“I am not giving a star rating to Pink Flamingos,” Roger Ebert wrote of Waters’s most controversial film, “because stars simply seem not to apply. It should be considered not as a film but as a fact, or perhaps as an object.” The movie’s long lineup of abuses—bestiality, indecent public exposure, cannibalism, sexual violence, forced impregnation, incest, castration, and, in the movie’s infamous finale, on-screen coprophagia—made it an instant sensation on the midnight-movie circuit. But the story of ferocious trailer-park resident Babs Johnson (Divine) and her quest to upstage her neighbors as the “filthiest person alive” is, at its heart, a warped celebration of community and a showcase for Waters’s particular brand of pitch-black humor. The result is a classic of transgressive cinema, less a scream against convention than a gleeful laugh in its face.

Photos by Lawrence Irvine © Dreamland Productions, courtesy of the Kobal Collection.