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Lust in the Dust

I was watching Polyester last month, and on one of the extras, Tab Hunter said (or somebody said that he said) that he was so impressed with Divine’s performance that he invited him to play in his next movie (which is this one). So I bought the bluray. By amazing koinkidink, I’d also gotten Eating Raoul, so I’m having a mini-Bartel festival here.

It’s Divine!

This is most amiable. It’s a straight-up old-fashioned parody of a western movie — I guess it references both classic westerns and spaghetti westerns. It feels a bit out of time — it’s from 1984, but it has a 70s vibe going on?

It’s funny, but it’s not hilarious.

And it’s a musical?

Edith Massey was apparently supposed to play this part… and they’ve kept the lines. You can just picture her saying all this stuff.

But I dunno. The movie was going quite well for about 45 minutes, and then it turns… more serious? Nastier? I mean, the *crack* gag is fine, but then to kill off the pianist? (Oops spoilers.) It just seems… mean, and isn’t that funny.

Apparently the movie bombed, and I can totally see why. It’s a hard movie to peg down. It’s not a Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker thing, and it’s not a John Waters thing, it’s not a Mel Brooks thing, and it’s not a straightforward parody, and it’s not an exploitation movie… instead it lives in a kind of uncertain state of uncertainness. As they say.

They do to!

The performances are wonderful, though, and without the scenery chewing from, well, everybody, there wouldn’t have been anything at all. It’s probably Divine’s greatest performance, really?

There’s also a lot of plot happening in the last half, and… it’s not that interesting? There’s still some good gags, but they mostly fall flat betwixt the plot machinations.

The first half of the movie is great, and the final scene is wonderful.

Lust in the Dust. Paul Bartel. 1984.

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