Female Trouble/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Female Trouble

Dawn Davenport (Divine) just wants some cha-cha heels for Christmas and nothing more. When her parents don't get her the shoes she wants, though, she pushes her mother into the Christmas tree and decides to run away and begin a life of crime. Throughout her travels, she has an illegitimate child (Mink Stole), has her face scarred by acid thanks to her ex-husband's crazy aunt (Edith Massey), and becomes a "crime model" to a pair of fascist salon owners by the names of Donald and Donna Dasher (David Lochary and Mary Vivian Pearce, respectively). Drawn to her disgusting lifestyle and criminal life, the Dashers ask her to perform in a stageshow that will eventually lead to the ultimate acclaim for someone involved in her bizarre style of popularity... the electric chair.


John Waters follow-up to his cult freakfest Pink Flamingos is nowhere near as disgusting as that film was, but still manages to be shocking and disturbing in its own right. Waters himself has said that he can never top what he did in his seminal 1972 film and he is, for the most part, dead on correct with that statement. The fact remains, though, that ALL of his early work contains moments that folks who are used to some of his later films will find to be hard to watch or just outright frightening. Pink Flamingos just happens to hold the record for the MOST shocking moments of any of his films.


With that in mind, Female Trouble starts off by featuring a scene, almost ten minutes in, in which Divine actually has sex with him/herself (playing a dual role as both the female Dawn and the male Earl). This scene then kicks off an hour an a half of more of Waters' strange brand of anti-hippie satire, which includes a Tom Green-inspiring scene in which Dawn chews through her newborn's umbilical cord, a fake looking scene in which someone's hand is chopped off, the aforementioned hideous acid scarring, and instances of both spousal and child abuse. Waters is an equal opportunity offender, and there is something to offend everyone in this film.


Never having had the chance to see some of Waters' early work prior to this, I have begun to notice something about all of his first film efforts (beyond the fact that they are disgusting): they are all extremely shrill. I'm not sure what his obsession was with having people screech, but almost all of his characters have the most annoying high pitched squeals I have ever heard in a film. Whether this is his take on the melodrama of the fifties and sixties delinquent films or not remains to be seen, but it is extremely unpleasant to listen to for an hour and a half.

DVD Review


Female Trouble has been released on DVD as part of volume three of New Line Home Video's John Waters Collection. The film (which is featured alongside Waters' cult classic Pink Flamingos) is presented in the reformatted aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and has been enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Considering the film was shot on 16mm and has been mistreated for decades, the transfer is adequate, but those expecting a sparkling transfer on par with a more recent film will be sorely disappointed. Long time fans of this film who are used to the video version will be surprised at how well this looks, though. New Line also touts that this film is the complete, uncut version that hasn't been seen in many years. Though the included scenes aren't really what one might expect from a deleted scene in a John Waters film, they do add a little to the minuscule character development featured throughout.


Extras on the disc include the original trailer and a commentary track by Waters. The track is just as interesting as every other track he has recorded, although he starts it off on a melancholy note by pointing out that almost half of the cast and crew that worked on the film are dead. After that, though, he goes into great detail about how he shot the film on the run and even gives a little insight into how he shot the Divine/Divine sex scene that occurs early in the film. Most interesting is his discussions on the children that appeared in the film and how their parents were worried that they would have them taken away by divorced spouses or the courts if they found out they were in it. Once again, it is a great track for a film that doesn't seem worth having such an informative piece of information alongside it.

Review by Pockets of Sanity

Alternate Versions

The initial 16 mm release of the film which was shown at colleges ran 92 minutes. However, when the film was blown up to 35mm and shown theatrically, it was cut to 89 minutes. This version was the only version seen in America for many years. However, a recent restoration was done of the original cut, which ran 97 minutes (it played at this length in Europe, however, since its initial release). The 97-minute version was shown only in selected theaters and was included in an out-of-print DVD set paired with Pink Flamingos (Female Trouble is still available on DVD as a single disc and as part of a DVD box set, Very Crudely Yours, John Waters). This version also has a soundtrack remixed in stereo surround. The 97-minute version contains some additional scenes, including the chase through the woods, as well as an appearance by Sally Turner, the Elizabeth Taylor look-alike customer in the Lipstick Beauty Salon. (Turner served as Divine's double in the junkyard sex scene between Dawn Davenport and Earl Peterson.)

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