Roman Candles is John Waters’ earliest short film. In homage to Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls, it uses three projectors simultaneously, and features what would become the Dreamlanders, a cast and crew who helped create John’s films up until the 80s, and in some cases, even today. Also similar to Warhol’s factory superstars, these characters were given unusual names, like Divine and Mink Stole.
The movie features Maelcum Soul in drag-queen-nun habit, a priest drinking a beer, a woman being attacked with an electric fan, a drag riding a motorcycle, and Divine playing hide and seek – all to a tune by the Shangri-Las (played off a tape recorder in the room). Art for art’s sake?
The film stock, just like Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, was stolen for the production by Dreamlander Mona Montgomery and John. It was the first film produced under the name Dreamland Studios, established in 1966 by Waters.
It is not available on home video, but is seen as part of the travelling photography exhibit, Change of Life by John Waters. —dreamlandnews.com
Growing up in Baltimore in the 1950s, John Waters was not like other children; he was obsessed by violence and gore, both real and on the screen. With his weird counter-culture friends as his cast, he began making silent 8mm and 16mm films in the mid-‘60s; he screened these in rented Baltimore church halls to underground audiences drawn by word of mouth and street leafleting campaigns. As his filmmaking grew more polished and his subject matter more shocking, his audiences grew bigger, and his write-ups in the Baltimore papers more outraged. By the early 1970s he was making features, which he managed to get shown in midnight screenings in art cinemas by sheer perseverance. Success came when Pink Flamingos (1972) – a deliberate exercise in ultra-bad taste – took off in 1973, helped no doubt by lead actor Divine’s infamous dog-crap eating scene.
Waters continued to make low-budget shocking movies with his Dreamland repertory company until Hollywood crossover success came with Hairspray… read more