Cult Film Club: This Filthy World

John Waters has made a career out taking things to the nth degree and beyond, which is why this monologue is far more interesting than any of his films.
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John Waters has made a career out taking things to the nth degree and beyond, which is why this monologue is far more interesting than any of his films.

'The Pope Of Trash', 'The Duke Of Dirt', 'The Prince Of Puke' - writer-director John Waters responds to these and many other titles. The man behind such infamous efforts as Female Trouble (that's the one in which drag queen Divine goes to the electric chair) and Pink Flamingos (that's the one in which drag queen Divine eats fresh dog shit), Baltimore's most transgressive son is a cult filmmaker par excellence. The only problem being that, with a few exceptions (the original Hairspray, the early Johnny Depp vehicle Cry-Baby), Waters' movies don't have a lot to recommend them - not unless you have a thing for big fat trannies indulging in out-there behaviour.

Fortunately, you don't need to be a fan of John Waters' films to enjoy This Filthy World, a one-man stage show in which our man spins anecdotes with the expertise of Peter Ustinov. Not that dear, dear Peter ever told tales about the origins of teabagging and the difficulties of attending kids’ movies when you look like a paedophile.

A whiz through the Baltimorean’s filmography interspersed with stories about his penchant for attending trials and the odd things fans have asked him to sign (an arse, a colostomy bag, a fresh tampon), This Filthy World's only fault is that it makes Waters' movies - particularly his early unwatchable ones - sound more exciting than they really are. Providing you're not suckered into watching Multiple Maniacs or Mondo Trasho, you're in for the most delicious of treats.

This Filthy World's only fault is that it makes Waters' movies - particularly his early unwatchable ones - sound more exciting than they really are.

A few years ago, I interviewed Stephen Dorff who appeared in Waters' cine-terrorist epic Cecil B Demented. "Is John Waters different?" pondered the star of Sofia Coppola's Somewhere. "Yes, he's very different - he's wonderful to everyone. I was invited to his birthday party during shooting and I found myself in a bar full of New York's finest as well as any number of drag queens and burlesque artistes. The incredible thing was all these people from these two different worlds got on really well. And the reason? Because John brings the best out of everyone. You could be the straightest, Republican-supporting churchgoer and within five minutes of meeting him, you'd be in love with John Waters."

Of course, you might question the opinion of a man who thought Space Truckers was a smart career move, but on this count Dorff's right on the money. For the Waters we see on screen is warm, charming, even wise. Indeed, he's pretty much as he describes himself, the perfect sort of uncle - "You know, I could get you an abortion, get you out of jail..."

And if this priceless film leaves you wanting more from the "Filth Elder", I urge you to check out Role Models, the awesome memoir in which Waters confesses his love for everyone from the Manson Family's Leslie Van Houten to the festive dipsomaniac's festive dipsomaniac Tennessee Williams.

John Waters explores the sex life of Michael Jackson. You have been warned.

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