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Directed by John Waters
USA 1981

 

For his first studio picture, filth maestro John Waters took advantage of his biggest budget yet to allow his muse Divine to sink his teeth into a role unlike any he had played before: Baltimore housewife Francine Fishpaw, a heroine worthy of a Douglas Sirk melodrama. Blessed with a keen sense of smell and cursed with a philandering pornographer husband, a parasitic mother, and a pair of delinquent children, the long-suffering Francine turns to the bottle as her life falls apart—until deliverance appears in the form of a hunk named Todd Tomorrow (vintage heartthrob Tab Hunter). Enhanced with Odorama™ technology that enables you to scratch and sniff along with Francine, Polyester is one of Waters’ most hilarious inventions, replete with stomach-churning smells, sadistic nuns, AA meetings, and foot stomping galore.

***

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.

Excerpt from B+N located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: May 29th, 1981

Reviews                                                                                                       More Reviews                                                                                       DVD Reviews

 

Comparison:

New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray

Box Cover

  

Released in the UK, on Blu-ray, by Criterion, in October 2019:

Distribution New Line Home Video Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:25:54       1:26:08.955  
Video 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.54 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.85:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,672,501,252 bytes

Feature: 25,626,415,104 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.29 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate Blu-ray:

Audio English (DD 2.0 and original 2.0 Mono)

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

Subtitles English (CC), None English (SDH), None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: New Line Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

Edition Details:

• shares disc with 'Desperate Living"

• "Odorama" scratch 'n' sniff card

• Original trailers for each film

DVD Release Date:
September 4th, 2001
Keep Case

Chapters: 21  

Release Information:
Studio:
Criterion

 

1.85:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,672,501,252 bytes

Feature: 25,626,415,104 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.29 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

• "No Smoking in This Theatre" (00:46)
• John Waters and Michael Musto (37:45)
• Deleted Scenes and Alternate Takes (20:12)
• Sniffing Out "Polyester" (13:36)
• Dreamland Memories (22:34)
• From the Archives : People are Talking (04:11), John Waters in Charm City (07:26), Edith: Queen of Fells Point (06:17), Tomorrow with Tom Snyder (07:14)
• Odorama with John (04:00)
• Trailer (02:20)


Blu-ray Release Date:
September 17th, 2019
Transparent Blu-ray Case i

Chapters 13

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Criterion Blu-ray (August 2019): This Blu-ray is a new, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director John Waters via Criterion. The film opens in 1.33:1 for it's cheesy introduction to Odorama, before being opened up into 1.85:1 widescreen. The Blu-ray thankfully carries an absolutely maxed-out bitrate, handling contrast and detail when in motion with aplomb. The colors are vivid, (clearly the intention of Waters and Cinematographer Dave Insley) yet they do tend to lean on the teal side. Take note that in the second subtitle comparison capture, Divine's robe, phone, and the wallpaper have all turned a completely different color.... on the teal spectrum. When compared to the old DVD, this new Blu-ray really shines when it comes to having a more varied color spectrum, as well as depth and visible detail, especially in the (albeit few) darker scenes. 

The
Blu-ray boasts an uncompressed 1.0 monaural soundtrack, in 24-bit linear PCM. All of the hilarious one-liners are here in all their glory, as is the appropriately melodramatic music from Michael Kamen (The Dead Zone, Venom, Mona Lisa, Event Horizon, Road House, Company Business). "Be My Daddy Baby", "The Best Thing" were arranged by Kamen. There are optional English subtitles on this Region 'A' / 'B' Blu-ray from Criterion available on both sides of the Atlantic.

Criterion have included the audio commentary, on this
Blu-ray, featuring John Waters that appeared on the 1993 Criterion laserdisc release of the film. "No Smoking in This Theatre" is a 46-second cheeky vintage introduction from Waters. "John Waters and Michael Musto" is 38-minutes with the two icons (filmmaker and critic) and it is as great as it sounds. I won't spoil anything here but saying that you must watch this discussion is an understatement. Criterion on this Blu-ray have also included over 20-minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes. "Sniffing Out 'Polyester'" is 13-minutes of outtakes from the fabulous 2014 documentary, "I am Divine" by Jeffrey Schwarz. These outtakes feature actors Tab Hunter, Mink Stole, and Mary Garlington (Lu-lu) as well as film critic Dennis Dermody, casting director Pat Moran and her daughter Greer Yeaton, as well as art director Vincent Peranio. "Dreamland Memories" is 22-minutes of assembled footage, some in Black & White, mostly vintage of Waters and cast and crew. Fans should adore this being included here. "From the Archives" features 4 separate vintage pieces on Waters, the cast, and the production of the film. "People are talking" is a 4-minute television segment aired on WJZ-TV in Baltimore in 1981 and features Waters being interviewed during the making of "Polyester", as well as scenes of him directing the protesters. I love how Waters describes the film as ""Father Knows Best gone berserk". "John Waters in Charm City" is a must-watch, spending 7-minutes with Waters and Divine, including a bried driving tour of the Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore with the director ("This bar only lets you in if you're a bum", "Now were going to East Baltimore where women wear beehive hair"). This segment also features a trip to Edith's shopping bag. Speaking of Edith, "Edith: Queen of Fells Point" spends 6-minutes on the late, great Edith Massey and originally aired on WJZ-TV Baltimore's Evening Magazine in 1978. "Tomorrow with Tom Snyder" is a 7-minute interview excerpt featuring Waters and Divine discussing Polyester. "Odorama with John" is 4-minutes of Waters discussing the wonder that is Odorama. The film's trailer rounds out the Blu-ray disc, though there is an included booklet with an essay by film scholar Elena Gorfinkel, a foldout poster of the cover, and a scratch-and-sniff Odorama card (YES!). It should be noted that the new Blu-ray cover art by Sam Hadley with Raphael Geroni is a real thing of beauty.

"Polyester" is a phenomenal comedic melodrama that could only come from an outsider like Waters. The king of filth surely had a bigger budget than he was used to here, but that did not stop him from utilizing his uniquely hilarious repertory cast, including Edith Massey who just steals the show anytime she is on screen. The film is a sort of hybrid of the low-budget punk early-works of Waters, with the later, more family-friendly projects. In my opinion, no film better sums up Waters, for here his transgressive take on melodrama works to dismantle the genre from within, while clearly respecting the source genre. Though my favorite film of Waters will always be "Female Trouble" (if you haven't already picked up that Criterion
Blu-ray, get on it!), "Polyester" is a cinematic milestone for the director and the cast. Criterion have stacked this release with extras, and if that cover art hasn't sold you, nothing will. Pick this up. 

Colin Zavitz

 


New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC

 

Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

1) New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


1) New Line Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC  TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

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Box Cover

  

Released in the UK, on Blu-ray, by Criterion, in October 2019:

Distribution New Line Home Video Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray


 


 

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