"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Serial Mom (+ intro to my new summer series)

SERIAL MOM is a comedy I loved when it came out thirty years ago, in April of 1994. I think at the time I’d probly seen CRY-BABY, possibly POLYESTER, but I was fairly uninitiated into the films of John Waters. I just knew that at that moment he offered the perfect combination of what-we-need-right-now and what-no-one-else-is-making.

Kathleen Turner (V.I. WARSHAWSKI) stars as Beverly Sutphin, good old fashioned middle class mother, home maker, bird lover, cookie baker. She lives in a huge house with her dentist husband Eugene (Sam Waterston a few months before starting on Law & Order), college-age daughter Misty (Ricki Lake, filming right before she started her talk show) and high schooler son Chip (Matthew Lillard, who had only been in GHOULIES III: GHOULIES GO TO COLLEGE). They’re a family who get along well, and eat breakfast together every morning, sharing the newspaper. Beverly knows the garbage men by name and waves to them through the window. She hates flies and gum to a possibly unhealthy extent, but she seems like a nice lady.

The seeming tranquility of the Sutphins’ world is interrupted when detectives Pike (Scott Morgan, SPECIES II) and Gracey (Walt MacPherson, THE EXORCIST III) show up to ask them if they know anything about their neighbor Dottie Hinkel (Waters regular Mink Stole) receiving an obscene note. When Beverly reads the note and says “Oh dear, that is just the limit!” Chip says, “I wanna see!” and Eugene folds the letter up saying, “No, son. This is a matter for adults.” Some directors might leave the content of the message to our imagination, and it would still be funny, but Waters knows it’s funnier for us to see “I’LL GET YOU PUSSY FACE” spelled out in a collage of letters from a magazine, like a ransom note.

Beverly insists that “I’ve never even said the p-word out loud, let alone written it down,” but in the next scene we’ll learn that neither is true. When no one’s around she goes to make an obscene phone call to Dottie, something she’s apparently been doing for a while. And as the title implies, her crimes will soon escalate. Her first kill is Chip’s teacher Mr. Stubbins (John Badila, MY NAME IS BILL W.), who she runs over in the school parking lot after a parent-teacher conference. (For some reason everybody in the movie refers to parent-teacher conference day as a “PTA meeting,” but there was no Neil Degrasse Tyson back then to call them out on those type of inaccuracies.)

Beverly seems to enjoy killing that guy, and goes on to murder several other people, sometimes for slights against her family (standing up Misty for a date, ignoring dental advice), sometimes for witnessing her crimes. For example Chip’s friend Scotty Barnhill (Justin Whalin, THE DEAD POOL, CHILD’S PLAY 3) has the misfortune of seeing Beverly beat Emmy Lou Jensen (Patsy Grady Abrams, “Customer #2,” America’s Most Wanted: America Fights Back) to death with a lamb chop while she’s watching ANNIE.

I don’t think I’d seen this in at least 25 years, and I figured I’d still like it, but I was surprised just how hard it made me laugh. I think it plays even better now than it did then. Everyone in it is so funny, they all have the exact right tone. On a DVD commentary track recorded in 1999 Waters describes the performances as realistic, but to me they’re something different than that. They have a very particular camp quality to them – the specific style they remind me of is the original live action version of FRANKENWEENIE. It’s completely deadpan, everyone’s acting like they believe it, and not laying it on too thick, but it’s not naturalism. For example, I do not believe if a guy walked into a public restroom at a fleamarket while eating a shishkebab and saw a dead body in front of the urinals he would make a fist and turn his head from side to side like this while screaming. But I’m glad this guy does it.

Of course the amazing thing about the movie is seeing ridiculous stuff like that in a vehicle for a genuine movie star like Turner, giving a fully dedicated performance. You really gotta respect her for having the audacity to play this role, with this filmmaker, and it’s hard to imagine this movie without her (though Waters’ first choice Julie Andrews would’ve also been something to see). It’s just so funny to see her doing this juxtaposition of parody wholesomeness and wicked lewdness. To see the star of ROMANCING THE STONE and the star of DESPERATE LIVING on a split screen yelling “MOTHERFUCKER!” and “COCKSUCKER!” at each other.

Or to see her perfectly executing jokes like the one where she interrupts her defense lawyer during the trial to tell him something she believes is very important:

(Juror #8 is played by Patricia Hearst, BIO-DOME.)

