Baltimore-based underground filmmaker John Waters, famous for his midnight circuit hits like Pink Flamingos, surfaces in the pro ranks with Polyester, a fitfully amusing comedy of not so ordinary people. Waters’ fabled shock tactics are toned down here.
Transvestite thesp Divine never steps out of character essaying the role of a housewife stuck with horrid children (Mary Garlington and Ken King) an unsympathetic husband (David Samson) and a truly evil mother (Joni Ruth White). As the episodic situation comedy unfolds, camp followers may enjoy Divine’s eyerolling reactions but to the uninitiated most scenes play as overacted melodrama.
After a couple of silent teaser shots, Tab Hunter finally enters the picture after a full hour has elapsed. He is unable to fit into Waters’ world, straining to overact and pull faces as the rest of the troupe and even extras do. His kissing Divine is about as offensive as film gets.
With nudity and explicit sex and violence absent, Polyester strains for a marketing gimmick by introducing ‘Odorama.’ After a cute scientist-in-lab prolog explaining the process, cheap gimmick turns out to be a scratch and sniff card handed out to the viewer, keyed manually to numbers flashed on the screen periodically during the film. It’s a far cry from the fumes in the theatre gimmicks of Walter Reade’s 1959 AromaRama and Mike Todd Jrs 1960 Smell-O-Vision.