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Not for everyone, but a film reminiscent of the John Waters films of yesterday

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
28 June 2009

A DIRTY SHAME is a good film but it certainly isn't for everyone. Of all the many films I have seen in my life, this one has (by far) the most pervasive sexuality of any movie--even more than in John Waters' early films. While there is not much nudity at all, I think only about 25 seconds of the film are not intended to be offensive by talking about perversions or showing them (at least in a sanitized manner). Like PINK FLAMINGOS, this film seems to be an experiment by John Waters to see how far he can go and get away with it. In this, case, he seems to be seeing how many sexual references and perversions he can include in a single film. However, given how much things have changed since the early 1970s, apparently you can go amazingly far! Of course, this could be because I saw the DVD version of the film (that is rated NC-17) and not the theatrical rated-R version.

The story is sort of like a fairy tale (or anti-Biblical morality play) set in a Baltimore suburb. In it, strange things happen when people have accidental head injuries--they become sex maniacs with their own particular type of perversion. Most any fetish or weird sex act you could imagine has someone in the town who recently switched to it. I could only think of a few weird sexual hangups that were not in the film and IMDb would probably ban me for even mentioning them or the ones in the film! This town, oddly, has two types of people--pervs and neuters. The neuters think all sex is bad and the pervs are running amok having sex with everything (even trees) and everywhere, even the local quickie mart(!).

When neuter Tracy Ullman receives her head injury, it's something special. The band of pervs leader announced that she is the chosen one--the one who will introduce some new form of perversion that has never been seen before. However, before she can find it, she is hit on the head again accidentally and becomes her old neuter self. It seems that accidental head trauma can make anyone switch back and forth--even Ullman's amazingly slutty daughter (who you just have to see to believe). Will Ullman regain her perversion and come up with the new sex act or will the revolution just fizzle out? Tune in and see.

The film is very funny but very raunchy. If you can watch John Waters' early films (PINK FLAMINGOS, MONDO TRASHO, DESPERATE LIVING or FEMALE TROUBLE), then you are probably a good candidate for the movie. If not, then it's an iffy proposition--this film is offensive in practically every way. If all the smuttiness were to be cut out, this film would be the length of a TV commercial. Seriously.

Oh, and by the way, for the fans of the old John Waters films, Mink Stole and Mary Vivian Pearce are both in this film--keep an eye out for them.

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Back to "Start"

Author: nycritic
2 June 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Every director that's started in the world of avant-garde eventually sells out to the mainstream and goes "safe." John Waters is no stranger to this gentrification of his own material -- it's not hard to see a progressive taming of his work from PINK FLAMINGOS to the almost sedate yet darkly funny SERIAL MOM, when by then his work wasn't attracting the type of sensationalistic attention anymore and the extravagances of television had taken over, full force. A DIRTY SHAME is a return to form, even if it's using somewhat recycled material, to when he was the king of shock. The premise that within the suburbanites of Baltimore, sexual beings lurk is somewhat close to the dark perversions of BLUE VELVET with hysterical overtones and none of the breathless decadence of David Lynch's movie -- because take away every ounce of raunch and comedy and that's what you might get. A DIRTY SHAME for the most is a fun movie, an incursion into the craziness that John Waters was known for even when the concept wears itself somewhat thin after repeated showings. Tracey Ullman, herself an outrageous comic, delves into her housewife in need of a sexual break with abandon and its one of the most hysterical points to see herself relating to her nether regions where in another movie it might be silly; she pulls it off for sheer grabs. Also in equal measure, though her prosthetic chest deflates, literally and figuratively, halfway through, is Selma Blair, an actress I'm not very aware of, but who substitutes for Traci Lords as if she were channeling her. Rounding off the cast is Johnny Knoxville as a sexual Messiah and Waters usual roster of bit players Patty Hearst and Mink Stole.

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Good concepts....for a skit.

Author: krisroboneil
15 January 2006

I had fun watching this movie, but, it went on about the same thing forever. Never in my dedicated history of watching John Waters movies was I ever bored. (Incidentally, I haven't seen Cecil B. or Pecker) I could barely watch the last 1/2 hour of this. I kept wondering when it would finally be over.

I applaud this film maker for tackling taboo subjects. Ullman was good+ but, not performing her own material (where I believe she would have excelled).

