Fishpaw, a housewife whose life has become a living hell. Her husband Elmer (David Samson) runs a porno theater, which shows trash classics such as “My Burning Bush.” A womanizer, he is having an affair with his secretary Sandra (Mink Stole), a sleazy girl, sproting Bo Derek-style cornrow braids. At one point she tells Elmer, “Children would only get in the way of our erotic lifestyle!”
Francine hasraised two teenage children, Dexter (Ken King), who likes to sniff glue and stomp on women’s feet, and Lulu (Mary Garlington), a brazen slut who hangs out with overage juvenile delinquent Bobo (Stiv Bators) and gleefully anticipates her next abortion.
Francine’s best friend, the delusional Cuddles (Edith Massey), is a slightly insane heiress who has convinced herself that she’s still a debutante.
Francine’s life has become so miserable that her dog commits suicide rather than be a witness to the shabby existence she had succumbed.
But out of the blue a light strikes Francine’s life, in the form of Todd Tomorrow (Tab Hunter). Soon, Francine throws herself into into a torrid affair with the handsomely dashing beaut. Among other qualities, he represents high culture, as the owner of a local drive-in specializing in art films–their current bill is a triple feature by Margurerite Duras (author of “Hiroshima Mon Amour”).
Mildly subversive and moderately amuisng, as noted, “Polyester” was originally shown in “Odorama,” with patrons given a card with ten scratch-and-sniff patches, to be smelled at key points in the action.
The movie features a romantic theme song sung by Deborah Harry and Bill Murray.
Running time: 83 Minutes.
Directed by John Waters
Divine as Francine Fishpaw
Tab Hunter as Todd Tomorrow
Edith Massey as Cuddles
Mink Stole as Sandra
David Samson as Elmer Fishpaw
Joni Ruth White as LaRue mother
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