At first SERIAL MOM seems like that thing that was so popular in the ‘80s, the subversion of the old Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best type of TV sitcom family. Yes, they seem like the perfect clean cut suburban family but there’s a dark undercurrent. It needed to happen – pop culture had created an idea of the American dream that was limiting and oppressive and needed to be punctured – but it’s pretty corny now. Not enough to hang a movie on.

And this could almost be that because they have a perfect house, perfect lawn, they get dressed up and go to church together on Sunday and she wears pearls, everyone in town knows Eugene because he’s their dentist. One of the detectives even mockingly calls Beverly “Beaver Cleaver’s mother.” But she has this secret life – before the murders, she’s already corresponding with serial killers and reading about Charles Manson in bed.

And yet I don’t think it can be Waters’ satire of “the perfect family” because he obviously loves Beverly! Okay, yeah, it is extreme behavior to harass a neighbor with obscene letters and phone calls because (as revealed in a flashback) she stole your space in the parking lot of Jo-Ann Fabrics (the one over there by the Radio Shack and the Sizzler). But, I mean, watch them in the split screen – the fun Beverly is having vs. the offense Dottie is taking. Which one do you think Waters likes better?

Of course it’s Beverly! On the commentary track Waters says he lovingly based some of her personality on his mother, and that she took it as a compliment. And he says that he shares her hatred of people chewing gum. I think this is the lovable side of the dark underbelly of the perfect family. This is a subversion of the subversion!

In some ways it’s like a FALLING DOWN for basic courtesy. Beverly will go after somebody for not recycling, or not rewinding a rented copy of GHOST DAD. But in other ways she’s not judgmental. She doesn’t expect her kids to be a cheerleader and a quarterback – she supports Misty selling kitsch at the swap meet and Chip working at the video store and obsessing over BLOOD FEAST. She kills the teacher for saying Chip needs psychiatric help because he drew a gory picture in class (that part happened to me! The psychiatric help/gory picture part, not the teacher being run over). And she kills Misty’s asshole boyfriend Carl (Lonnie Horsey) for showing up at the swap meet with Traci Lords, but we already knew he was a fucking piece of shit because Misty showed him a Pee-wee Herman doll and he grunted “the guy’s a weirdo.”

I love when Beverly hears on the radio that she’s the suspect in a series of murders and tries to laugh it off as just some silliness.

When Chip and his Jughead-hat-wearing “horror nut” girlfriend Birdie (Patricia Dunnock, THE AGE OF INNOCENCE) learn that Chip’s mom is a serial killer they think it’s cool and help her hide. But when Birdie sees blood at one of the crime scenes then the performance becomes more realistic as she cries about it and they turn staunchly, even performatively anti-violence.

I now realize that I misunderstood SERIAL MOM at the time, because I took it to be another type of movie that was very popular at that specific point in the ‘90s: the impressionistic satire of the violence-and-celebrity-obsessed media landscape of the time. Movies were very concerned with making fun of “tabloid TV,” back when sleaziness was relegated to one half hour or hour a day, having no clue how much worse it would get. So it’s humorous to see this goofy story with text at the beginning claiming it’s a true story but “some of the innocent characters’ names have been changed in the interest of a larger truth” (pretty much the same joke the Coen Brothers would do a couple years later on FARGO), and pretending each ridiculous turn of the plot is historic by putting the date and time on the screen. When Beverly gets in trouble Chip excitedly asks “Are we gonna be on A Current Affair?,” and the real ludicrousness starts after she’s arrested and goes on trial. Suzanne Somers agrees to play Beverly in a movie and starts attending the trial, causing even the judge to be more focused on Hollywood shit than the matter at hand. Chip starts wearing a beret and making deals over a cell phone. She might be too famous now to not get away with it.

When NATURAL BORN KILLERS covered similar material in a less fun way I always said SERIAL MOM did it better. (Which to be fair you could say for many things.) But one thing I was missing is that Stone and Waters weren’t trying to say the same thing at all. Stone is saying “isn’t it sick the way we glorify violence?” and Waters is saying “isn’t it fun the way we glorify violence?” Or at least it seems to me that way now. In an interview with David E. Williams and Dave Parker in Film Threat at the time, Waters said, “Basically the movie is, in a way, saying that America had made serial killers into the new celebrities… I’m neither for or against it, but I can see both sides… I’m not going to take a position on this, except on how absurd it is. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, because I’m interested even in things that are wrong.”

