Lust In The Dust

Lust In The Dust (1985)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Tab Hunter, Lainie Kazan, Divine, Geoffrey Lewis, Cesar Romero
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Featurette, Talent Bios

In Paul Bartel’s ’Lust in the Dust, ’ everybody’s favorite transvestite Divine plays Rosie Velez, a luckless chanteuse who crosses paths with taciturn drifter Abel Wood (Tab Hunter) on the road to dusty Chile Verde, New Mexico. Rosie plans to jump-start her career there while Abel’s silence signals a more somber purpose. At the local saloon, Rosie runs afoul of owner Marguerita Ventura (Lainie Kazan, continually clad in bustiers and slinging Mae West-style double entendres) just as Abel enters the cross-hairs of mean hombre Bernardo (Henry Silva, picking his teeth with the scenery). The inevitable mistimed mumble reveals the legend of a hidden stash of gold. Soon, uneasy alliances and quadruple crosses confound the unlikely band of treasure hunters, until the only way to settle matters is by dispensing justice…at the long end of a gun.

Somewhere between John Waters and Mel Brooks lies ’Lust in the Dust.’ This twisted take on the Old West spoofs the lurid westerns characterized by such films as King Vidor’s ’Duel in the Sun,’ or the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone. Unfortunately, the filmmakers themselves couldn’t make up their mind if they wanted a raunchy, balls-out oater or a calling card to mainstream movie acceptance. Despite trumpeting such cult movie icons as director Bartel (’Death Race 2000’ and ’Eating Raoul’), Tab Hunter (50’s teen throb and star of ’Polyester’), not to mention Waters’ favorite corpulent actress, ’Lust’ suffers from a toothless script and over-relying on the disparity between the leads for ’the joke.’

The 2.35 anamorphic transfer is sharp and clear. Colors just burst, from blue skies to white rolling clouds to the ultra-crimson main title credits. Blacks are solid, but contrast is sometimes too high, losing details in the shadows. Film grain pops up, mainly during night scenes. Fleshtones are a little sun-baked (expected) but natural, the source elements look pristine (the only inconsistencies appear in few mismatched stock shots) and, while edge enhancement is evident, no digital or compression artifacts mar the image.

Alas, the sound is less impressive. The two-channel Dolby Digital mono audio suffers from low dynamic range and overmodulation. Whether it’s gunshots or villainous maniacal laughter, dialogue frequently distorts and peaks. Even with re-equalization, there was a screechy quality to the soundtrack that would not quit.

A newly produced short documentary provides insights from star/producer Tab Hunter, producer Allan Glassier, and stars Kazan and Gina Gallego. Everyone seems quite proud of the film and its increasing cult status over the last fifteen years. Archival soundbites with Divine and Paul Bartel are included, as well as home movies taken from the set. A decent-looking, widescreen theatrical trailer and better than average talent bios top off the special features.

’Lust in the Dust’ is not exactly my cup of hooch, but as a rental it might satisfy those momentary cravings for trash cinema.