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Picks and Pans Review: Polyester

updated 06/15/1981 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/15/1981 01:00AM

Having offended eyes and ears with such shockers as Pink Flamingos, Baltimore's underground filmmaker John Waters has now moved on to noses. Walter Reade tried to make movies with appropriate scents back in 1959; Mike Todd Jr. countered with Smell-O-Vision. Both used expensive air-pipe systems. Waters' process, Odorama, succeeds out of sheer tackiness, using a cheap piece of cardboard with 10 numbers keyed to numerals that flash onscreen. The audience scratches the appropriate digit and gets the same whiff as leading person Divine, the 300-pound transvestite starring in her fifth epic for Waters. Be especially wary of Nos. 2, 6 and 9 (the smells range from pizza to old gym shoes). But don't shy away from the film. The writer-director has kept Polyester within the bounds of respectable bad taste, and the result is the funkiest fun since Animal House and Airplane! Divine sweetly plays a typical suburban housewife plagued by a cheating husband, a murderous mother, a nympho daughter and a son with a fetish—he stomps women's feet in shopping malls. Divine suffers every possible humiliation (her husband uses a bullhorn to tell the neighborhood of her stretch marks) until she meet Tab Hunter. Looking half his age (49), Tab owns c highbrow drive-in that shows triple bills by esoteric French screenwriter Marguerite Duras. Tab and Divine's love scenes are inoffensively depraved, all part of Waters' pungent satire of an America gone mad. The acting by Hunter and Waters' Baltimore regulars really does stink, which is purposeful. Polyester may not be for every nose, but it smells like a hit. (R)

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