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2008 | 2004

1 item from 2004

A Dirty Shame

13 September 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Screened at the Toronto International Film Festival

The Tony-winning success of Hairspray might have made him a mainstream darling, but John Waters has returned to trashy form with what is unquestionably his most outrageous film since those heady Pink Flamingos days.

A giddy sex farce starring Tracey Ullman as a repressed Baltimore resident (where else?) who turns into a raging sex maniac after receiving a freak head injury, this overheated ode to depravity and general bad taste kicks some silly smut in the face of today's conservative-leaning, post-wardrobe-malfunction society.

Granted, Waters has problems keeping it up -- the content really struggles to sustain a feature-length format -- but the picture, wearing its NC-17 rating like a badge of dishonor, should nevertheless emerge as his best boxoffice bet since 1994's Serial Mom.

Ullman is Sylvia Stickles, a generally unhappy woman with a horny husband (Chris Isaak) and a go-go dancer daughter with ridiculously enlarged breasts (an unrecognizable Selma Blair) and a stage name of Ursula Udders, whose bouts of exhibitionism have landed her in home detention.

One day en route to her family-operated Pinewood Park and Pay convenience store, Sylvia sustains a smack in the head that turns her into a card-carrying sex addict around the same time she's spotted by writhing tow-truck driver Ray-Ray Perkins (Johnny Knoxville -- a Watersian name if there ever was one), who believes her to be the long-awaited 12th apostle of erotic awakening.

While Ray-Ray, whose battle cry is "Let's go sexin'!" inducts her into his inner circle of fetishists, Sylvia's mother, Big Ethel (Suzanne Shepherd), along with libido-hating neighbor Marge the Neuter (Mink Stole), launch a campaign to take back their neighborhood from all the disgusting deviants.

Taking his stylistic cue from cautionary movies like Reefer Madness and old high school health films, Waters also throws vintage sexploitation flicks and musty nudist camp clips into the naughty mix, while his longtime production designer Vincent Peranio heightens the kitschy landscape with suggestive-looking foliage.

Waters also spent a lot of time coming up with wacky euphemisms like "yodeling in the canyon," while Ullman's Stickles refers to a part of her anatomy as her "axis of evil."

There also seems to be nothing too taboo for the rest of his willing cast, which also includes Patricia Hearst (in her fifth Waters film) and David Hasselhoff in a sequence so tasteless the late Divine would have smiled approvingly.

Fine Line

Fine Line Features presents This Is That Killer Films/John Wells production

In association with City Light Pictures

A John Waters film


Director-screenwriter: John Waters

Producers: Christine Vachon, Ted Hope

Executive Producers: Mark Ordesky, Mark Kaufman, Merideth Finn, John Wells, The Fisher Brothers

Director of photography: Steve Gainer

Production designer: Vincent Peranio

Editor: Jeffrey Wolf

Costume designer: Van Smith

Music: George S. Clinton

Music supervisor: Tracy McKnight


Sylvia Stickles: Tracey Ullman

Ray-Ray Perkins: Johnny Knoxville

Caprice Stickles: Selma Blair

Vaughn Stickles: Chris Isaak

Big Ethel: Suzanne Shepherd

Marge the Neuter: Mink Stole

Paige: Patricia Hearst

Dora: Jackie Hoffman

Himself: David Hasselhoff

Running time -- 89 minutes

MPAA Rating: NC-17 »

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2008 | 2004

1 item from 2004

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