So I don’t think he’s criticizing our fascination with true crime, I think he’s celebrating his own! In the commentary he talks about the movie being inspired by his years of going to trials, and confesses that Beverly’s serial killer scrapbook includes actual correspondence between himself and some infamous serial killers. I guess one thing that’s special about John Waters is he makes things that would be absolute dealbreakers coming from other people seem charming and delightful coming from him. He just seems so happy and positive about being someone the Carls of the world would dismiss as a weirdo.

There’s one statement he definitely meant to make: he’s very against capital punishment, unlike the local pastor here, who notes in his sermon that “Jesus said nothing against capital punishment as he hung on the cross.”

For many of us even then, it was cool to see a movie starring Kathleen Turner that had references to Herschell Gordon Lewis and Chesty Morgan and shit. I’m not into that stuff personally but I like that Waters gets a kick out of it. He says on the commentary that he meets 20 year olds who really are into that shit, and he loves that they have such respect for “their filth elders.” Because he’s putting in references to the things he’s a fan of it doesn’t have as many 1994-specific references as some other movies of the time. Chip’s room is a shrine to decades old horror movies, and Scotty’s wall decorations include the logo for the 1978 XXX WESTWORLD parody SEXWORLD. The only current poster I noticed anywhere was for the band L7, but that’s because they appear in the movie playing the band Camel Lips. (Beverly burns Scotty alive on stage during their show and the crowd loves it and chants “Serial Mom”!)

At the time I perceived SERIAL MOM as a mainstream release. I remember seeing it in a small but non-arthouse theater, and taking home promotional postcards for it. Savoy Pictures was an indie company that only existed from 1992 to 1997, never really had a big hit, and also fought with Waters and tried to get him to change the ending (but he refused). It didn’t make back its modest budget in theaters. Note that earlier in the year we got CABIN BOY (also featuring Ricki Lake!) and HUDSUCKER PROXY, two really distinct comedies that were big flops at the time, and widely derided, though still beloved today except by no good bozos, etc. Something in the air, I guess. Maybe it would be worth taking a closer look at that period of time.

* * *

The 30th anniversary of SERIAL MOM was a couple weeks ago, April 13th. I’m writing about now not just for its anniversary, but as an intro to my new review series, a so-far-untitled retrospective of the summer films of 1994. This is one of the Spring releases that year that I felt should be part of the proceedings. Also released that April were RED ROCK WEST, SURVIVING THE GAME, BRAINSCAN, and NO ESCAPE. Next I’ll be reviewing two youth-oriented comedies released later that month.

So here’s a little preview of my plans for the summer. Of the movies I hope to cover in this series there are several that I’ve reviewed before but that seem too crucial not to revisit, around 20 that I’ve never seen before, and most of the rest I haven’t seen since the ‘90s. Since ’94, in many cases. So I can’t be sure where this series will go – you never know what you’re gonna get, am I right? – but my guess is that the main theme is a shift going on in the culture.

In the summer of ’94 they celebrated the 25th anniversary of Woodstock with a concert that included Candlebox, DJ Spooky, Aphex Twin, Cypress Hill, Nine Inch Nails, Primus, Arrested Development and Green Day. So it was a time when pop culture was still dominated by boomers, but beginning a shift toward generation X. Generational labels are, of course, huge generalizations – John Waters was born in 1946, the oldest possible boomer, but SERIAL MOM’s attitude seems more in line with people my age. But I want to explore ’94 in these terms because at this particular moment in time the youngest gen-xers had recently hit their teens, and the oldest were about to turn 30.  So they were just starting to become a force as filmmakers and moving pop culture in a different direction, but boomers (who were between 30 and 48) were on top and really putting their concerns and interests into the movies.

The kids of the boomers, my age and older, grew up watching our parents’ nostalgia. It told us that the world orbited around Woodstock, Vietnam, JFK and Watergate, and the things that people shaped by those moments in time found to be important. Some of it was cool shit – I still love Jimi Hendrix. But most of us were shaped by newer phenomenons like MTV and hip hop. And uh, Star Wars and toy cartoons.

At this moment in 1994, movies were on the verge of some huge changes. A new wave of Black filmmakers was rising, and with PULP FICTION due in October the fuse was already lit for an indie film explosion. Digital FX were new and still exciting, even a selling point for seeing movies – at least two of these I remember seeing in the theater for that specific reason. The Ain’t It Cool News was only two years away, a more “geek” and comic book dominated movie culture would follow in its wake, and some of the seeds of those movements will be spotted in this summer, I suspect.

