Release Date: April 13th, 1994
Directed by: John Waters
Written by: John Waters
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterson, Ricki Lake, Matthew Lillard, Mink Stole, Mary Jo Catlett, Justin Whalin, Traci Lords, Suzanne Somers, Joan Rivers (cameo), L7, John Waters (voice)
Polar Entertainment Corporation, Savoy Pictures, 93 Minutes
“If ever there was a time to go on record against the death penalty, wasn’t it that night? Capital punishment is already the law in the state of Maryland. So what are we waiting for, fellow Christians? Let’s just do it.” – Father Boyce
It’s been years since I’ve seen this but man, it was really refreshing seeing it again for probably the first time since it came out on video back in the mid-’90s.
I forgot how fantastic this movie was. But then it’s a John Waters film and his style of humor mostly works for me. And his ’80s and ’90s movies were a bit more palatable for mainstream audiences.
While Kathleen Turner is a damn fine actress, I don’t think she ever had a better time than she did making this movie. I mean, she looks like she is having a blast in every single scene. She commits to the bit wholeheartedly and gave us a stupendous and iconic performance in this film.
Granted, this wasn’t a big hit and is sort of a cult movie but that also kind of makes this cooler, as not a lot of people know about it and the few I brought it up to don’t even remember its existence. Although, I’m not sure how this went down the memory hole, as it’s an entertaining romp full of cold blooded murder and a solid critique on the celebrity status of serial killers in American culture.
It also peers beyond the facade of mainstream Americana. While this was a pretty common trope in the movies of the time, when it works, it works and Waters has a certain panache that others can’t match or attempt to replicate.
I love that this takes place in the ’90s but has a strong ’50s sitcom feel to it. But Waters was a master of channeling nostalgia from that era.
While Turner is the absolute centerpiece of this film and owns every scene, the rest of the cast is outstanding as well. Especially her family, played by Sam Waterson, Ricki Lake and Matthew Lillard.
My only complaint about the film is that sometimes characters’ motivations are confusing. Like how Turner’s family supports her and wants her to get off from the six murders she’s being tried for but then are immediately fearful when she gets away with it and is coming home.
Also, the ending was just sort of okay and predictable.
Additionally, the first two-thirds of the movie are perfection. But things slow to a crawl and become less interesting once the trial starts.
Still, this was a motion picture that I was really happy to revisit. And ultimately, it made me realize that I need to go back and work my way through John Waters filmography again.
Pairs well with: pretty much anything by John Waters.