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I remember seeing this the night it came out (God, was it really 22
years ago!). We all went down to a late night showing at the Cedar on
the West Bank in Mpls., with about 4 hours worth of "feelgood" in us.
I was familiar with Waters' work, having seen PINK FLAMINGOS, and was ready for the "Odorama" cards handed out when you bought your ticket, but my "associates" were a bit mystified. It all led up to a very different & unique experience, which really hasn't been equaled since.
Basically, there were about 10 (numbered 1-10) scratch-n-sniff scents which were to be activated by you from the card when a flashing number appeared on the screen. They included a rotten egg smell for flatulence (somebody broke wind in the movie), along with a natural gas smell when a character stuck their head in an oven, among others. You get the idea. Anyway, it had the usual John Waters' cast of characters (Mink, Edith, Divine, etc.), along with the late, great Stiv Bators making his big-screen debut as (what else), a delinquent. Stiv pulls it off quite well, and everything else pretty much amounted to a fun show-going experience.
Not nearly as shocking as FLAMINGOS or FEMALE TROUBLE, but surely rent it if your into that sort of thing (a/k/a the pre-HAIRSPRAY Waters). I'm sure those "Odorama" cards are long gone, so you'll have to get creative on your own to replicate the experience that was "Odorama".
I have to comment on this movie.It was 1981 and it was my birthday.I moved to a new job and knew absolutely no one and went to a theater to see "Polyester" knowing nothing about it.It was raining and as soon as I entered to buy a ticket three employees started laughing and looking at me.They said you are the only one here to see the movie.I was handed a card and I went to a seat and sat down and the previews started.An usher walked by and I said hey,turn down the lights and turn up the sound.I put my feet up on a seat-back and thought hey,this is okay.It was my first John Waters movie and I laughed a lot at the crazy movie.I used the scratch and sniff card as prompted by the screen which was cool.I had a great time.It wasn't until several years later when I saw more Water's films that I even knew that Divine was actually a man and Water's films were a wee tad irregular.If you are humored by odd movies and odd people then watch the movie.I wish I had saved the scratch and sniff card.Not a movie for the kids.
This was my first John Waters movie, and it opened with scratch and sniff
cards. Each "spot" had a color and number and when the appropriate scene
arrived we had the privilege of smelling what was on screen. Devine's
character had an odor fetish and was constantly spraying air freshener,
while a nefarious plot was instigated to drive her insane by planting
offensively smelly things like gym sox, dead fish etc for her to find at
Her husband runs an adult cinema. Her son, based on the Baltimore Stomper, a true character, sniffs industrial solvents, stalks women with cute shoes and feet, and then stomps on them with his combat boots. The daughter, obviously the model for Christine Applegate's character in Married With Children, is the high school slut that dances on tables for quarters. And Mom worries about fresh scents.
With these subplots to the main plot, it should be obvious that plot resolution and character development are not the main attractions in a John Waters movie. The caricature of society and its stereotypes is his game, and the best moment of the movie has to be when the TV news camera is in the face of one of the Baltimore Stomper's victims as she is being carried to the ambulance on a strecher. The victim's on camera stream of obscene invectives against the callous media was one of the great moments of the movie because it was such a refreshing expression of the common person's real disgust and frustration with tabloid evening news and a culture that trivializes human suffering. Juxtapose a broken instep with the main character's insufferable pain of finding a smelly sock and you have the theme of this movie. Even the fairytale resolutions to the problems are a hilarious sendup of 80's America.
If you want to see what makes John Waters such a cult hero, but would find Female Trouble or Pink Flamingos too offensive, this was his first attempt to bridge the gap to the more accessible films he made later, while still having enough of the gross-out quality for a good laugh riot.
(Serial Mom will be on TV the weekend after Veteran's Day, and it is another very accessible glimpse into the mind of Mr. Waters.)
This movie had me laughing my rear off when I first saw it. I have never been a major John Waters fan. His early stuff was more grotesque than funny in my somewhat less than humble opinion. This film is delightfully offensive and hilarious. It's sort of in the 'Animal House' league of humor. Which is a nice change of pace from Waters earlier flicks.
I love John Waters movies. Whether it's his old or new films. He has his own strange sense of humor. In "Polyester" Devine plays down to earth overweight housewife Francine Fishpaw. Poor Francine, her husband who runs the local porn theater (pronounced thee-ater) is having an affair. Her own mother insults her constantly, her son is a glue sniffer with a foot stomping fetish and her daughter Lu-Lu is a teen rebel with an unwanted pregnancy. The only true friend Francine has is Cuddles, played by the always hilarious Edith Masey. Francine's soap opera like life spins out of control resulting in alcoholism and depression. This movie is filmed in oder-rama and the DVD comes with a scratch and sniff scent card. If you need a good laugh, you should definitely see "Polyester". And who could forget the words of young Lu-Lu? "I'm having an abortion, and I can't wait!" Don't wait .... to see this movie.
John Waters is truly a great director. I had seen Pink Flamingoes but
not to much of his earlier work. I am more familiar with his later
works like Serial Mom or Cecil B. Demented, which is all great stuff.
