Divine revels in the title of "The Filthiest Person Alive", and is living with her family in a mobile home, under the alias of "Babs Johnson". Little does she know she has competition from Raymond Marble (David Lochary) and Connie Marble (Mink Stole) a married couple who are trying to win Divine's crown. To what depths will the rivals sink in their efforts to prove themselves worse than the others?
Writer/director/producer/cameraman John Waters really made his mark with this comedy, a low budget wonder that became a cult hit through it's "I dare you to see this" factor. It was Waters' intention to shock everyone who saw it, but what he actually does is try to disgust you into laughing at the parade of degradation on display - the plot is minimal. It's the equivalent of a carnival sideshow: "You won't believe your eyes! Filthiest Person Alive!" and the amateurish trappings only enhance the seedy atmosphere.
Pink Flamingos is, like Planet of the Apes and Citizen Kane, one of those films where, if you've ever heard of it, you'll know what happens in the end. Which is, of course, Divine suffering for her art and eating dogshit onscreen - nothing that goes before can ever hope to top that sight, and arguably Waters has never topped it since. It's as if being the fictional most disgusting person wasn't good enough, and Divine had to prove it in real life, too.
Although the characters claim to be repulsive, they do have redeeming features - Divine is a devoted mother and daughter. Edith Massey plays the grandmother, also known as the Egg Lady, who sits in a play pen obsessing over eggs; the children are Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce) and Crackers (Danny Mills) who play sex games with Crackers simultaneously abusing chickens and women while Cotton looks on lustfully.
Similarly, although the Marbles sell babies to lesbian couples through the pregnant hippy girls they have kidnapped and trapped in their basement, they are very much in love. In fact, the rival camps are more alike than they care to admit, and would probably get on very well if they decided to team up. Perhaps the difference is that the Marbles operate on the level of playground bullies flushing the heads of their victims in a toilet while Divine and co take more glee from their amorality. But if Divine is so revolting, why would she be at all bothered if someone sent her a "bowel movement" through the post? Wouldn't she relish it?
A better idea would have been to set Divine against a prim couple on a moral crusade rather than the Marbles; the world of Pink Flamingos is too self contained to have any impact on the real world. It's a fantasy, and the only thing to shake the viewer is the finale. One great scene has Divine, in full makeup, walking down a busy street to the strains of "The Girl Can't Help It" - as in the Jayne Mansfield movie, all heads turn as she walks by: the public can't believe what they are seeing!
More of that and Pink Flamingos would be funnier; as it is, there are simply two sets of outrageous people pissing each other off for their own benefit. But it's the individual scenes that you'll be watching for and remembering: Divine and Crackers licking the Marbles' furniture so it will reject them; the birthday party where Divine receives gifts of fake vomit and a pig's head; the "entertainment" at the party, which ends with some policemen being killed and eaten; flasher Raymond having the tables turned on him... the list goes on. Even if you don't laugh, you won't ever forget Pink Flamingos.
Witty American writer/director, the chief proponent of deliberate bad taste in American films. His early efforts are little more than glorified home movies, including Mondo Trasho and Multiple Maniacs, but with the notorious Pink Flamingos Waters found his cult audience.