Lust in the Dust (1985) | Divine and Tab Hunter go for gold in Paul Bartel’s irreverent Western spoof

lsut in the dust dvd
Comic Western parody Lust in the Dust starring the inimitable Divine and 1950s legend Tab Hunter gets a first-time UK release on Arrow’s cult ArrowDrome label.

When enigmatic stranger Abel Wood (Tab Hunter) and wannabe singer Rosie (Divine) ride into the squalid New Mexico frontier town of Chili Verde in search of legendary buried gold, they face stiff competition getting their hands on the prized booty when they encounter brothel madam Marguerita (Lainie Kazan) and an outlaw gang headed by the villainous Hardcase Williams (Geoffrey Lewis).

Lust in the Dust

Originally entitled The Reverend and Rosie, actor Tab Hunter had written his parody of 1950s-era Hollywood westerns in 1975, and pitched it to various parties for nearly a decade until he met Fox wunderkid Allan Glaser, who gave up his post at the studio to get the film made.

For the role of Rosie, Hunter only ever had in mind one of his favourite ‘leading ladies’ – Divine, aka ‘the world’s most famous transvestite’, whom he had met while working on John Waters’ campy 1981 odor-rama cult hit Polyester. When John Waters declined to direct the spoof, Lust’s producer Jim Katz suggested Paul Bartel, who was best known for such subversive fare as 1975’s Death Race 2000 and 1982’s Eating Raoul. But rather than give the film his trademark black humour, Bartel takes a rather pedestrian approach, leaving it up to spoof’s stars to take up the slack.

Lust in the Dust poster

While the 300-pound Divine gives a hugely enjoyable, larger-than-life, performance and Hunter delivers a spot-on homage to Clint Eastwood, its Lainie Kazan who is the film’s big stand out. Her over-sexed brothel madam, who – like Rosie – sports half a map on her butt cheek to the treasure’s whereabouts, is a riot, giving the script’s innuendo-laden dialogue a saucy relish: ‘Let me take you south of my border just north of my garter’. Shirley MacLaine, Chita Rivera and even Shelley Winters were Hunter’s first choices for the role, but both MacLaine and Rivera were otherwise engaged and Winters balked at having a man play her half-sister. When Lainie ‘got’ it, Hunter described her pairing with Divine as ‘Not since Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney played sisters in White Christmas had there been such a perfect casting of siblings’* Chewing up the New Mexico desert scenery are veteran character actors Henry Silva, Woody Strode, and Cesar Romero, and if you look carefully, there’s a 13-year-old Noah Wyle somewhere in the mix.

Released in the US in March 1985, Lust in the Dust scored some good reviews, with many calling it ‘a Divine comedy’. For Glenn Milstead, the actor behind Divine’s heavily applied mascara, it was the film that broke his transvestite character into the mainstream and led to winning turns in Hairspray, Trouble in Mind and Out of the Dark before a heart attack took his life in 1988.

Lust in the Dust

The film is presented here in its original aspect ratio 2.35:1, and includes a trailer, reversible sleeve and collector’s booklet. This being the film’s first-time UK release, it could have done with some more extras, like the inclusion of the 2001 short More Lust, Less Dust.


* Tab Hunter Confidential, Algonquin Books, 2005


About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on December 9, 2013, in American Indie, Cult classic, Might See and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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