I will be reviewing three movies based on TV shows from the ‘50s and ‘60s – four if you count LION KING as being based on Kimba the White Lion – and a couple others based on older things that the same people might’ve watched in reruns. I will also be reviewing the second biggest movie of the year, which will win best picture, and it’s one of the most boomer nostalgia oriented movies ever made, with a popular 2-CD soundtrack dominated by ’60s hits, and a protagonist intersecting with generation defining events like the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and the March on Washington.

For people my age, one of those generation defining moments had actually just happened – on April 8th we’d learned of the death of Kurt Cobain. In subsequent years it would inspire many documentaries, an arty Gus Van Sant movie (LAST DAYS) and at least two road movies about fans traveling to the memorial (THE VIGIL and HIGHWAY). FORREST GUMP character Richard Nixon would die on the 22nd, prompting 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney (a member of “The Greatest Generation”) to lament his death being overshadowed by Cobain, who he’d never heard of. “What would all these young people be doing,” he asked, “if they had real problems like a Depression, World War II, or Vietnam?” I guess we’ll never know, since they ended up fixing everything and we never had to deal with any other wars or economic problems or anything.

Other things happened in April ’94 that still reverberate today. Nas released Illmatic, for example. I don’t want to be too corny about this shit, but the world was changing. South Africa adopted a new post-apartheid flag on the 20th, had their first multiracial elections on the 27th, making Nelson Mandela their first democratically elected president. So this was a summer movie season that happened while the earth was moving around under our feet, and also there was a big expensive movie based on an old cartoon sitcom about cavemen. Please join me in the coming months to contemplate what it all meant, or at least give it another look and see how it holds up three decades on. I think it will be interesting.


This entry was posted on Monday, April 29th, 2024 at 7:06 am and is filed under Reviews, Comedy/Laffs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

44 Responses to “Serial Mom (+ intro to my new summer series)”

  1. Hell yeah for a new Vern series! Just this morning I thought “Man, I can’t hear all that talk about Boomers and generation X, Y, Z, @, §, µ, etc anymore and wanna throatpunch everybody who writes about it”, but don’t worry, I make an exception for you and everybody here. And I even might have a few nostalgic things to say about 94.

    In the case of SERIAL MOM: It actually was a wide release in Germany. But in all fairness: Pretty much everything is a wide release here. Our distribution system is quite different from the American. I was really hyped for it. Not because of John Waters, who I didn’t know by then, but what I saw, simply looked like fun! My mother also was kinda interested, because she liked Kathleen Turner. We sadly made the mistake of watching it together when it premiered on TV and she was already so offended by it when the kids were watching that old splatter movie, that she turned it off and even yelled at me when I went to my room to watch the rest. My mother yelled at my sister and me for a lot of things, but I think that was the only time because of a movie.

    Anyway, not watching it with her was a good decision, because it would’ve been one, uncomfortable watch. Later I learned that by then people already accused Waters of going soft and mainstream (and compared to his earlier works it might be true), but it still went way further than other dark comedies at that time. Especially with established Hollywood stars.

    Isn’t it weird how Waters somehow managed to actually get one foot into the mainstream? One would think that certain actors or Hollywood producers wouldn’t even dare to be in the same room with the man who made an actual butthole sing in one of his movies, but by then he really managed to get a bunch of respectable actos to appear in his flicks. All while he had guest spots in shows like HOMICIDE, LAW & ORDER and THE BLACKLIST. Apparently he was also had a cameo in one of those CHIPMUNKS squeaquels and voiced a character in a Mickey Mouse cartoon!

    He is the little pervert that could!

  2. I’m not one to self promote but I did a podcast where three of us planned a 24 Hour movie marathon of 1994 movies. It’s here. https://filmfeast.podbean.com/e/ff-150-24-hours-of-1994-wcarmelita-valdez-mckoy-larry-sternshein/

    I should probably watch Serial Mom. I’ve only seen the ending for some reason.

  3. I’m a big Waters fan, and last year I watched all of his movies in order. So I can confidently say that, while SERIAL MOM is softer than his early midnight-movie years, it is, in fact, an attempt to regain some of his edge after the family-friendly one-two-punch of HAIRSPRAY and CRY-BABY, while retaining the comparable Hollywood polish he’d been acquiring since POLYESTER. In my opinion, it’s the best of both worlds. SERIAL MOM needs to look slick and glossy for the transgressions to be funny. It wouldn’t work if it looked as grungy as DESPERATE LIVING. But what’s great about it is that it’s still 100% John Waters, dealing exclusively with his long-held obsessions, while masquerading perfectly as a bright and shiny studio comedy. The thing looks like LADYBUGS and acts like THE TOXIC AVENGER. It’s not in my top five Waters but it’s probably the best synthesis of the two sides of his oeuvre.

