John Waters' Extremely Strange DVD Favorites Ask filmmaker John Waters to name his favorite movies and he'll tell you that just about nothing is off-limits. He says his DVD-watching habits tend toward the strange, the shocking and the exploitative. Oh, and the extreme.
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John Waters' Extremely Strange DVD Favorites

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John Waters' Extremely Strange DVD Favorites

John Waters' Extremely Strange DVD Favorites

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The man who brought you the original "Hairspray" has some suggestions for what you could watch this week. John Waters is our latest guest to recommend some DVDs.


This director's movie picks are strange. You might have guessed that from his own cheerful portrayals of transvestites, and outcasts, and deviants. John Waters recommends movies that you could label trashy or sickening or worse. And the worse it gets, the more he likes it.

Let's dive right in to it here with a movie from 1965 which you've chosen called "Sins of the Fleshapoids." Am I pronouncing that correctly?

Mr. JOHN WATERS (Filmmaker): "Sins of the Fleshapoids" or poids(ph) I guess. And it's directed by Mike Kuchar, who's part of the Kuchar brothers who are very, very famous underground filmmakers. They started making eight-millimeter crackpot melodramas in their mother's Bronx apartment with kind of stolen thrift-shop costumes and soundtracks lifted from Hollywood movies, and they're really great. They're still making films today.

And "Sins of the Fleshapoids" really shows what an underground movie was. Nobody really calls movies that anymore. There is a close-up of an unflushed toilet with a ridiculous soundtrack music. I mean, they were the first to do vulgarity in an almost opera style.

(Soundbite of movie, "Sins of the Fleshapoids")

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As Character) These robots are called fleshapoids because their shells resemble human flesh, a synthetic flesh developed by the top scientists of the world who devoted their lives to the creation of these perfect mechanical slaves.

INSKEEP: We're exactly in the genre - is that the word - genre that you love. I don't know even what you'd call the genre.

Mr. WATERS: No, I like all genres, you know? I like extreme art movies. I like underground movies. I like exploitation movies, so I like all genres. The only genre I'm not too crazy about is romantic comedies.

INSKEEP: Hmm. Well, you mentioned exploitation; here's a movie. The director is Mario Van Peebles, and the title is "Baadasssss!" which is spelled here in front of me, anyway, B-A-A-D-A-S-S-S-S-S-!

Mr. WATERS: Yeah, I would call that blacksploitation not exploitation.


Mr. WATERS: That was a different genre. This is a tribute to blacksploitation films, and it's actually a very, very well-reviewed movie made by Mario and Melvin Van Peebles. And he - and Mario, the son, directed it, but Melvin Van Peebles is the one that made so many blacksploitation pictures. So it is kind of a celebration of the genre that is long gone.

(Soundbite of movie, "Baadasssss!")

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As Character) Rolling.

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (As Character) Lights.

(Soundbite of clapper)

Unidentified Man #3: (As Character) Action.

Unidentified Woman (Actor): (As Character) Why did you call me, sir? No talking if you don't like me.

Unidentified Man #4 (Actor): (As Character) Yeah. No charge if you don't like me.

Unidentified Man # 3: (As Character) Okay, Bob(ph)?

Unidentified Man #2: (As Character) Got it.

Unidentified Man #3: (As Character) Okay. Cut. All right, everybody out.

Mr. WATERS: Growing up in Baltimore, I - every night, we'd go down to the Hippodrome or the Mayfair or the New and see blacksploitation movie. They actually tested them in Baltimore; it was a huge market for them. And I remember the town theater had a little - somebody had carved in the door: if you come through here, you be kilt, K-I-L-T. And I always looked at that as I went in. It was frightening to go, but it even added to the excitement of seeing it.

INSKEEP: Now, you mentioned exploitation films and you're drawing a distinction with blacksploitation films. What's an exploitation film?

Mr. WATERS: Well, I think exploitation films have almost vanished, but here is - well, I'm a big of the "Final Destination" movies. They are still being made today, and they are exploitation movies. I believe the "Chucky" movies are exploitation movies. But "Final Destination 3" is one of my picks, and I'm a big fan of all the "Final Destination" movies. I really want to be in one. I really picked it so, maybe the director will listen and put me in it.

