Lust in the Dust Reviews
When strong thighed Chanteuse Rosie Velez (Divine) arrives in the small desert backwater of Chilli Verde with her savior Abel Wood (Hunter), a mystery surrounding missing gold, a limerick and the existence of two tattooed buttocks unfolds. Add a rivalry between Rosie and the pneumatically upholstered Marguerita Ventura (Kazan) that could turn murderous and a gang of outlaws arriving on the scene also looking for the treasure and revenge. The plot is well worn, all the better to hang a series of set pieces, which, depending on your tolerance for high camp and the dubious charms of Divine as both an actor and singer, is either nails on the blackboard excruciating or a gay delight.
The problem is that the film seems so geared towards cult status, aiming for a raucous 42nd street or Scala Cinema crowd that positively demands interaction. It goes for bad taste but Bartel's film chops are too skilled to make a deliberately grubby movie.What you get is a mixture of sub par Carry On innuendo mixed with a rich visual aesthetic that wouldn't disgrace a mainstream Western ( The films title comes from the nickname for the film Duel in the Sun, scandalously sexy and cleavage heaving in its day). The authenticity also stretches to the casting of such familiar faces as Juliette's dad and long time Clint Eastwood collaborator Geoffrey Lewis and John Ford regular Woody Strode. Throw in gimlet eyed character actor Henry Silva and one time Batman nemesis Cesar Romero and you have no lack of named performers who can do this stuff in their sleep. Even Tab Hunter is giving it his full Clint impression as Abel Wood.
Made as a showcase for Divine, who had previously worked with Hunter on Polyester, the former Harris Glen Milstead has always been an acquired taste. Briefly hitting the UK charts with a cover of the song "Walk Like a Man", but mostly known for her work with John Waters and in particular the original version of Hairspray. In Lust in the Dust the mixture of high camp and low brow comedy clashes with the labored drag schtick that Divine peddles here. Always working best as part of an ensemble, Waters always managed to bring the best out of her. Waters likes his grotesques and is unafraid to put them front and center, aiming his barbs at a square society that values surface over character, and if he can get someone to eat a dog turd on camera then all the better. You can tell Divine has gone mainstream with this Western, no fresh steamer here, a clearly fake dead vulture is as stomach turning as it gets.
In the end, what we have is a film uncertain in its approach. Afraid of letting itself go. It wants to be vulgar but not to disgust. It wants to flame and be camp, but not so it offends or be too flagrant in its homosexuality. It's trying to be good bad taste and no one wants that. Or to put it another way, don't feed me a Mars bar and tell me it's dog shit.
(Review by Jason Abbey)
I can see how Divine became a pop culture icon for the gay community, and while I consider myself to be pretty free-thinking, I've always found him to be unsettling. Even in the more family friendly "Hairspray", he's creepy and unlikable. And that was a good movie. I've appreciated Paul Bartel's sense of humor as a director before in films like "Death Race 2000", but here its a lot cause.
I don't know how anyone during the filing process could have seen this becoming a successful project. It's a mess from beginning to end as it meanders from low point to low point. In fact, this film reaches a new low point in a lot of people's careers, but I kept coming back to the film's focal pint Divine. Watching his annoying, disgusting performance here is simply painful.
Tab Hunter sleepwalks through his role, Lainie Kazan almost matches the star in the competition for the most unappealing female here and Henry Silva is thoroughly wasted in his ridiculous part. And despite the similarities, Waters would never write a film that is this forgettable. And the humor here is just gross and juvenile, not the giddy, go-for-broke stye Waters exemplifies.
"Lust in the Dust" is a glorified wannabe that does pretty much everything wrong. It's a casting nightmare, every single joke falls flat and the film runs at a snail's pace. For comedy westerns like this dud, Mel Brooks set the bar impossibly high a decade ago.