Monday, December 10, 2007

Lust in the Dust (USA, 1985)

Made about four years after John Waters’ Polyester in an attempt to ride on the wave of the limited success of Waters’ first mainstream film, Paul Bartel's Lust In The Dust features the same two headlining stars as in Polyester, the aged ‘50s dreamboy icon Tab Hunter and the one and only highly overweight Divine.
A spoof of the very type of westerns with which Tab Hunter made his reputation, the film starts out like the real thing with a long shot of the great western skies so blue and clouds so white. The perspicaciously inane lyrics of the song sung during the credit sequence gives a good taste of what is to come, as does the eloquence of the explanatory introductory narration, although, in all honesty, the narration is hardly close in quality to that of the various bombastic moral lectures prefacing early Russ Meyer films, such as Lorna (1964) or Mudhoney (1965), from which the concept is inspired/borrowed/stolen.
The story is appropriately inane, the jokes infantile, obvious, cheap and tasteless. Lust in the Dust, while not capable of elucidating wild roars of laughter, does leave one chuckling and smiling; enough so to make the film rather enjoyable. While one is never sure if the actor’s are being bad on purpose or not, the overall effect works well. If there is nothing new to be found in the film, Bartel and company at least do a good job at taking the piss out of many stalwart, well-known and fondly remembered stereotypes of the genre.
Divine plays Rosie, a motor-mouth of a slut who tends to accidentally break the neck of any man who goes down on her, while Tab Hunter, as the poncho-wearing cigar-chewing gunfighter Abel, mimes a blue-eyed, second-rate imitation of Clint Eastwood’s Man-With-No-Name who tends to shoot more dirty than he does well. Like so many a real western, the plot is thin. The mismatched pair arrive in the windblown little Mexican town of Chili Verde where the legend of a hidden treasure of gold keeps them staying on. A shoot-out here, a lynching there, a few questionable musical interludes and a catfight later, a limerick and the maps tattooed on the mammoth-sized butts of Divine and the town saloon & bordello owner Marguerite (Laine Kazan, the mother on My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)) supply the eventual answer to where the treasure lies. (The last idea is actually borrowed from one of Lee Van Cleef's more entertaining excursions, The Stranger and the Gunfighter (1974), a kung-fu and spaghetti western hybrid directed by "Anthony M. Dawson.")
A slight but enjoyable film, Lust in the Dust, is one of the more enjoyable films made by Paul Bartel, which include his first and best project, the highly perverse horror cheapie Private Parts (1973) and the much more famous Death Race 2000 (1975). Rather unlike Bartel’s only other relatively well-known success, the comedy Eating Raoul, which is actually so dismal as to make its limited success unexplainable, Lust in the Dust is a playful little comedy which, for all its low blows, is a pleasant surprise.

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