    Looking forward to the 1994 retrospective. I probably saw a movie a week that summer. For a title, maybe something like GETTING OVER THE GUMP to symbolize pop culture’s earliest (mostly failed) efforts to move beyond Boomer nostalgia?

  4. Ah yeah! I am so ready for this summer series! Sorry. I have nothing of importance to say. Just excited

  5. Ah yeah! I am so ready for this summer series! Sorry. I have nothing of importance to say. Just excited

  6. 1994?


  7. Wow. Going over the releases ’94 was a particularly horndog summer. Apex of the “erotic thriller” and/or whatever Hal Hartley was doing with AMATUER.

    Person favorite was the Trojan Horse “sexy movie” EXOTICA where Atom Egoyan brings his usual layered trauma dumping wrapped up this time in a Catholic schoolgirl outfit.


    Bring on the shirtless saxophone!

  8. As a millennial, I don’t have any skin in the game for the Boomer vs. Gen X theme brewing, though I’m interested to see how it shakes out in the movies. Certainly feels like the last gasp of a dying audience to put out an 18-years-later THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT sequel. But that one might be for the pre-Boomers. I don’t remember seeing any 1994 movies in theaters, but looking at the list of releases, I had most of the kid-friendly ones on VHS. I certainly hope Vern reviews BLANKMAN. I guess Damon Wayans is a late-period boomer and the movie is directly inspired by the ’60s Batman show.

    As for SERIAL MOM– never seen it! Always confuse it with MOMMY DEAREST! But it sounds like a good time.

  9. Wow. Going over the releases ’94 was a particularly horndog summer. Apex of the “erotic thriller” and/or whatever Hal Hartley was doing with AMATUER.

    Person favorite was the Trojan Horse “sexy movie” EXOTICA where Atom Egoyan

    I was always amused by the thought of people going to see Amateur wanting to see Isabelle Huppert slink around in a leather cat-suit, or Exotica expecting to see strippers in catholic school uniforms.

    Granted, both contain the elements on the poster, so no one could claimed to be ripped-off, per se. Yet, both were decidedly NOT what the poster was promising.

    Anyway, after Hairspray and the Johnny Depp movie, Serial Mom was WAY more tasteless/offensive than I was expecting. I was into how Waters waited to generate some acceptance and goodwill before turning on everyone.

  10. Wow. Going over the releases ’94 was a particularly horndog summer. Apex of the “erotic thriller” and/or whatever Hal Hartley was doing with AMATUER.

    Person favorite was the Trojan Horse “sexy movie” EXOTICA where Atom Egoyan

    I was always amused by the thought of people going to see Amateur wanting to see Isabelle Huppert slink around in a leather cat-suit, or Exotica expecting to see strippers in catholic school uniforms.

    Granted, both contain the elements on the poster, so no one could claimed to be ripped-off, per se. Yet, both were decidedly NOT what the poster was promising.

    Anyway, after Hairspray and the Johnny Depp movie, Serial Mom was WAY more tasteless/offensive than I was expecting. I was into how Waters waited to generate some acceptance and goodwill before turning on everyone.

  11. I think you guys are onto something. There was also a horny werewolf movie, a James Spader movie I haven’t heard of but it’s got James Spader in it so I assume it’s exceptionally horny, and arguably Arnold’s horniest movie. I can only assume COLOR OF NIGHT was the apex of Horny Summer but I haven’t seen them all so I could be wrong.

  12. The post-Basic Instinct days got weird

    (let’s see it this only appears once)

  13. Wait, James Spader was in Dream Lover and Wolf

    (I remember Dream Lover being kind of great. Albeit, pretty anti-sexy)

  14. I mean there’s a Scott Valentine movie that “leads Margaret on a journey that takes her to the edge of sexual desire and obsession”

    The jabroni from Family Ties!

    We’re digging deep.

  15. And there’s a Scott Valentine movie called MY DEMON LOVER that’s like TEEN WOLF but for demons. I seem to recall he turns into a monster when he’s horny.

    It’s all connected. Scott Valentine is the nexus.

  16. To clarify: I’m not saying the very horny MY DEMON LOVER came out in 1994, just that it has a similar title to a possibly very horny James Spader movie that did come out in 1994, a year that apparently also saw another very horny Scott Valentine movie.

