When dance-hall girl Rosie Velez (played by the no-intro-needed Divine) becomes lost in the desert, she fortuitously bumps into mysterious and brooding gunman Abel Wood (Tab Hunter), who helps her to safety. They arrive into the town of Chili Verde and enter the saloon of Marguerita Ventura (Lainie Kazan), where word of a lost treasure brings Abel into conflict with outlaw Hard Case Williams (Geoffrey Lewis) and his gang.
The film opens promisingly, with a theme tune that feels like a parody of a parody and consciously vulgar blood-red credits. A wonderfully over the top voice-over introduces the characters, whilst an equally outrageous synth soundtrack provides some mock-menace. Alas, as the film progresses it quickly becomes clear that there’s not a huge amount of fun to be had here.
The hit rate of laughs is frankly low. This is partially because it doesn’t fully commit to comedy. There are some lacklustre gunfights and set pieces that are played with apparent sincerity (either that or the jokes fell so flat that I missed them entirely).
The films two redeeming features are its running time (at 80 minutes at least it’s over quickly) and Divine’s presence. Although even he is wasted here – it seems the film cages the wild energy which Divine is more than capable of providing with its clunky plot and mainstream aesthetic and tone.
That’s the real problem here: the film harbours some air of controversy and non-conformism, which it simply doesn’t live up to. It’s unsatisfyingly tame.
It could be due the hugely noticeable lack of John Waters (this was the first film to feature Divine that had no involvement from the auteur). Or perhaps it’s because the obvious potential of a western (in terms of both genre and setting) for some genuinely cutting satire or boundary-pushing comedy is sorely wasted. The fact is that Lust in the Dust is just kind of boring. In fact, it’s almost totally unremarkable. Go re-watch Blazing Saddles or ¡Three Aimgos! instead; it’ll be time better spent.