Lust in the Dust was one of only a handful films that Divine did without John Waters—and it was a movie that Waters actually turned down, because he doesn’t direct films that he didn’t also write. Polyester had done pretty well when it came out, especially given its tiny budget, and both Tab Hunter and Divine were in that one. The producer wanted to do something with them as a team to capitalize on the success of Polyester, and after Waters passed on it they went to Paul Bartel. Bartel had just had a surprise smash hit with Eating Raoul, so although he was somewhat reluctant, he wasn’t exactly swimming in opportunities (his in-between movie, Not For Publication, had been a massive flop) and joined up. The Waters connection was an issue for him, as although they were friends he didn’t want to be seen as “filling in” for the more famous cult director. Edith Massey was almost cast in the film as well, but she passed away before filming.
The film was shot in New Mexico. The shoot went OK but Divine had some health issues; nevertheless he was a complete trooper.
It’s basically a send-up of spaghetti Westerns, pre-dating Alex Cox’s Straight To Hell, which is a similar effort. Everyone is on the hunt for some hidden treasure—but the plot doesn’t really matter much. Divine and Hunter clearly had great chemistry, and they’re both good in the film. It’s a funny, fun, breezy 84 minutes of Western farce. Hunter is basically playing a take-off on Man With No Name, Clint Eastwood’s iconic character. His long background in Westerns makes it more fun, and ensured that he knows how to do the role. Tab even did spaghetti westerns at the tail end of the ’60s!
It’s certainly one of Bartel’s weaker films, and it certainly has some production value but never quite escapes that mid ’80s low budget look. Obviously, the cast rises above the material, and Bartel is a perfectly good director. But even though he tried not to do it, it does feel like a John Waters knock-off at times but if you are gonna to rip-off somebody it might as well be the Pope of Trash.
The disc does include some solid extras: three featurettes (two specifically about Lust in the Dust and one about Bartel’s work in general, in which surprisingly they interview John Landis but not Joe Dante, who worked with Bartel far more often), the original theatrical trailer trailer, and the film in the original 1.85:1 and 2.35:1 aspect ratios. The film comes out on both Blu-Ray and DVD as usual with Vinegar Syndrome releases.