  17. Is it time for the Summer 1994 retrospective already? Seems like it was only twenty years ago. It was the summer of duelling “mad bomber” movies. Regarding BLANKMAN: A friend dragged me to the theater to watch it opening weekend. I was expecting to be bored to tears by an IN LIVING COLOR sketch drawn out to feature length, but I found myself almost charmed by it when it was over. The other sketch to be drawn out to feature length to come out that year would be IT’S PAT: THE MOVIE, of course. Looking forward to the series!

  18. I should warn that I’m going by U.S. theatrical release dates, so AMATEUR and EXOTICA will not be part of this particular series, though I should watch them. I do appreciate people mentioning 1994 movies they’re excited to see reviewed – it’s early enough to change plans if someone mentions one I was planning to skip.

  19. This is a movie we had on VHS taped off tv and I know I’ve seen but I’m pretty sure it was heavily censored for TV and also my dad forgot to hit record after an ad break and we missed like fifteen minutes of it.

    I still remember enjoying it a lot though, I really should find a proper version to watch

  20. Also man I beg anyone that still thinks Lion King ripped off Kimba the white lion to go actually watch Kimba the white Lion. That show is fucking unhinged and nothing like The Lion King. Like Simba sees the ghost of his father that convinces him to go back and fight off scar, Kimba drapes himself in the skin of his dead dad and runs around screaming to convince people his dads ghost is angry at them and make them leave.

  21. That does sound better.

  22. Well, BARCELONA was the one on the list I was hoping for.

    It’s the only Whit Stillman flick I haven’t seen and I really liked your take(s) on LAST DAYS OF DISCO, with this one being part of the “Stilloverse” of that movie along with METROPOLITAN.

  23. I didn’t draw but I wrote violent stories so my teachers expressed concern to my parents. Fortunately they thought my teachers were full of shit.

    1994 is my favorite movie year. Can’t wait and hoping for some deep cuts. Baby’s Day Out? It Could Happen to You?

    It’s the summer I started working at the movie theater so technically my entree into the film industry. It genuinely felt like I was closer to the movies just taking out the trash, helping people enjoy a night out taking in a film.

  24. It’s the only Whit Stillman flick I haven’t seen and I really liked your take(s) on LAST DAYS OF DISCO, with this one being part of the “Stilloverse” of that movie along with METROPOLITAN.

    Barcelona is indeed part of the Whit Stillman Dark Universe™
    (criterion has the Metropolitan/Barcelona/Last Days box set marked down all the time. I think I bought the regular-ass DVD version for like $30 a couple years ago)

  25. So no SÁTÁNTANGÓ then? Cuz I know we all be loving those 7-hour runtimes. And nothing speaks to the generational shift from Boomer to Gen Z like the collapse of a collective farm in post-communist Hungary. In black and white.

    But I digress. I guess my favourite movie from that summer was THE SHADOW, the failure of which really should speak to that generational shift, but I know Vern already covered that specifically in his Summer Flings series. But seriously, how was that series 7 years ago already?

    As to SERIAL MOM, I saw it on release and haven’t seen it since. I think at the time I still felt there was a Divine-shaped hole – let’s not go there – in Waters’s work. I’m completely prepared to believe now that that was me being unfair to a great performance from Kathleen Turner.

    I am, of course, very excited about this series.

  26. grimgrinningchris

    April 30th, 2024 at 1:27 pm

    I haven’t seen My Demon Lover in at least 35 years, but I remember loving it in its early days on VHS as a kid.

    The two main things I recall are the lines…

    “If it’s horny you feel… you get horny FOR REAL”

    And upon transforming in front of his non Mallory ladyfriend and her screaming..
    “Whaddaythink I’m doing this to impress Steven Speilberg?!?”

    Mostly because both were in the omnipresent trailers, tv commericals AND radio commercials at the time, so I always waited excitedly for those two lines.

    Talk about generational differences… remember when there were commercials for movies ON THE RADIO?!?!

  27. grimgrinningchris

    April 30th, 2024 at 1:48 pm

    Also, not so much in this one… but Lillard has played a punk at least three times, between Senseless, SLC Punk and Hackers (pseud cyber-punk, but still). What is with that? I know he is a nerd and has a D&D podcast and he was lovely when I met him and MOST of Scream last year… But maybe he is a punk too.

