Punk rock was, among many other things, a call for democratization of popular culture, a declaration that music was something nearly anyone could do if they found the calling, and in many respects, John Waters' Pink Flamingos was a bid to do the same thing for cinema. Pink Flamingos looks like a slightly overgrown home movie, the acting runs from pretty good to one step above junior high drama club, the score is not only comprised of a variety of obscure oldies but obviously dubbed from aged 45's (complete with scratches), and the screenplay has more than its share of holes. But despite it all, Pink Flamingos works, generally because Waters' smart and subversive comic ideas refuse to be held down by the primitive technical means at his disposal. Waters subscribed to the notion that if you had ideas and a camera, then you could be a filmmaker, and never let it be said that John Waters was ever short on great ideas. Waters is not afraid to go for the gross-out (indeed, it's his raison d'être), and Pink Flamingos is his most spectacularly rude film, but his bad taste is at once strange and positively ornate compared to the juvenile teen flick ickyness that would come to dominate film comedy in the 1990s; nearly three decades after it was released, Pink Flamingos' most spectacular moments still inspire a puzzled "What was that?" from first-time viewers. And just as Waters believed anyone with the ideas and the wherewithal could be a filmmaker, the best members of his cast -- Divine, David Lochary, Mink Stole, and Edith Massey -- were "movie stars" waiting to happen, and if they're a bit short on technique, they've got enthusiasm and personality to spare. Most reviews of Pink Flamingos focus on the film's ultra-black humor and dizzying bad taste, but what truly makes the film special is John Waters' unexpectedly intelligent and idiosyncratic humor, and his liberating willingness to try anything in the name of filmmaking; he may have made better movies, but he never stated this position on bad taste and stubborn independence with more gleeful vehemence than here.
by Mark Deming review