INSKEEP: You're hoping to get into "Final Destination 4."

Mr. WATERS: Oh, yes. That's something I want to be in - in four. I was in the last "Chucky" movie and because I said it in an interview of how much I wanted to be in "Seed of Chucky" and I actually was in it. So I'm campaigning here.

INSKEEP: So when you say exploitation, you're talking about movies that, what, exploit or…

Mr. WATERS: Exploit kind of - they aren't made for any real reason except to make money. But they do it very, very well. They always have violence, they always have action, and they always have some bare breasts and a little bit of nudity, teenagers that are, you know, if - always in these movies, if teenagers have sex and they die. I mean, that's, like, part of the tradition of it.

(Soundbite of movie, "Final Destination 3")

Mr. RYAN MERRIMAN (Actor): (As Kevin Fischer) Man, I never thought I could see my own death before it happened, Wendy. No, you know what? We can tell Lewis but, seriously, if there's anyway to beat this thing, I got to stay focused and if I look at that picture, all I'm going to do is obsess. So, you know what, no. I don't want to see it. I mean, unless we have to.

Ms. MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD (Actress): (As Wendy Christensen) You mean until we have to.

INSKEEP: Another item on your list here, John Waters, your DVD recommendations is "Wanda" from 1971. What's that?

Mr. WATERS: And that's an extreme art movie that has been out of print for many, many years. It just came back on DVD. It's a film by a woman named Barbara Loden. It's incredibly depressing. I'm looking on the back of the jacket; it says the story of a feckless young woman, so powerless over her own life that after her husband divorces her, she casually strays into the path of a petty crook and becomes an accomplice.

It's about a misfit, and I love movies about misfits. It's incredibly acted; it's one of the best arty feel-bad movies ever.

INSKEEP: The feel-bad movie of the summer or the winter.

Mr. WATERS: I love - feel-bad movies make me feel good because it takes me to a world that I'm not in and shows me how other people live.

INSKEEP: You've also named "Crash" from 2005, Oscar winner.

Mr. WATERS: Well, not the "Crash" that won the Oscar. That is not my favorite. I'm talking about…

INSKEEP: Oh, well, we have the wrong thing on list here then. What is the "Crash?"

Mr. WATERS: Oh, they stole the title from David Cronenberg, which was the first movie he caused, which was an NC-17 rating and it was about people that were sexually turned on by car accidents. It's a great movie. And I used to play car accident as a child, so it spoke to me. It's - the NC-17 - but it's very arty. And this was also either very well-reviewed or very hated by the critics. It caused a lot of controversy.

INSKEEP: How did you play car accident as a child?

Mr. WATERS: It was easy. You just got car parts and then you - some blood from ketchup and I used to have a pretend junkyard and I used to take toys and smash them and say, there's been a terrible accident. And then I would pretend that I was in the car accident - which was creative play. I mean, you've got to encourage kids to play and sometimes, they play morbid games. But then they don't become so morbid when they're older.

INSKEEP: You'd be smeared with ketchup at the end of one of these games?

Mr. WATERS: Well, a little bit. You'd squirt some on. Oh, my God, help. Yeah. It was pre-making movies. It was storytelling. It was writing. It was just a little earlier than when I figured out how to actually do it for a living.

INSKEEP: Well, John Waters, it is a pleasure talking with you.

Mr. WATERS: Well, thank you.

(Soundbite of song, "Happy-Go-Lucky Me")

Mr. PAUL EVANS (Singer): (Singing) I can laugh when things ain't funny. Ha, ha, ha, happy-go-lucky me.

INSKEEP: We're listening to music from a John Waters film, which is named for the main character, "Pecker." He may want you to watch what's outrageous, but even John Waters says there are limits, and you can hear his views at

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

(Soundbite of song, "Happy-Go-Lucky Me")

Mr. EVANS: (Singing) I got the moonlight, I got the sun, I've got the stars above. Me and my filly, well, we both share slappy-go-happy, happy-go-lucky love. Well…

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