    Also that dude has played Shaggy more times than Casey Kasem. Dozens and dozens of theatrical live action movies, series, video games, animated DTVs etc… and I only just learned today that Lego: Scooby Doo movies and games are a thing. I love the Lego games (that is bout where I tap out on 2005 and on video gaming…)

  28. @grimgrinningchris
    As a nerdy kid that grew up around the punk scene cause of my sister. I gotta say the distance between the nerdy kid playing video games and the scungy punk kids covered in tats and mud and blood from some show is shockingly small

  29. Talk about generational differences… remember when there were commercials for movies ON THE RADIO?!?!

    The best of these were the ones on the ‘hard rock’ station for Italian gore films. They were 30 seconds of screaming in agony, various vegetables being ripped apart, and an announcer putting on his best ‘evil’ voice while declaring “absolutely NO ONE under 18 admitted!”

  30. grimgrinningchris

    May 1st, 2024 at 7:17 am

    Ben and jojo

    Right on that. I started as one, became the other, then have spent my adult life into middle age as a combination of the two (though I do still only play classic arcade games and console games up to around the Wii explosion)


    There was one time in the early 90s, wanna say it was for Brisco County Jr (as that would make the most sense) that Bruce Campbell was doing the talk show circuit promoting and one of the hosts (can’t recall which) mainly just wanted Bruce to show him different horror/gore foley sound effects that could be done with vegetables.

  31. grimgrinningchris

    May 1st, 2024 at 7:27 am

    Back to Serial Mom… I think it is the only Waters movie I have never seen… and I don’t know why. I need to fix that.

    Also, I think even though it starred a teen heartthrob at the time (to teens at least, he was well out of his) and got a wide release and wasn’t R rated, that Cry Baby is unfairly considered as weak Waters (Waterseddowned?). It isn’t Polyester or Female Trouble or even Pecker or Cecil B Demented (both of which I think it is better than) in that regard… but by normal standards it was still very subversive and weird and is a great movie. Only Waters would sneak the most famous/infamous porn star of the 80s and Iggy Pop into their first wide release movie roles and into a PG-13 movie.

    Heck, Hairspray was PG and went all out in its weirdness and social commentary, if not the outright grimy gleeful filth of his earlier stuff.

  32. Chris: I don’t think there is such a thing as “weak” Waters. They’re all 100% him. It’s just that one well-known aspect of his work is the emphasis on provocation, which some people think is the only aspect that matters. I disagree. I love it when he gets nasty but there’s so much more to him than just shit-eating and chicken-fucking. HAIRSPRAY and CRY BABY might be less vulgar than PINK FLAMINGOS (What isn’t?) but they’re no less “John Waters” than anything else he made.

  33. grimgrinningchris

    May 1st, 2024 at 12:42 pm


    We agree, we agree! Also, if you saw it now months ago, my comment that referenced you on the Poor Things thread that I just re-happened upon. I do. not. know. what I was on about. I haven’t even seen that movie yet. (I think I meant to post that about Saltburn) I kicked drugs 6 years ago, but I still drink far too much and I was clearly drunk and salty and confused when I posted that shit. Like what gay pirate rum addled brain thought that was a valid thing to post on Vern’s venerable sight or to reference you in the process. Fist bump in agreement on Waters- from PG to PG13 to R to unrated!

  34. Don’t worry, I didn’t take offense. I have gotten into enough pointless arguments on this sight that I assumed I’d just forgotten one of them.

    I heard that Waters was making a new movie. With Aubrey Plaza in it, no less. I hope that actually comes to pass. A DIRTY SHAME isn’t a travesty or anything but it’s not the one I’d like to see him go out on.

  35. grimgrinningchris

    May 2nd, 2024 at 7:32 pm

    That is likely my least favorite of the 80s-now Waters movies, but I even still like that one a lot. Poor Selma Blair. I really miss that talented lady and had a crush on her since even before Cruel Intentions. And Knoxville has a lifetime pass from me for getting in a ball pit with actual anacondas.

  36. I’d say it’s my least favorite Waters overall, except for maybe MONDO TRASHO, which barely even counts as a movie. SHAME is the only Waters that feels a little forced, like he had to prove he could still freak out the squares in a post-SOUTH PARK world. Turns out nothing’s really shocking anymore, which I think deep down he knew. In the end, it’s the open-heartedness of the movie that stands out, not the provocations.

  37. I have a slightly different opinion on A DIRTY SHAME, but since you are much bigger Waters expert and fan than me, I accept your take.
    However to me, there was nothing forced about it. He could’ve gone WAY harder if he wanted to, but even a man like him got a bit softer and wiser with age, so there was simply no reason for him to be try and outdo the SOUTH PARK’s and FAMILY GUYs of that time. His movie still received an NC17 and even went in the trimmed theatrical release much further than all the other “We drop F-bomb and show boobs, aren’t we naughty?” R Rated comedies of that time.