It was fun and I'm thankful for something other than mindless dreck, but, it left me pining for "desperate living" and "female trouble" which had so much more to offer in the way of outlandish entertainment and featured no big stars (alright, several of them were reaaaally big)!

I miss cuddles.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Often hilarious, very disturbing and oddly endearing, John Waters' "A Dirty Shame" works at first, but gets too weird for its own good... Still a decent ride...

Author: MaximumMadness from United States
14 February 2012

John Waters' satirical 2004 release "A Dirty Shame" was the controversial film that attained an NC-17, and basically was unable to be edited for an R-rating. Waters' film is very disgusting at times, sometimes even vile in its matter-of-fact portrayal of various sexual fetishes (some of which are admittedly fun-looking, while others are just plain foul and hilarious), which to be honest is expected of his films. And oddly, the characters are all well-played and likable. This is a film I have trouble rating. It isn't his best film, but it is ultimately enjoyable, despite some serious flaws.

Tracy Ullman stars as Sylvia, a "neuter" (someone who is repressed sexually) in a small town that is obvious very repressed and uptight. However, within the community exists a growing group of people who have experienced a sexual awakening (mainly due to head injuries), and are very open with their fantasies. When Sylvia experiences a head injury and is awakened, she meets with "sex saint" Ray-Ray (Johnny Knoxville) who introduces her to the world of open sexual fetishes, as he and his followers search for the ultimate fetish.

The film is very much a sexual cartoon, and often is full of exaggerated ideas, dialog and imagery. Waters employs all sorts of tactics (everything from gags, on-screen subtitles, suggestive set dressing, etc.) to illustrate a town that is repressed while still being exposed to sexuality, and the characters are all very interesting. I didn't even mention Selma Blair as Ullman's daughter- a woman who has enormous implants that are practically bigger than the rest of her body.

The film is also quite funny (particularly a scene that will make you look at the "Hokey-Pokey" in a whole new way), with some great gags and hilarious dialog, as well as trademark over-the-top jokes. A lot of "queasy" laughs are also brought in by the descriptions of various fetishes (many of which are real) and occasionally by seeing them played out by our "awakened" characters. Although this is one of the problems- the film does go overboard at times, and a lot of the gags don't quite fit in, and interrupt the flow.

In addition, it isn't made particularly well- certain effects give themselves away, the plot does get sloppy, and after a while, the content will weigh on your patience. You will wish that more "plot" would happen.

That being said, there is still a lot of fun to be had, just don't expect this to be Waters' masterpiece. I give it a slightly above average 6 out of 10.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Overstaying your welcome

Author: Steve Pulaski from United States
13 June 2011

John Waters was truly a seventies icon because of his appetite for trashy and low budget filmmaking. Because of content, a number of his films earned the rare but strict "NC-17" rating for things I'm sure no other movie has even come close to - Pink Flamingos (Rated R: Wide range of perversions in explicit detail) for example. Waters attempts to come back in the 2000's and give the world a taste of A Dirty Shame, when all it does it sink his ship and proves that in the 2000's Waters is likely to never be as big as he once was.

Most likely because in the 2000's, we've seen a lot dirtier things on Television and other movies. The film centers around sexual fetishes which aren't even explored in explicit form. The famous "water bottle" scene isn't even shown in its entirety. If I'm not mistaking, I though "NC-17" meant that anything goes.

The plot is about an uptight suburban mom named Sylvia Stickles (Ullman) with a husband Vaughn (Isaak), and a stripper for a daughter named Caprice (Blair). They live on Hartford Road which has its social groups; the neuters and the perverts. When Sylvia gets hit on the head she suddenly becomes sex crazy and meets the "sex saint" mechanic named Ray-Ray Perkins (Knoxville). Ray-Ray runs an underground sort of perverts club for the neighborhood and his goal is turn all of Hartford Road into perverts.

John Waters proves what was dirty back then, doesn't live up to its name now. A Dirty Shame is nothing but constant unfunny sex jokes. Not even the fact that this film has them makes it the least bit funny. Some of the fetishes the film explains are putrid and absolutely despising, but some may have them which is the funny part. I think that is the goal for Waters. I think he wants people to cringe and be disgusted. I'm not even sure if he's trying to make a good film at all.

