Sunday, November 23, 2014

Polyester (John Waters, 1981)

Judging by the way the harsh light of day cascaded off her legs as she sat on the pavement outside the entrance of the Crockfield Mall in suburban Baltimore, I'd say they were sheathed in a pair of tan pantyhose (legs in hose shimmer, legs not in hose... well, they... um... I think I'm going to be sick... ugh... let's try not dwell on hose-free gams, shall we?). Grabbing the foot that had just been stomped on by Dexter Fishpaw, a.k.a. The Baltimore Foot-Stomper, Shirley Evans (Susan Lowe), a.k.a. "The Mall Victim," cries out for help. But no assistance is forthcoming. Instead, she must sit there and watch as Dexter dances around her in a frenzied manner; his outward expression of arousal no doubt pressing tightly against the fly of his jeans as he danced... frenziedly. Later that week, Dexter is in the supermarket combing the aisles for a pair of feet worthy enough to stomp. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he spots a vision of foot-based loveliness in a tartan skirt and a snug-fitting burgundy sweater. Following the unnamed "Supermarket Victim" (Marina Melin) as she enters the aisle that contains products that boast water-soluble cleansing agents, Dexter can hardly contain his excitement, as her feet are simply sublime.

Overwhelmed by the erotic potency her feet are putting out there (the firmness of her black tights causes her feet to excrete a pungent odor that only he can smell), Dexter begins to fall over. Luckily for him, a shelf stacked with nothing but roll after roll of paper towels manages to break his fall.

Composing himself, Dexter approaches the supermarket victim and stomps of her left foot with all of his might. However, unlike the foot stomping that took place outside the mall entrance, two men come to the supermarket victim's aid almost immediately. Meaning, just as Dexter's outward expression of arousal was about to press tightly against the fly of his jeans, he's thrown into a giant stack of canned peas.

Oh, hello. This site hasn't, believe or not, turned into the place to satisfy all your Dexter Fishpaw fan fiction needs. It's still the place to read overlong essays about "cult movies." That being said, I felt compelled to start off my review of John Waters' Polyester with a piece that focuses primarily on the two instances in the film where Dexter Fishpaw is shown doing what he does best. And that is, stomping on women's feet.

The reason I felt compelled to do is easy, I admire the heck out of Dexter Fishpaw (Ken King), the combat boot-wearing, foot-obsessed rapscallion who also inhales solvents and does angel dust. Why? It's simple, really, he's passionate about something that doesn't exactly gel with mainstream society. Yet, at the same time, he doesn't seem to care what this so-called "mainstream society" might think about his varied interests.

Of course, a lot of you are probably wondering why I didn't start off my review with a tangent about Mink Stole in black stockings (attached to a black garter belt, no less). Well, I thought about doing that, but Dexter Fishpaw's plot line was impossible to ignore.

I know, the sight of Mink Stole, one of my favourite people in the known universe, prancing about in black stockings and cornrows(!) is impossible to ignore as well. But Dexter Fishpaw's plot line has so many ups and downs. And not only that, Dexter's foot stomping, if you think about it, actually prevents outside forces from destroying the Fishpaw way of life.

And what exactly does this way of life entail, you ask? Well, for one thing, it doesn't involve being humiliated by your porno theatre-owning husband on a daily basis. Poor Francine Fishpaw (Divine), all she wants to do live a normal, semi-productive life. Unfortunately for her, civil society has gone to shit.

The smut peddling antics of her husband, Elmer Fishpaw (David Samson) are bringing unwanted attention to her quiet cul-de-sac, her son Dexter is the Baltimore Foot-Stomper, her daughter, Lu-Lu Fishpaw (Mary Garlington), is a trampy Farrah Fawcett wannabe who's dating a scumbag named Bo-Bo Belsinger (Stiv Bators), and her mother is in cahoots with a shady Lothario named Todd Tomorrow (Tab Hunter). So, as you can see, Francine has no choice but to start drinking heavily.

To make matters worse, Lu-Lu is learning about her cervix at school and she's driving around Baltimore with Bo-Bo hitting non-wasp pedestrians with a broom. As terrible as the latter sounds, Bo-Bo meets his match when he stumbles upon Jean Hill while she's waiting for a bus. Remember when Jean Hill said in Desperate Living that she doesn't want no white man lookin' at her Tampax? Well, in this film, she doesn't want no white man hitting her in the ass with a broom, so she hijacks a bus, chases Bo-Bo down, bites one of his tires and beats the crap out of him.

At any rate, if that wasn't enough, Lu-Lu tells her mother that she's going to get a job as a go-go dancer at The Flaming Cave.

While having a lunch with her friend Cuddles (Edith Massey), a woman her mother describes as a "retarded scrubwoman," Francine gets a phone call from Susan Sullivan (Mink Stole), her husband's "secretary."

Sitting on Elmer's desk, Susan Sullivan hangs up the phone and begins to giggle while jiggling... or is she jiggling while giggling?!? Either way, Mink Stole is in black lingerie and I couldn't be more pleased by what is transpiring onscreen.

I don't know what it is about John Waters and heterosexuality, but like Mink Stole and David Lochary's relationship in Pink Flamingos (as Connie and Raymond Marble) and Mary Vivian Pearce and David Lochary's relationship in Female Trouble (as Donald and Donna Dasher), the pairing of Mink Stole and David Samson (as Susan Sullivan and Elmer Fishpaw) in Polyester depicts heterosexuality in a positive light.

Most movies look down on heterosexuality, but the films of John Waters seem to embrace it.

Suspecting that her husband is having an affair with his "secretary," Francine asks Cuddles to spy on them. However, before Cuddles can report back Francine, Lu-Lu tells her that she's two months pregnant. Which leads to this little nugget of scripted sunshine: "I'm getting an abortion and I can't wait." Just for the record, that particular passage is my second favourite line in the entire movie.

What's that? You wanna know what my favourite is. As luck would have it, it's coming right up.

Tracking Elmer and Susan down at a sleazy motel, Francine and Cuddles burst into their room to discover them sitting on the bed together. While that sounds innocuous, if you look closely, you'll notice that Elmer is drinking champagne out of one of Susan's red pumps. And you know what that means, right? Exactly, Mink Stole's nylon-ensnared feet are exposed for the world to see. And the world agrees, it's a beautiful thing.

Huh? Oh yeah, my favourite line. After the word divorce bandied about, Francine asks about Elmer's commitment to Dexter and Lu-Lu, Susan chimes in by saying: "Children would get in the way of our erotic lifestyle." I know, it's not quite up there with " I wouldn't suck your lousy dick if I was suffocating and there was oxygen in your balls! or "Tell your mother I hate her! Tell your mother I hate you!" as far as Mink-isms go, but I like the idea of people foregoing the drudgery of child rearing to live erotic lifestyles.

Putting aside the novelty that is "Odorama" (numbers appear on the screen periodically instructing you to sniff, using your Odorama card, a series of foul-smelling odors), Polyester was turning point for John Waters. The amateur, do-it-yourself aesthetic of his previous films has been replaced with helicopter shots, steadicam shots and professional stunts. The biggest change, however, comes in the form of Divine, who, for the first time in his career, is playing a part not associated with his Divine persona. At the time, this was seen as a bit of a gamble, but Divine, channeling his beloved Elizabeth Taylor, is pretty convincing as a stressed out housewife.

Mixing the crude humour and the social satire of his underground movies and combining it with classic Hollywood filmmaking techniques (think Douglas Sirk meets Russ Meyer), John Waters's Polyester is the best of both worlds. Competently made filth.

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