Polyester is the bridge, as so many people put it, between his
disgusting yet entertaining earlier work to more mainstream films like
Divine plays Francine Fishpaw. A rather large lady who is married to a man who owns a pornographic theater. Her son is a drug attic who loves to smash womens feet and her daughter is a wannabe Go-Go dancer who gets herself pregnant. Francine has only one friend in the world and that is Cuddles who is wonderfully played by Edith Massey. After Francine catches her husband sleeping with another woman (Mink Stole) Francine's life starts going into a downward spiral as she can't control her children and she becomes an alcoholic. Only, when she meets a man named Todd Tomorrow (Tab Hunter) do things start to change... or do they?
I had a grin on my face throughout the whole movie. The storyline sounds pretty depressing but only John Waters could have pulled this off and turn it into a complete comedy. Divine is right at home in her role as Francine. You truly do feel completely sorry for her. Edith Massey is excellent in the role as Cuddles and is definitely the most likable character in the whole movie. What made this movie so great for me was when this came out in theaters I was to young to see this. I just recently bought it on DVD and it comes with an actual Scratch N' Sniff card for the movie! Great stuff! This movie gets a 9/10 from me.
There are plenty of shocking and bizarre films out there, but no one
does it like John Waters. Even tamer films of his like 'Hairspray' and
'Cry-Baby' have some characters and scenes that'll make your jaw drop.
And fortunately for fans of his work he hasn't sold out or retired and
I don't think the latter will happen for quite some time. This 1981
cult classics features many of Waters' famous trademarks like oddball
characters, shocking images, bad taste, etc., but one thing sets it
apart from the rest: Odorama! A big fan of William Castle, John not
only made a great film with 'Polyester' he also came up with a clever
gimmick. If you want the full experience, hunt down a copy of New Line
Cinema's The John Waters Collection Volume 2, which comes with both
this film and 1977's 'Desperate Living,' and a replica of the original
Odorama card. But be warned, as Dr. Quakenshaw says, "You will
experience some odors that may shock you!"
Pros: John Waters assembled a great bunch of people for this film and each actor creates a memorable character. Plenty of bizarre and hilarious situations and dialogue. The Odorama gimmick is cleverly used. The music, which features a couple songs sung by star Tab Hunter and a variety of styles, is perfect. The film is meant to be a stab at middle-American and it's a good one at that. Well-paced. Fabulous production design and wardrobe, which are over-the-top in most cases. Waters makes great use of the beautiful Baltimore homes and scenery.
Cons: Hasn't aged terribly well. Somethings that are supposed to be really funny aren't.
Final thoughts: I may be in the minority, but I think this John Water's best work to date. Or at least his best work in the 80s. It's not for everyone, but if you're the kind of film lover who enjoys 90 minutes of off-the-wall humor and aren't easily offended then this might be up your alley.
My rating: 4.5/5
John Waters was still doing really outrageous movies when "Polyester"
came out. Portraying suburban Baltimore housewife Francine Fishpaw's
(Divine) world falling apart, the movie pulls no punches. I just wish
that I could have gotten an Odorama card when I watched the movie;
maybe some of the things in the movie weren't to pleasant to smell, but
it would have been neat nevertheless.
What more to say? That whole sequence where the daughter was at the camp was a hoot. It just goes to show that if John Waters is all about bad taste, then he knows how to do it right. I hope that he keeps making movies forever.
This movie is just dripping with humor. The acting is terrible and over-the-top but exactly appropriate for this kind of movie. The dialog is always ironic. There are no jokes in this movie, this movie is a joke. I was smiling and laughing almost immediately from the start. The perfect dagger in the heart of all those bloated, pretentious, Hollywood films. Words cannot express how much I love this movie. Divine as always, is great. It contains such classic lines as "I'm going to get an abortion and I can't wait!" A purely farcical ridiculous look at suburban American life. Silly. Nobody can ever do or has done what John Waters is doing. He has created a style and put a moat around it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie deliberately set out to be offensive and awful--though
fortunately NOT as offensive and gross as Waters' earlier film, PINK
FLAMINGOS. So, in many ways this is one of Waters' first more
approachable and mainstream films. Now I still would NOT let youngsters
watch the film (mostly because it talks about a lot of strange and sick
taboos), but it's probably okay for teens.
Divine stars as a housewife with the most awful family imaginable. Her husband is a pornographer who hates her guts and sleeps with his secretary, her son has a bizarre foot fetish and attacks women and her daughter is a total whore (and proud of it). As a result, the most NORMAL member of the family is the cross-dressing Divine! In addition to the family, a whole cast of maniacs and freaks co-star in the film--ranging from the always gross and untalented Edith Massey (who is so bad she's GREAT) to the once-famous Tab Hunter to Jean Hill in a small part as a woman who hijacks a bus in a small but hilarious scene. As far as the acting goes, all these people deliberately overdo it and are pure camp--giving the film a kooky sort of charm.
In addition to weird characters and bad acting, the film also features a script that is just too bizarre and trashy to be believed. It is sure to offend almost all viewers, but is also terribly funny. I particularly liked the scenes involving the abortion clinic and the nuns--you'd just have to see it to believe it.
All together, all these bizarre and shocking elements make for a very kooky and funny film that can't help but make you laugh--unless you are dead. While the film bears almost no similarity to later polished Waters films (such as HAIRSPRAY), it is wonderful in its own way--and almost as much fun to watch as my personal favorite, FEMALE TROUBLE. See it to believe it.
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