You’ve got to hand it to Arrow Video for assembling an increasingly bizarre collection of lost obscurities for new generations to enjoy. One such oddity is Paul Bartel’s Lust in the Dust (1985), a film which almost defies description. Starring Tab Hunter, Divine and Lainie Kazan, this amalgamation of western homage and sex farce is so bad it’s actually quite enjoyable. A lone cowboy (Hunter) and a good-time showgirl (Divine) drift into the New Mexican town of Chili Verde, bringing with them a whole lot of trouble. For in this town is hidden a legendary treasure – but its inhabitants don’t take kindly to strangers.
Often, the trouble with both critics and audiences alike is that they often take the whole film process far too seriously, missing the fun of many lesser pieces whilst getting mired down in debates on a production’s ethical and artistic merits (which perhaps didn’t existed in the first place). Take for instance Lust in the Dust, which clearly was never intended as serious – it does, after all, star Divine, the all-time queen of crass, so what do you expect. If you were to be told that the best thing in the film is one-time American beefcake Hunter’s portrayal of a silent and moody Clint Eastwood/Man with No Name-style cowboy, who rides into town raising suspicion amongst the good folk of Chili Verde, then you’ll realise what level it’s aiming at.
That Hunter doesn’t say more than about two lines during the film’s eighty-four minutes doesn’t exactly instil much hope for the rest of the cast. And yet, considering that the storyline – in the main – revolves around sex, sex and more sex, verbose dialogue was clearly never going to be high on Bartel and Taylor’s agenda. Shortcomings aside – its storyline, cast and blatant innuendo could have been lifted straight from a John Waters film – it has to be said that the production actually looks good with its authentic recreation of a Wild West, two-horse town. Whilst by no means a classic, neither is it a complete disaster. If taken in the spirit in which it’s clearly intended, however, Lust in the Dust makes for some oddly spirited viewing.