An early, intentionally “bad-taste” flick from John Waters, Baltimore’s “Prince of Puke,” or “Pop of Trash,” starring the transvestite Divine as a criminal who would do everything and anything to get fame and recognition.
“Female Trouble” is a funnier, more original, and more outre film than “Pink Flamingos,” John Waters best known film, which put him on the map of undergroud film.
As written by Waters, it’s a tale of the depraved life of obese criminal Dawn Davenport (Divine), from the beginnings of her bad-girl youth as a go-go dancer on Baltimore’s infamous Block all the way to her death in the electric chair.
Dawn’s daughter, Taffy, is a highschool dropout, who runs away from home on (of all days) Christmas, after dumping the tree on her parents, an act of violent revenge for failing to purchse her the cha-cha shoes that she had desired—and demanded.
The cast includes other Waters regulars, such as Mink Stole as Dawn’s bratty daughter Taffy. We learn that she had been conceived on a junkyard mattress with a fat derelict in soiled underpants (also played by Divine).
Sould I mention that in a shocking scene, when Taffy is born, Dawn chews through her umbilical chord. When the young Taffy wants to attend school, Dawn tells her: “There is no need to know about the presidents, wars, numbers, or science. Hust listen to ME, and you WILL LEARN all you need to know.”
Mary Vivian Pearce and David Lochary appear as the eccntric owners of a beauty-parlor convinced that “crime equals beauty.” With this philosophy, they embrace Dawn, forcing her to enhance her appeal.
Edith Massey excels as Dawn’s obsessive neighbor, Ida, who wants her nephew Gaotor to be gay: “Queers are better. I would be so proud if you was a fag and had a nice beautician boyfriend. I’d never have to worry again.” Ida holds firmly that “the world of heterosexuals is a sick and disgusting life.” Later on, Ida throws acid in Dawn’s face, but the Dashers tell her that she is much more beautiful with her face scarred.
In the hilarious climax, set in a nightclub spectacle, Dawn fires a gun into the audience. Betrayed at her trial by the Dashers, Dawn marches proudly to the electric chair, feeling that her goal—getting publicity at all costs—has been achieved. She tells a fellow death-row mate, “Tell everyone they have my permission to sell their memories of me to the media.”
Running time: 95 Minutes.
Directed and written by John Waters.
Released on October 4, 1974.