Saturday, 14 December 2013


I’ve never tried to stab myself through the eyes with a very sharp knife, but last night I came very close. Fortunately, I was entrenched in one of our sofas with more chance of a medical practitioner certifying the deceased state of my person than actually going into the kitchen to find a rusty blade. Besides, I imagine it requires a great deal of courage. As does sitting through Lust In The Dust, a bonkers comedy western with as much class as the girls on Channel Four’s What Happens In Kavos.

You know a film is not up to scratch when during it you get distracted and start using IMDB for some juicy titbits on its peculiar cast. Here’s what I found. Divine, the transvestite who stars as Rosie Velez, became the international icon of bad taste cinema. Pink Flamingos was arguably her greatest work. The story involved an egg-eating grandma, chicken-loving son and voyeuristic daughter. She also starred in Hairspray. Then she died from a heart attack in 1988. People magazine described Divine, born Harris Glenn Milstead, as the “Drag Queen of the Century”. She also did Disco.

As for the film, any movie with the tagline, ‘He rode the West, the girls rode the rest!’ demands attention, right? Well, sort of. Sit back and enjoy the antics of Tab Hunter, Lainie Kazan, Geoffrey Lewis, Henry Silva and the burly beauty Divine as they search for gold in this disposable comedy that offers little titillation but a lot of front. And remember, those who lust in the dust shall die in the dust. Brilliant. 

In fairness, Lust In The Dust is watchable thanks to director Paul Bartel’s insistence on doing it his way; survive the opening sequence and you’re in for a tolerable ride. You may be surprised to know, especially after watching this, that Bartel directed Private Parts, Death Race 2000 and Cannonball! Work dried up soon after and he took to small acting parts. Saying nothing.

On the plus side, you'll be treated to a sleazy view of western life featuring an assortment of lowlifes, eccentrics and sex pests. You could do worse on a slow day in Hell. And yet, Divine has good comic timing, and the film has some decent lines like, “Did I say gold? I meant mould. Do you think he came for the mould?". There are a couple of acceptable scenes too. That was actually one of them. The other is when Velez complains she’s hungry, so Hunter’s Abel shoots a bird from the sky and watches it land at her feet without saying a word. Solid gold.

Watching a midget break his neck while he performs cunninglingis on the leading lady is always going to be a pleasurable experience, but although Lust In The Dust manages to hold your attention for at least half an hour, there’s little here to recommend it, and Bartel should have stuck to the low budget Sci-Fi he was beginning to impress with. File under disappointing, then do something more interesting. Like waiting for the phone to ring. Bartel did that for years. DW 

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