Review for Lust in the Dust
The cover of ‘Lust in the Dust’ has a very enticing invite for the uninitiated. ‘Step Into the Cult Arena!’ it says, just below a black and white image of Divine in drag. What it doesn't really say, but should, is ‘step into a film that mixes 80% Mel Brooks with 20% John Waters and which delivers a light, mildly amusing spoof parodying the Western genre’. I guess they couldn't fit it on.
‘Lust in the Dust’ isn't awful. It’s just not that great either, falling neatly into the ‘happy to have rented it’ on VHS in 1985 category, light on laughs but with just enough of them to keep you absorbed for its mercifully scant 84 minutes.
Divine is fabulous as Rosie Velez, an out of luck bar-room singer who bumps into Clint Eastwood-alike, Abel Wood (Tab Hunter) on the way to Chile Verde, a one-horse town in New Mexico. It seems she is ready to kick-start her career as a singer at a local saloon but she soon falls foul of the bar’s owner, Marguerita Ventura (played Mae West style by bosomy Lainie Kazan) who also runs ‘extra services’ in the rooms upstairs.
In the meantime, her silent travelling compatriot for the last few miles to the town, the ultra-cool Abel Wood gets into some gun trouble with the local hombres who let spill their fear that the strangers have come to steal the town’s gold.
So with half a plot to link the double-entendres, the scene is set for much fighting, lovemaking and p***-taking. There’s a lovely turn by Cesar Romero (the original Joker from the Batman TV series) as a priest who has endured 35 years listening to confessions in the dusty hell-hole of a town just to get his hands on the hidden gold.
There are plenty of direct hits at Sergio Leone style westerns but also a strange undercurrent of weirdness caused, in the main part, by putting Divine in a key role, playing it fairly straight as a fun-loving fat girl with a propensity to inadvertently break the necks of her lovers in the throes of passion.
Despite cult movie director Bartel (‘Death Race 2000’) at the controls, and the inclusion of Divine and Tab Hunter (‘Polyester’) the film fails to feel even remotely ‘cultish’, sitting much more comfortably next to ‘Blazing Saddles’ than your exploitation DVDs.
Whilst the gags are a little weak, it’s still a fun film and an effortless watch. It’s unclear to me who would ‘love’ this movie enough to want to rush out and buy it though I suspect for some thirty-somethings, memories of an early VHS rental may be enough to get the nostalgia vote.
The picture quality is fine if unremarkable for DVD and the film comes in a fairly bare bones pack with just a trailer on the disc itself. Apparently you get a booklet and reversible sleeve with the real-deal though I didn’t get this with the check-disc so can’t really comment on how good these are.
I know that a previous release had a ‘making of’ documentary on but can confirm that this is absent here.
You probably already know if ‘Lust in the Dust’ is for you or not. If it’s ‘cult’ you’re after then this is probably not the place to start, but if you remember this film with fondness then you should be extremely grateful to the fine folk at Arrow for having taken the trouble to release it.