The only two things that remotely save A Dirty Shame from being one are its soundtrack and Johnny Knoxville. The soundtrack includes the songs Let's Go Sexin, Red Hot, and a few others to make the music for the film favorable and Knoxville plays a great, offbeat comedy guy which will likely be his calling when he retires from Jackass or becomes absorbed in other things.

I have no problem with language, sex, drugs, or anything in any movie. I do have a problem when filmmakers feel they have to just randomly include sexual references and nudity every chance they get. It becomes monotonous, not funny, and just plain stupid. There is hardly anything in A Dirty Shame that's funny, memorable, or even watchable. It's sick and ill-behaved - the sad part is it loves itself for being like that.

During the trailer for the film, Waters holds a book titled Suicide in the Entertainment Industry by David K. Fraser when the narrator exclaims "from the director of Hairspray and Pink Flamingos." I couldn't agree more with the choice of book.

Starring: Tracy Ullman, Chris Isaak, Selma Blair, Suzanne Shepperd, and Mink Stole. Directed by: John Waters.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

File under Comedy/ Horror: Zombies

Author: yourwarmembrace from United States
28 March 2011

I absolutely enjoyed this movie up until the final scene. The final climax is rather anticlimactic but I guess there isn't much further this one could have gone without getting into the gross and unspeakable. We still have Pink Flamngos for that. The music for this segment did not help matters. So why 7 stars? This movie is something of a middle finger to the motion picture ratings board in America. If not for the documentary, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, I wouldn't have even known about it. Kudos there. If you have not seen This Film Is Not Yet Rated, I urge you to do so. I no longer care to see a film until it is out on DVD and then I will be looking for the Director's Cut and/ or Unrated version. It's laughable to think that Waters expected anything less than a NC-17 rating for this film. While it's sad that NC-17 equates to the kiss of death. See it. It's a riot... reminds me of Shaun of the Dead.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A sexual comedy that isn't sexy or funny.

Author: mrelwood from Finland
23 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I never watch or skip movies because of the director, but due to A Dirty Shame I think I should start. I knew nothing about John Waters before watching this movie, and it seems that's where I went wrong.

A Dirty Shame is made in the 90's Disney style childs' comedy, but rated NC-17 and banned in Singapore. How could that ever work? I didn't smile, or even go "hm!" during the movie. I wasn't grossed out either. Needless to say, I surely didn't feel any arousement, while during most films (any genre) I do feel some. I love weird and black humor, but A Dirty Shame did nothing for me. To me it felt a lot worse than watching slapstick before it was hip again, a presentation that was as "out" of era as one can be. This could've been a worthwhile movie in the 80's, and might be again in 20 years when people watch old movies just so see how disturbed people used to be.

I did see the "naughtier"(?) and "funnier"(?) NC-17 version.

Although I might sound like it, I didn't take the movie seriously at all, and in real life I'm actually a lot closer to the sex addicted ones. While the movie is strictly a comedy, it bothers me that it gives totally wrong perceptions. Reading up on the director John Waters one should expect the hidden meanings to be all but biblical. However, I feel it's the opposite that happens.

The movie: - Doesn't shed information or awareness on perversions, instead suggest you should laugh AT them. - Promotes cheating as normal behavior for sexual minorities. - Presents sexual minorities as rabid anarchists. - Promotes medication (Prozac) as (the only) way to heal from "sexuality". - Viagra only results in continuous uncontrollable sexual urge. - If you believe in God you can't have sex.

It's the hidden meanings of A Dirty Shame that worry me. Usually the majority of the public in comedies are "normal", and the minority are thieves, crazy or abnormal people etc, and the hidden meaning or lesson is not to steal and be tolerant towards other people and to lose prejudice. But the public that takes the "normal" tag are über-christians in total denial of sex as a part of humanity, and the minority are anarchist, unfaithful, addictive people that have a sickness that can only be treated with Prozac. I know this sounds like I'm exaggerating, but that actually happened in the movie.

The 12 guidelines presented when entering the biblical section of the movie were given way too much space. From there on I actually thought this is a very weird movie from some Christian director who wants to promote "God's way" of prohibiting sexuality, and in order to reach teenagers he decided to put the message hidden in a sexual comedy. There were several other "wtf are they trying to say here" moments as well.

