Sunday, March 18, 2018

#2,491. Cecil B. Demented (2000)

Directed By: John Waters

Starring: Melanie Griffith, Stephen Dorff, Alicia Witt

Tag line: "Long live guerilla film making!"

Trivia: Maggie Gyllenhaal handpicked Jonathan Fiorucci out of the extras to be the guy she makes out with in the film's climax

God help me, I adore Cecil B. Demented

I love this 2000 film a little more every time I see it, and with all due respect to Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Desperate Living, this 2000 homage to underground cinema is my all-time favorite John Waters movie. 

Fed up with all the sequels, remakes, and cookie-cutter flicks the studios churn out on a regular basis, wannabe underground director Cecil B. Demented (Stephen Dorff) and his rag-tag band of followers - including former porn star Cherish (Alicia Witt); drug addicted actor Lyle (Adrian Grenier); militant African-American Sound Engineer Chardonnay (Zenzele Uzoma); Satan-worshiping make-up artist Raven (Maggie Gyllenhaal); and homosexual hillbilly / driver Petey (Michael Shannon) - pose as employees of a Baltimore-area Cineplex that is hosting the premiere of Hollywood starlet Honey Whitlock’s (Melanie Griffith) newest big-budget rom-com. 

Bound and determined to make his own underground movie, Cecil and his crew (which he’s nicknamed the “Sprocket Holes”) kidnap Honey Whitlock and drag her to the abandoned grindhouse theater that serves as the group’s headquarters. 

Cecil hopes to convince Miss Whitlock to play the lead in his latest opus: a violent, over-the-top hate letter to the studio system. Though reluctant at first, Honey does eventually agree to be Cecil’s new star, but when he and his Sprocket Holes arm themselves and hit the streets (for some “location shots”), the pampered A-lister can’t help but wonder if this illegal underground production will have an adverse effect on her career. 

Cecil B. Demented boasts one great scene after another. The kidnapping of Honey Whitlock gets the movie off to an exciting start, and the extended sequence where Cecil and his cohorts introduce themselves to the frightened Honey is not to be missed (each character sports a tattoo featuring the name of their cinematic hero. Cecil has “Otto Preminger” inked across his forearm, while cinematographer Pam, played by Erika Lynn Rupli, clearly loves Sam Peckinpah, and producer Dinah, portrayed by Harriet Dodge, is, by all appearances, a Samuel Fuller fanatic). 

In addition, Cecil B. Demented has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, like when the Sprocket Holes invade a showing of the director’s cut of Patch Adams; as well as a sequence where Cecil and his crew are chased by the angry patrons of a family-friendly movie house (to escape, they duck into in the grindhouse theater across the street, where they are protected by an audience watching a Hong Kong Kung-Fu picture). 

There are tons of great lines (“Before I was a drug addict”, Lyle tells Honey, “I had so many different problems. Now I just have one - drugs! Gave my life a real focus”), and I absolutely love the profanity-laced hip-hop tune “No Budget” (co-written by Waters and performed by DJ Class and Mayo) that plays during a key scene. 

All of the actors are solid, and there are some fun cameos, including Waters regular Mink Stole as Mrs. Sylvia Mallory, the upper-class spokesperson for a children’s charity; and Patty Hearst as the mother of costume designer Fidget (Eric Barry), the youngest member of Cecil’s crew (Fidget has William Castle’s name tattooed across his chest). 

With all of the above, plus a few truly Waters-esque moments (the patrons of an adult theater masturbate profusely while watching a porno featuring Cherish and a gerbil) and a grand finale that’s positively batshit crazy, Cecil B. Demented is not to be missed. 

From start to finish, this movie is a blast!

1 comment:

Jim said...

Are you kidding me?! I was convinced this was going to be your #2,500 review since you've had a cropped image of the poster as your avatar forever. The fact that it came so close to being that review, only to fall a few days short feels like a troll job. haha