I absolutely love John Waters, our self-proclaimed â€œFilth Elderâ€, even though at times he himself is perhaps more interesting and funny than the films he makes, which can be incredibly hit or miss but are never completely without merit. I have decided to single out Cry-Baby to discuss here as it is my favourite (with Serial Mom a close second), but I am a massive fan the trash films from his early period as a filmmaker as well as his later more mainstream films.
Cry-Baby is a parody of the black-leather jacket teen exploitation movies of the 1950â€™s and musicals like Grease and West Side Story. It stars Johnny Depp in the title role as Wade â€œCry-Babyâ€ Walker, an orphan with a perpetual tear in his eye in memory of his parents who both died in the electric chair (his father was the infamous Alphabet Killer, who bombed places in alphabetical order). Cry-Baby is the leader of a gang of juvenile delinquents called â€œDrapesâ€, made up of colourful characters such as his pregnant sister Pepper (Ricki Lake), Wanda Woodward (Traci Lords) and the fantastically grotesque Hatchet-Face (Kim McGuire, who now works as an attorney). The Drapes hang out at Turkey Point with Cry-Babyâ€™s raucous grandparents Belvedere and Ramona Rickettes (Iggy Pop and Susan Tyrrell).
Allison Vernon-Williams (Amy Locane) is a â€œSquareâ€ who tires of her boring boyfriend Baldwin (Norman Mailerâ€™s son, Stephen) and her good girl ways and after meeting Cry-Baby the two soon fall in love, much to the dismay of Allisonâ€™s grandmother (Polly Bergen). Baldwin become jealous of their relationship and starts a riot for which Cry-Baby is blamed and imprisoned for. Although the plot is fairly derivative it doesnâ€™t really matter, itâ€™s all very ridiculous and extremely funny with some excellent rockabilly song and dance routines that bring to mind the Elvis movies, which were equally as vapid.
Then just when you think the cast list couldnâ€™t get any weirder you can also add Patty Hearst in her screen debut, Mink Stole, Troy Donahue, Joe Dallesandro, Willem Dafoe, Joey Heatherton and David Nelson. All of whom surely could only ever have been brought together by Waters, even if it is his most mainstream film to date. This is one of the things I enjoy most about his films; whether it is Divine eating dog poop or Johnny Depp singing a musical number, it is always done in the worst possible taste, with obvious affection for social misfits and remains undeniably the work of John Waters.
Iâ€™d say that along with Hairspray this is Waters most accessible and entertaining film and I would highly recommend it as an introduction if you are unfamiliar with his work, it makes for a good warm up to the singing anuses and chicken fucking of his more infamous films. Iâ€™d also highly recommend his most recent book Role Models and This Filthy World, a DVD of his stand-up act, which is hilarious.
â€œJuvenile delinquents are everywhere. Right here in this community. Boys with long hair and tattoos who spit on the sidewalk. Girls who wear tight slacks. Hysterectomy pants, I call them.â€ â€“ Mrs. Vernon-Williams.