I don't think even 8 year olds joke like that on Viagra anymore. And a medicine mentioned in a 2004 movie, Prozac! When horny, wear leopard pattern and a slutty make-up! I see these as blatantly cheap way-outs that tells me the writer doesn't know anything on these subjects past stereotypes.

If you want to get a better understanding on sex and sexual minorities, see a plot that has a goal, or be amused by sad acting or lacking characters, go watch a porn movie instead.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:


Author: preppy-3 from United States
24 January 2010

Depressed puritanical housewife Sylvia Stickles (Tracey Ullman) with a nice but horny husband (Chris Isaak) and a HUGE breasted kid (Selma Blair) is hit on the head one day. It immediately turns her into a raving sex addict and she finds there's a whole group of people like her led by Ray Ray Perkins (Johnny Knoxville).

First off I should mention I saw the 84 minute R rated cut and not the 89 minute NC-17 one. Some of the cuts were obvious as were the voice overdubs but I don't think it changed the movie a lot. What I saw was a typically strange John Waters film with plenty of good moments but it didn't totally work. The main problem is the script is all over the place! The first half of the movie is coherent but the film totally derails during the second half. Complications come on fast and furious and it all ends up not making a lot of sense. The movie is chockful of dialogue discussing frank sexual acts and some incredibly unsubtle imagery. Some of it works but, more often than not, it just doesn't hit its mark. A cameo by David Hasselhoff particularly makes no sense and isn't funny at all. Also the pacing here is atrocious--but that's not uncommon in a Water film. Acting really helps this one. Ullman is fearless here considering some of her very sexually explicit lines and costumes. Blair deserves a lot of credit for wearing these HUGE breasts and making the character sympathetic and believable. Isaak is given little to do but he's good. Best of all is Knoxville who has a real difficult role to play--and pulls it off. So, it has its moments but not enough of them. I can only give this a 5.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Something was missing

Author: soltera5000 from Mexico
27 June 2008

I don't know I like John Waters movies a lot, I have to listen to my bf telling me how crap they are I like them because they are different and entertaining but I just thought this one wasn't good at all, mostly because the 60's and 70's gave to Waters movie something else that we don't have this days, maybe the music, the clothes, all the retro elements to make this movie more cheesy than they already are. so No I didn't enjoy this movie, only at some points that it was truly stupid and funny but besides that I think its a dirty shame to watch it. And I know Im gonna be criticized by all Waters fans but I really don't think this movie was good...

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Let's Go Sexin'!

Author: PoisonKeyblade from Long Island, New York
19 February 2007

A Dirty Shame is, by a longshot, the strangest piece of cinema I've ever seen. The plot is bizarre, the acting is hilarious, but it's the execution that is the best part about Shame. A Dirty Shame is filled from beginning to end with some of the strangest scenes you'll ever see; this sort of strangeness could only come from the twisted mind of John Waters.

Sylvia Stickles (Tracy Ullman) is an uptight, middle-aged woman who is opposed to sex in every way imaginable. After an accident, she bumps her head and becomes transformed into a sex addict. Ray Ray Perkins (Johnny Knoxville) tells her that she is the 12th Apostle in his band of sex addicts; apparently, every time someone is hit on the head, their true sexual nature is released, and they are free to do what they want. Ray Ray tells Sylvia that she will lead the "resurrsexion" and that she will help discover a new sex act that will lead to the ultimate orgasm. Joining Sylvia is her daughter, Caprice Stickles (Selma Blair), who is a well-known porn star known as Ursula Utters.

A Dirty Shame is filled to the brim with sexual innuendo and nasty fetishes, and every minute is another scene that will make your mouth drop open with disgust and then start howling with laughter. John Waters has made a strange sex comedy with A Dirty Shame, but it actually works very well.

The acting is probably the best thing about A Dirty Shame; without Johnny Knoxville and Tracy Ullman the film would just be unwatchable trite. Johnny Knoxville is at the top of his game as Ray Ray, the master of sexual healing. He brings an unseen quirkiness to the character. Tracy Ullman is hysterically funny as Sylvia, and Selma Blair is great as Caprice.

Overall, A Dirty Shame is strange, insulting, and sexy--a very good movie. The ending is probably the weirdest scene in the movie in which they discover "the ultimate orgasm." Don't miss this--it's a hilarious treat from start to finish! Let's go sexin'!

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