Stormy Waters

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Baltimore’s most famous filmmaking son, John Waters has been dubbed ‘The Pope of Trash’ thanks to a succession of sick and sleazy underground movies that gained him prominence throughout the seventies and early eighties. Certainly, from his humble beginnings with the indescribably bizarre Mondo Trasho (1969), and the Herschell Gordon Lewis-inspired Multiple Maniacs (1969), both featuring the legendary drag queen Divine (a fixture of Waters’ work up until his passing in 1988), the filmmaker has never been afraid of offending and perplexing his audience. Perhaps still most famous for 1972’s trailer-trash classic Pink Flamingos, which concludes with the notorious and oft-discussed scene of Divine digesting canine excrement, Waters hit his peak by bathing in unapologetically ugly and curiously confrontational grindhouse grime.

Take this as an example – 1974’s Female Trouble would even be, indefensibly, dedicated to Manson family murderer Tex Watson: someone who the director took the opportunity to visit in prison. Hardly in the best of taste, then, but Waters seemed to revel in being a media pariah and pushing the boundaries of honest acceptability during his heyday – with notable titles also including 1977’s Desperate Living and 1981’s enjoyably idiosyncratic Polyester (the film which introduced audiences to ‘oderama’ – scratch and sniff cards designed to exalt relevant fumes during choice sequences). Oddly enough, after a seven year break, the auteur of excess would be embraced by a more mainstream audience thanks to his PG-rated musical Hairspray (1988) and the Johnny Depp-starring Cry Baby (1990) – the latter now widely accepted as a brilliantly realised homage to the greaser-flicks of the fifties. Whilst follow-up features such as the Kathleen Turner-starring Serial Mom (1994), Pecker (1998), Cecil B. Demented (2000) and A Dirty Shame (2004) never obtained the critical or commercial accolades of his Hairspray-high, Waters maintains an enviable presence as a stand-up comedian, author, film authority, spokesperson for independent cinema and pop culture demigod. As such, The Dark Side caught up with him for a laid back chat which proved frequently funny, often insightful and occasionally surprising…

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