Desperate Living

"Bad"

Desperate Living Review


Now this is sick. Originally rated X (and now officially "not rated"), John Waters' Desperate Living is an exercise in the truly disgusting and not a lot more than that.

After its elegant opening credits -- in which a real rat is served cooked on fine china and picked-at by an unseen diner while the actors' names are displayed -- the movie degenerates (yes, even further!) into the gross-out nether reaches of cinema. We are introduced to the insane, rich housewife Peggy Gravel (Mink Stole), who, with the aid of her enormous maid Grizelda (Jean Hill), kills Peggy's hapless husband. The two go on the run, ending up in a bizarre "town" called Mortville, ruled over by a fat "queen" named Carlotta (Waters regular Edith Massey) and populated with the largely naked, mostly lesbian women and men dressed in leather pants.

Apparently written as he went along -- Waters' movie has the look of something shot in his backyard, complete with cardboard sets and flubbed lines, the product of what looks like a one-day shoot with no second takes. And is it ever gross. We've got a rabid princess, we've got a naked obese woman frolicking in bed with an anorexic one, we've got a quickie sex-change operation, and we've got an even quicker reversal of it.

Its bottom-scraping production values aside (and I'm happy to put them aside -- some schlock like Dead Alive can occasionally flirt with greatness), Desperate Living is awful not because it's sick but because it's nonsense. Waters isn't exactly known for subtle scriptwriting. But here it doesn't look like he wrote anything at all. Just get a bunch of deranged would-be porn actors and get them drunk, then watch 'em go to town.

The DVD features commentary from Waters as well as Liz Renay, the Marilyn Monroe look-alike who plays one of the nutcases in Mortville. Waters' comments are worthwhile -- and make Desperate Living even more sickening by putting it in context; Renay's reflections on her childhood are even more bizarre than the film itself.



Desperate Living

Facts and Figures

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Friday 27th May 1977

Budget: $65 thousand

Distributed by: WARNER BROTHERS PICTURES

Production compaines: Charm City Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Fresh: 7 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Muffy St. Jacques, as Peggy Gravel, as Mole McHenry, as Queen Carlotta, as Princess Coo-Coo, as Grizelda Brown, as Bosley Jr. (as Brook Blake), Karen Gerwig as Beth, Jay Allan as Kid, Al Strapelli as Dr. Evans, as Bosley Gravel, Turkey Joe as Motorcycle Cop, Willie Brooks as Pieman, James Yeaton as Dead Bum, as Lieutenant Wilson, Steve Butow as Lt. Grogan

Also starring:

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