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John Waters DVD Scrapbook: Bonus Disc

New Line // Unrated // December 1, 2001
List Price: Unknown

Review by Gil Jawetz | posted December 12, 2001 | E-mail the Author

Those of you who bought all three John Waters collection DVDs (that means Hairspray / Pecker, Polyester / Desperate Living, and Pink Flamingos / Female Trouble) are in for a little holiday treat. New Line is making available to anyone with all the proofs of purchase for those sets a neat-o John Waters bonus disc. Since this is basically an entire disc of extras, we'll break it down into pieces:

The navigation is kind of a mess. I wouldn't usually bother mentioning this but it makes it a bit tough to find the content. Hunting around can be fun (especially when you don't know what you're going to find) but looking for something in particular can be a drag. The disc is organized along a timeline stretching from Waters' birth to the present ("This DVD is produced" is the last entry). Lots of important dates, both in Waters life and in general, are marked off and video and audio clips can be found in the camera and microphone icons, respectively. Still, a menu somewhere with every clip compiled in one place would have been a good addition.

The videos start with home movies of Waters as a young child and stretch through promotional material for Pecker (Cecil B. Demented, like other non-New Line releases is not represented). Rumor was that hours of footage would be included. While a lot less than that actually appears, there is some terrific stuff. Foremost is Robert Maier's 1975 short "documentary" Love Letter to Edie. This bizarre look at Waters regular Edith Massey (The egg lady from Pink Flamingos) includes some extraordinarily weird footage, right from the opening moments ("Look at all these loooovely leeeetters!!!") through a strange brouhaha at Edie's Fell's Point shop. Previously only available on dubs of dubs, Love Letter to Edie is the most exciting item included on the disc (so to all those of you who have written me over the years asking where you can find it, here it is!)

My next favorite item is a short interview with Waters conducted by WJZ's Denise Koch, a strange, shrill newscaster who stands out among the weirdo crowd of Baltimore anchors. Her stoned affect always makes watching the nightly news an adventure and her funny 80's tour of Waters' apartment is perfect.

Also of local interest is what Waters calls the 25 cent tour of Baltimore, a quick drive through some of the city's more decrepit areas. Waters laments the closing of the Wigwam Room, which he says was a velvet rope VIP room for bums.

There are a few interviews with Waters from Boston and San Fransisco tv which are nice for completists, but not essential. Similarly, a recent 20 minute interview from the Sundance Channel is included.

Also included is a huge selection of recent interviews with Waters regulars on topics ranging from deceased friends to wild adventures. These are hit and miss as some of these characters are truly too wacked out to tell a coherent story: Several minutes into a ramble about the late Cookie Mueller, Susan Lowe (Mole from Desperate Living mentions that the two were once kidnapped by hootch swilling hillbillies. Say what?

Behind the scenes footage from several films is included. The footage from Pink Flamingos should look familiar to those who've seen Steve Yeager's Divine Trash, but it is still a great addition.

The big dissapointment here is that none of Waters early films, like Eat Your Makeup, Roman Candles, or The Diane Linkletter Story are included. The scope does seem a bit narrow, but overall this is still an extremely entertaining disc and an amazing supplement to the other John Waters Collection discs.

Another treasure on the disc is a large collection of audio interviews that Waters took of Divine. There is almost too much to go through here, but there are some truly classic moments. Divine describes a long drawn out series of events that ended with him dueting with Elton John at Madison Square Garden, all while his birds chirp away noisily in the background. It's great that this material will be preserved for future generations to marvel at.

Trailers for each of the films in the John Waters Collection are included, although they are also on the individual discs too. Additional publicity materials for some of the films are also included.

The video quality is mostly pretty low. The archival footage is of varying quality, but most of it is, technically, in bad shape (and bad taste). The recent interviews look fine. They're shot on video. Most of the clips are window-boxed (they appear in a black frame on all four sides) so nothing is cut off.

The audio, also is a mixed bag. most of the footage has VERY humble origins. Don't expect much.

Mark Rance, the producer of the John Waters Collection DVDs wrote in with a little information about the bonus disc:

"I thought the nearly 6 hours of audio archives would make up for the shorts missing. This is the ONLY place you will ever hear Divine tell the story of the White Worm himself — and for me that is the best thing on the disc.

"Two notes: (1) John wishes to keep his short films to himself these days and (2) having also done Criterion's POLYESTER and all of John's laser discs and DVDs since and knowing full well what of Waters archive is out there, these materials ARE the masters and most of them are deteriorating 3/4's and VHS dubs."

Mark is right. The content here is indispensible and, my wishlist aside, more than anyone could ask for. It's a shame that Waters isn't interested in releasing the shorts right now (Diane Linkletter has what might be David Lochary's funniest performance) but you can't argue with director's intent. The technical limitations of the material, however, are worth pointing out. Regardless, it's archived now on DVD and won't degrade any further. Thanks Mark!

Truly a no brainer. If you have the proofs of purchase, get this. If you are considering buying it on eBay or someplace similar, be aware that a lot of the footage that you might be expecting isn't there. What is, however, is largely terrific.

Other John Waters reviews:
John Waters Collection 2: Polyester / Desperate Living
John Waters Collection 3: Pink Flamingos / Female Trouble






Highly Recommended

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