Along with Pink Flamingos (1972), this is the film that gained cult director John Waters his trophy for spectacularly redefining melodrama.
It features the transvestite Divine (born Harris Glenn Milstead) as the larger-than-life bad girl Baltimore high school dropout Dawn Davenport, on a perverse quest for self-realisation, following a disastrous Christmas morning in which her parents fail to deliver the requested cha-cha heels.
Dawn crushes her mother with the Christmas tree and runs away from home. Before long, she’s picked up by an anonymous motorist (also played by Divine) and they fuck on a mattress by the side of the road.
Nine months later and Dawn gives birth to a daughter while wearing Jackie O glasses and lying on a couch in a stairwell. Dawn tears the umbilical chord loose with her teeth.
The squeamish solo delivery of her baby is the first scene in what turns out to be a true mother-and-daughter-from-hell scenario, with Mink Stole in hyper tantrum mode as the insufferable brat, Taffy.
Dawn meets and marries hippy hairdresser Gator (Michael Potter) and they settle into a sex life that sees him hammer her with a literal hammer while Taffy walks in on them.
When Dawn suffers an acid attack at the hands of Gator’s mother, her face bubbles up into a scarred mulch of skin and elaborate drag makeup. Enter Donald (David Lochary) and Donna Dasher (Mary Vivian Pearce), owners of the local beauty salon.
They find Dawn’s new appearance – along with her job as a stripper and her butt-tight blue leopard-print dress – inspired. So, obviously, they turn her into a model.
Waters’ disregard for the genteel is in full force throughout (and this remains the favourite of his hardcore fans). Those with a sensitive disposition be warned: this is an unhinged celebration of bad taste.
Dawn Davenport/Earl Peterson
Mary Vivian Pearce
Aunt Ida Nelson