By Christopher Null
John Waters' 1981 Polyester was his final really-low-budget, non-SAG production. Starring Divine, paired of course with the rakish Tab Hunter (Damn Yankees!), it's a classic entry into his gross-out genre, best known for his use of "Odorama," a scratch-and-sniff card handed out to moviegoers before the film and number-coded to certain nose-friendly scenes within the movie.
Shot for $300,000 and set (of course) in Baltimore (not to mention starring virtually all of its residents), Polyester tells the story of harried suburban wife Francine Fishpaw (Divine), who faces the triple threat of a pornographer husband (David Samson), a pregnant daughter (Mary Garlington), and a drug addict son (Ken King) who stomps the feet of local women. Not to mention her wild obesity and alcoholism (and of course, she's a man, but that's another story).
Beyond telling us of Francine's problems, Polyester isn't really about anything. In 85 minutes, she's sobered up and found a new life, and we've smelled ten scracth-off items (only two of which are wholly loathsome). In fact, Waters freely admits the movie falls apart in the end. It's obviously a low-budget affair, but the movie is reasonably fun, full of wildly sarcastic lines that hold up well 20 years later.
On its new DVD (bundled in a two-disc set with Desperate Living), once again, John Waters' commentary track is far more fun than the film himself. Waters is just so full of great anecdotes and stories about the production, his friends in Baltimore, and total non-sequiturs, it's utterly worth a listen.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 29th May 1981
Distributed by: New Line Cinema
Production compaines: New Line Cinema
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 17 Rotten: 2
Cast & Crew