Director: Paul Bartel
Screenplay: Philip John Taylor
Starring: Tab Hunter, Divine, Lainie Kazan
Running Time: 85 Mins
Reviewed by Guy Adams
Comedy is such a subjective thing. A movie has two choices: it can fire itâ€™s jokes randomly into the crowd, sure in the knowledge that at least some will find a target, or it can hone itâ€™s sights in one direction, and keep firing until the target is little but stewing steak.
LUST IN THE DUST takes the first option, which surprised me a little. You might expect, given Divine in the leading role and Paul Bartel behind the camera that LUST IN THE DUST would be an exercise in grotesque, black, shock humour. During the first few minutes that seems ever more likely, I suspect the number of movies that feature an amorous dwarf having his neck broken during an act of cunnilingus on a transvestite could be counted on one finger. Thereafter, however, things become more mainstream and settle into a wandering tale of a town populated entirely by people hunting for buried treasure.
Maybe LUST IN THE DUST felt more extreme in its day. Shock humour isnâ€™t what it used to be, ever since Cameron Diaz went to dinner with sperm in her hair weâ€™ve seen Hollywood nosedive further and further into the sewer for its laughs. This is fine in principle, Iâ€™m not a believer in comedic taboos, and bad taste is a perfectly viable route to take on the hunt for humour. I would argue though that the more extreme your comedic aim the more skill you need to apply in order to succeed, fishing in the sewer often yields little but turds.
Divine ends up employed in a whorehouse, though its the floors that end up getting buffed not the clients. The odd raunchy song is sung, a hardened gunfighter, Abel Wood (who naturally proves he can live up to his name, though not as often as we might suspect) stirs up the locals who fear he might find the gold before they do. Lainie Kazan vamps it up. Cesar Romero relaxes in a monkâ€™s habit. Divine rolls her eyes a lot. Geoffrey Lewis almost manages to liven things up as the token villain, â€˜Hard Caseâ€™ Williams, an outlaw with a religious upbringing, but even he canâ€™t quite get the movie rolling.
It has a reputation as a camp classic but I canâ€™t really see why, it feels too ordinary and safe to be anything more than a middling comedy that runs out of steam very early on.
Released on the Arrowdrome label, itâ€™s a budget disc coming with a booklet and trailer, so at least it wonâ€™t tax the purse of those who find it funnier than I do.