Judge Nicholas Sylvain strangles this movie, purportedly a western farce, into a limp and lifeless corpse.
He rode the West…The girls rode the rest. Together they ravaged the land!
A lame Western spoof, Lust in the Dust has little to recommend it aside from Divine's sly comedy, Lainie Kazan's cleavage, and a short running time.
Facts of the Case
Rosie Velez (Divine) is rescued from the harsh desert by taciturn gunman Abel Wood (Tab Hunter) and both travel to the town of Chile Verde. Soon after entering the cantina of Marguerita Ventura (Lainie Kazan), they learn that the town hides a fortune in buried treasure. Needless to say, all the townsfolk are interested in finding the loot, as is Hard Case Williams (Geoffrey Lewis), leader of a motley gang of outlaws. What follows is a lot of lust, monetary and otherwise, conflict, and unbridled greed as everyone fights to claim the treasure.
Paul Bartel (Eating Raoul, Death Race 2000) is not a name that I recognized, even though I knew of his films, particularly the darkly funny Death Race 2000. Aside from his success with directing these popular cult films, he acted in over seventy films, including the recent Ethan Hawke remake of Hamlet. Equally famous in cult circles (if not more so) is Divine AKA Harris Glenn Milsted (Pink Flamingos, Polyester, Hairspray), who will forever be known as a flamboyant drag queen and for his long-time association with gonzo director John Waters. With this combined pedigree of outrageousness, you would naturally expect Lust in the Dust to follow suit, right?
Well, no, and therein lies the shame. I expected Lust in the Dust to be outrageous, tasteless, probably even offensive. It still would not have been a movie that I would have appreciated, but at least it would have a point. As his on-disc talent file notes, Paul Bartel wanted precisely that sort of reaction from his creative efforts, for "[m]ost really interesting movies seem to upset somebody or turn somebody off." I give credit to his intelligence and facility for critical self-analysis, for later in his talent file he puts his finger squarely on the source of Lust in the Dust's debacle. In his words, "I compromised the movie by attempting to go for a wider audience. It was blander than it needed to be."
Lust in the Dust tries to be a spoof on the Man With No Name spaghetti western character, a point made painfully clear with Abel Wood's costume and excessive reticence. Though the script does not follow through on a full-fledged satire of the man Clint Eastwood made famous, the fact that Tab Hunter (Lafayette Escadrille, "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," Grease 2) has the presence of a finely sanded plank of pine makes the point moot. How ironic that he and Clint Eastwood once appeared together in Lafayette Escadrille!
Lainie Kazan and Geoffrey Lewis are familiar faces from many character actor appearances on all sorts of TV shows and films, and they do okay here. The lone standout among the cast is Divine, whose devilish spark and sly attitude are a welcome oasis amidst the yawning disaster that is Lust in the Dust.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer is about right for a low-budget cult movie from the mid-'80s. Actually fairly clean and free of defects, the evident graininess and softness of the picture are the primary flaws. Colors seem a tad muted and a couple of scenes seemed overly dark, obscuring detail.
The mono audio track is adequate. Dialogue is understandable, but even for mono tracks, the heavily attenuated sound at times is harsh to the point of unpleasantness.
For such a limited interest title, Anchor Bay includes at least a few modest extras. Aside from the theatrical trailer and extensive talent files for Paul Bartel, Divine, and Tab Hunter, the main bonus is the featurette "More Lust, Less Dust." A short fifteen minutes, the featurette is densely packed with background information on the genesis and production of the film, as well as its noted cast members and remembrances from various participants.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This is the third disc in a row that I've reviewed where subtitles are wholly absent. Not just useful for hearing-impaired or non-English speakers, they also allow the audience to understand all the dialogue (which may or may not be clearly discernible). Is there some sort of bean-counter conspiracy to save a few pennies by omitting subtitles? This flaw is mind-boggling when Anchor Bay saw fit to provide an anamorphic transfer, a modest featurette, and rather extensive talent files, but not even one subtitle track? Shame, shame, Anchor Bay!
I cannot let this review go past without remarking on how standards have changed in rating movies. A lot of double entendres and sexual situations, as well as mostly bloodless gunplay, and this gets an R? This, when an insult to the word trash like Freddy Got Fingered also gets an R? Please.
I'm sure somebody out there likes Lust in the Dust enough to shell out $25 (retail) to buy it, but they already know who they are. If you were heretofore unaware of this film, don't even bother! Lust in the Dust is not even interesting enough to be fodder for a bad movie night.
A damning indictment for a Paul Bartel film, Lust in the Dust is found guilty of being bland and lame. Anchor Bay is commended for a reasonable DVD presentation, though it is fined a token amount for criminal omission of subtitles.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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