Divine, the drag persona of actor Harris Glenn Milstead, performs in John Waters’ film Pink Flamingos. The Library of Congress last year announced that it had inducted the movie into the National Film Registry. Image by New Line Cinema.

Filmmaker John Waters has been hinting for months that something big was going to happen to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of his cult classic, Pink Flamingos.

And today — the actual anniversary of the movie’s release on March 17, 1972 — the word got out: The Criterion Collection, the home video distribution company that has restored several other Waters’ films, confirmed that it will release a special edition Blu-Ray version of Pink Flamingos by the end of June.

Waters has been teasing about the possibility of a new edition of Pink Flamingos during recent spoken word shows such as his Valentine’s Day performance at Baltimore Soundstage.

“I pray every night…for Criterion to finally release Pink Flamingos,” he said in February. “I think — I can’t say — but it’s getting close. If it does, then finally it can play on HBO Max, right?”

Criterion made it official today with an announcement that the release date will be June 28 and the price is $39.95. It also unveiled the cover of the 50th anniversary version, which looks like a package in a plain brown wrapper sent to:

Babs Johnson (the character in Pink Flamingos played by Divine)
A trailer
Phoenix, Md.

The cover, designed by Eric Skillman, bears a line drawing of a flamingo and just a few words: John Waters’ Pink Flamingos, An exercise in poor taste, In color.

This will be the fourth time Criterion has brought out a new version of a John Waters movie, after new editions of Polyester, Female Trouble and Multiple Maniacs. It comes three months after the National Library of Congress added Pink Flamingos to the National Film Registry, another honor for Waters and the film.

The owners of Atomic Books, the Baltimore bookstore where Waters gets his fan mail and has book signings, followed up on Criterion’s announcement by saying they are taking pre-orders for signed copies of the new Blu-Ray, at the same price as the unsigned version.

”Because our copies come signed and we have to make arrangements with John, this may not be available on the actual release date,” they warned customers.

Pink Flamingos starred the drag performer Divine, born Harris Glenn Milstead, as a wanted criminal hiding out with her family of degenerates in a trailer outside Baltimore while reveling in her tabloid notoriety as the “Filthiest Person Alive.” Other stars were David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole, Edith Massey and Cookie Mueller. Waters was the writer and director.

“Incest, cannibalism, shrimping, and film history’s most legendary gross-out ending—Waters and his merry band of Dreamlanders leave no taboo un-smashed in this gleefully subversive ode to outsiderhood, in which camp spectacle and pitch-black satire are wielded in an all-out assault on respectability,” says Criterion in its description of the plot.

Features of the Blu-Ray special edition were approved by Waters and include:

  • New 4K digital restoration, supervised and approved by director John Waters, with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Two audio commentaries featuring Waters, from the 1997 Criterion laserdisc and the 2001 DVD release
  • A new conversation between Waters and filmmaker Jim Jarmusch
  • Tour of the film’s Baltimore locations, led by Waters
  • Deleted scenes, alternate takes, and on-set footage
  • Trailer for the film
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • An essay by critic Howard Hampton and a piece by actor and author Cookie Mueller about the making of the film, from her 1990 book Walking Through Clear Water in a Pool Painted Black

YouTube video
Avatar photo

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.