Polyester (1981)

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  • Official Trailer

Movie Info & Cast


After making a name for himself with such underground gross-out epics as Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living, director John Waters made a bid for somewhat wider acceptance with this black comedy, which is sedate only by the standards of his previous work. Francine Fishpaw (Divine) is a housewife whose life has become a living hell. Her husband Elmer (David Samson) runs a porno theater (currently showing the classic My Burning Bush) and is having an affair with secretary Sandra (Mink Stole), a vision of sleaze in Bo Derek-style cornrow braids who informs Elmer, Children would only get in the way of our erotic lifestyle! Francine has two teenage children, Dexter (Ken King), who likes to sniff glue and stomp on women's feet, and Lulu (Mary Garlington), a brazen slut who hangs out with overage juvenile delinquent Bobo (Stiv Bators) and gleefully anticipates her next abortion. Francine's best friend, Cuddles (Edith Massey), is a slightly insane heiress who is somehow convinced she's a debutante. Francine's life has become so miserable that her dog commits suicide rather than witness it, but a light appears on the horizon -- Todd Tomorrow (Tab Hunter), the handsome and dashing owner of a local drive-in specializing in art films (their current bill is a Margurerite Duras triple feature), with whom Dawn enters into a torrid affair. Subversive on all fronts, Polyester was originally shown in Odorama (patrons were given a card with ten scratch-and-sniff patches, to be smelled at key points in the action) and featured a romantic theme song sung by that new hitmaking duo, Deborah Harry and Bill Murray.~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide


  • Divine
  • Tab Hunter
  • Edith Massey
  • David Samson
  • Mary Garlington
  • Ken King
  • Mink Stole
  • Joni Ruth White
  • Hans Kramm
  • Stiv Bators

Did You Know?


  • The Fishpaws live at "Wyman Way". Actress Jane Wyman was the lead in Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows (1955) which is one of the film's inspirations.
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  • When Dexter's principal calls Francine, Francine starts acting as if he's hung up on her before he's even said goodbye.
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    • Lu-Lu Fishpaw: I never wanted to use macramé to kill!
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Though Polyester is mild for John Waters, it remains a film not for everyone. But it is a satire of an energy and breadth rarely seen on today's screens. It is recommended, but only for the strong. [03 Dec 1982, p.D1]

Metacritic review by Bill Cosford
Bill Cosford
Miami Herald

Waters uses the tawdry in satirical celebration of itself - he's the red satin tassled plush pillow of filmmaking. [17 Sep 1981]

Metacritic review by Jay Scott
Jay Scott
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)