For his typically subversive take on the Hollywood melodrama, Waters shifted his focus from Baltimore’s urban crannies to its middle-class suburbs. Divine—in his penultimate performance for Waters—plays a sharp-nosed suburban housewife caught between the demands of her philandering porn-hawking husband, her go-go dancer daughter, and her glue-sniffing son, a foot-fetishist wanted for mangling the toes of a series of women. Her only solace is in the company of her old friend Cuddles (Edith Massey) and in her new covert romance with the dashing art-house movie theater owner Todd Tomorrow (Tab Hunter, a Hollywood star whose old-fashioned good looks make him hilariously—and pointedly—out of place among Waters’s Dreamlanders). Presented in Odorama™, a system Waters devised in which theatergoers were handed scratch-and-sniff cards to use during the film, Polyester is a key transitional film in Waters’s career, and a pivotal entry in the history of the sordid-suburbia black comedy. (Todd Solondz, eat your heart out!)

Photos by Larry Dean © New Line Cinema