Premiering at Charles Theater in his hometown of Baltimore and later screening at the Cannes Film Festival, John Waters’s first studio film winks toward the overblown melodramas of the 1950s. Polyester again stars Divine, here as Francine Fishpaw, a matriarch who wants nothing more than to keep a respectable suburban home but whose happiness is thwarted by her smut-peddling husband (David Samson) and the hunky Todd Tomorrow, played by ’50s heartthrob Tab Hunter in a role that would resuscitate his career. Reviving the “Smell-O-Vision” experiments of the 1960s with custom-made “Odorama” cards, audiences could inhale the putrid smells of the film right alongside the film’s heroine.

DIRECTED/WRITTEN BY: John Waters. WITH: Divine, Tab Hunter, Edith Massey, David Samson. 1981. 86 min. USA. Color. English. Rated R. DCP.

Academy Museum film programming generously funded by the Richard Roth Foundation. 

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