Friday, October 28, 2016

Episode 27: Serial Mom (1994)

“Are those...pussy willows...?”

While many hardcore John Waters fans prefer his early, grittier works (Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Desperate Living), others gravitate more to his family-friendly titles (Hairspray, Cry Baby). There’s a small group of about four who actually enjoy A Dirty Shame (I mean, come on. How can you not bust a stitch when Tracey Ullman, known for a slightly different brand of comedy, delivers such insane lines as “Now that’s what I call sneezin’ in the cabbage!” or “Something is the matter with your vagina!”) and I’m proud to say I’m a card-carrying member.

My absolute favorite Waters opus has always remained Serial Mom, a “June Cleaver with an actual cleaver” story of a domestic goddess, who discovers there’s a more efficient way of dealing with people who don’t properly take care of their teeth, refuse to recycle, and yes, steal her parking space. This was a role tailor-made for Kathleen Turner, who gives what I humbly consider to be the performance of her career. John himself has said no one could’ve played the role of Beverly Sutphin the way she has and I wholeheartedly agree. With conviction and a motherly smile, Turner is well within her element brandishing such weapons as a leg of lamb, scissors, a hairspray blowtorch, and, of course, a butcher knife.
Sadly, Serial Mom did quite poorly at the box office (didn’t even make back its $13,000,000.00 budget) and received mixed reviews from critics. As so many other cult classics of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the film did, however, find an audience on home video—an audience who obviously loves reciting quotes like “IS THIS THE COCKSUCKER RESIDENCE?!” and “You can’t wear white shoes after Labor Day.” The Blu ray edition, running 1:33:46, was used as a source for this episode, which contains lots of anecdotes on John Waters and his extensive library of trash cinema (and I mean “trash” in the best possible way), not to mention what it was like meeting the man himself at a book signing here in Philadelphia way back in the fall of 2005.

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