You’ve got to hand it to Arrow Films for discovering an increasingly odd collection of lost obscurities for a whole new generation of film lovers to enjoy. One such rerelease is Lust in the Dust, a film which simply defies description. Directed by Paul Bartel, written by Philip John Taylor and starring Tab Hunter, Devine and Lainie Kazan, this amalgamation of western homage and sex farce is so bad it’s actually ok.
A lone cowboy (Hunter) and a good-time showgirl (Devine) 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, and its inhabitants don’t welcome strangers who they believe are searching for the prized booty. As a result there’s a whole lot of mischief going on as this group of deplorable characters go to any lengths to find the treasure before the rest.
The trouble with so many people (general audiences and critics 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 probably didn’t existed in the first place. Take for instance Lust in the Dust which clearly was never intended as serious – after all it stars Devine, 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 onetime American beefcake Tab Hunter’s portrayal of the silent and moody Clint Eastwood clone cowboy, who rides into town raising suspicion (and temperatures) amongst the good-folk of Chili Verde, then you’ll realise what level it’s aiming at. That he doesn’t say more than about two sentences during the film’s eighty four minutes doesn’t exactly instil much hope for the rest of the cast. However 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, and whilst no means a classic, neither is it a complete disaster.