  38. Oh, I think he succeeded in proving that he still had a far filthier mind than any of the younger provocateurs he influenced. I just don’t think any of it was actually all that shocking. Transgressions need some sense of propriety to transgress against, and that was nowhere to be found in the crass and boundary-less Aughts. Waters himself predicted long ago that his brand of shock factor had a sell-by date, which is why he made a conscious effort to step back from PINK FLAMINGOS-style disgustingness in the first place. So for him to go back to it knowing he really had to push the envelope to get a reaction made SHAME feel a little self-conscious in a way his earlier movies didn’t. I still like it, just not as much as his others.

  39. grimgrinningchris

    May 4th, 2024 at 8:40 am

    Gotta say, I think the best thing he has done in the past 25 years was his cameo in SEED OF CHUCKY… ha!

  40. That might be the best thing anybody’s done in the past 25 years.

  41. I remember enjoying this, but in terms of Walter’s “mainstream-ish but R-Rated” trilogy CECIL B DEMENTED (with a memorable potshot at one of the other Summer of 94 films, a film Walters is on record as genuinely hating) was the one that stuck with me the most.

    But why am I fronting? We all know I’m not posting in this thread to talk Waters even if I’m genuinely a fan, which I am. We all know I’m here to talk about the KIMBA/LION KING thing. I could save it for THE LION KING review probably, but what if I got run over by a pack of wildebeest that for all most of you know are very common in my part of England? If I have a niche here, seizing upon an opportunity to talk about some semi-obscure 1960s TV animation fits well within it.

    It’s an odd situation; for many years it was very fashionable to unquestionably say THE LION KING was a KIMBA rip-off, in the same way people will often believe anything negative you say about Disney (company or man) to prove some kind of great cultural point or upset their little sister or whatever (the reasons and merits may have changed in the past 30 years, but the methods remain the same). In the last few years, at least on the internet it’s become fashionable to say that thinking THE LION KING is a KIMBA rip-off is an absurd proposition that only an ignoramus would give any credence to. This is because a relatively popular YouTuber released a relatively high profile video “de-bunking” the theory in (2.5 hour long!) detail. And to be fair, while not free of certain YouTuber cliches, it’s a good video that convincingly makes the case that 99% of people who have made the claim have never investigated it even a little, and a lot of the people who have tried to persuade the public have been either blinded by faith or disingenuous (e.g. using clips from the JUNGLE EMPEROR LEO film, released 3 years after THE LION KING).

    But…I’m not sure it’s as simple as to say because the stories and content are pretty different it wasn’t “inspired by” KIMBA *at all*. I certainly don’t think it was unfair for people to speculate that it took some influence from Kimba, and of course the corporate side at Disney responded in a characteristically crass way, saying that Disney would “never” take influence from that era of Japanese animation, which they said was “scoffed at”, despite Walt meeting Tezuka before he died and reportedly being an admirer. (There are also conflicting reports of whether they tried or succeeded in preventing a screening of JUNGLE EMPEROR LEO at a film festival. I’m sceptical of that, but it also wouldn’t surprise me) Hard to feel too much sympathy for Disney in this situation, even if that’s kind of taking it out on the artists for the corporations’ faults.

    (Also there was a hilarious 90s nerd culture T-Shirt with Simba looking into a mirror and seeing Kimba, with “The Lying King” written in the LION KING font. I want that even if I don’t fully believe it.)

    The shame in this is that whether one thinks the “LION KING ripped off KIMBA” thing is the gospel truth or hairbrained nonsense, the one thing that seems will never happen is most of the west who don’t remember the 60s considering KIMBA on its own merits, which is a shame. While I’m not going to pretend watching a low-budget, limited animation vintage Anime is going to be worth most people’s time, I think this clips sourced from a German Blu-Ray release (where it was apparently pretty popular in the 70s) shows that in addition to being groundbreaking for the industry in Japan there was quite a bit of genuine artistry involved.

    Anyways, Happy 1994 everyone.


  42. The last time I saw Kimba on German TV was in the early 90s. The 70s were a bit before my time, but we did indeed have a small anime boom back then, thanks to still popular German/Japanese co-productions HEIDI, MAJA THE BEE and VICKY THE VIKING, so Kimba’s popularity at that time seems plausible. (SPEED RACER was taken off the air after two episodes for being “too violent”, but that’s a different story.)

  43. Vern, why do you spell “probably” as “probly”?

  44. Hostile – Because I used to spell it “probaly” but at some point I decided to upgrade.

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