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Desperate Living (1977)

4.4 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

John Waters film

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Liz Renay, Mink Stole, Susan Lowe, Edith Massey, Mary Vivian Pearce
  • Directors: John Waters
  • Format: Full Screen, Color, Closed-captioned, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: New Line Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: September 7, 2004
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002RQ3LG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,495 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Desperate Living (1977)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 29, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
When this was released, we all wondered if Waters could run without Divine, who had stage commitments at the time. Well, he sure showed us! From start to finish, the film is riveting. Mink Stole, in my opinion, turns in some of her finest work here - especially "the rant" before she's given her "fit medicine." It also introduced Jean Hill, doyenne of the sleazy greeting card, in a dramatic tour de force. The energy between the two women is undeniable. It's impossible not to love Edith Massey's purely evil Queen Carlotta and her troop of hot leather goons. Actually, there's nary a bad performance here. Bonnie (Mary Vivian) Pearce gave what seems to be her swan song as a major character here as well, making only cameos in subsequent Waters pictures, and one can only wonder why she's no longer cast in larger roles. As Princess Coo-Coo, she combines the pathos of the misplaced personage with the foot-stamping petulance of the spoiled child. Absolutely perfect. And Susan Lowe as the bipolar Mole will alternately have you laughing, crying in sympathy, cringing with fear, and retching with disgust! The gaily-painted, plywood fairytale sets, set against the bleak winter Maryland landscape (nearly all the shooting apparently was done on overcast days), adds an discomfiting edge, as does the bizarre "musical" soundtrack. All the elements mesh together perfectly to create a film that will haunt you long after you view it. A must!
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Format: DVD
If Female Trouble (1975) is John Waters` greatest narrative film, then Desperate Living (1977) is his inimitable descent into a surreal, kitsch abyss that few could imagine. Desperate Living is Waters' personal, alternative universe to the parallel world of Busby Berkeley. Seen today, Berkeley's films are a surreal wet dream, a perverse man's big budget fairy tales. Waters filmed his perverse anti-fairy tale on a meager budget three years after Female Troubles, although he had substantially more money here than on his previous films. Budget or no, Desperate Living is just as grandiose and epic as anything Berkeley ever produced.

Star Divine was not available due to other commitments so Waters tapped Mink Stole, who more than makes up for the loss (additionally, Waters regular David Lochary died of an overdose shortly before filming). The film opens with a bang in the form of a brilliant, in-your-face, unhinged preamble from Stole as Peggy, the most delightful sociopath to ever grace the annuls of independent cinema. Peggy discovers her filthy sodomite whelps playing doctor's office and goes berserk. To make matter worse, Peggy's bore of a husband, Bosley (George Stover) catches Grizelda, their 400 pound maid (Jean Hill), nipping at the jack so he decides to fire her. Enough is enough, so Grizelda conks Bosley over the head and then suffocates him by sitting on his face.

Grizelda tells Peggy, "I am now your sister in crime, bitch!" Peggy, avoiding the same fate as Bosley, goes along with her former maid. The coupling of Peggy and Grizelda is comically deranged, literally climaxing with Grizelda forcing Peggy to give her oral sex as she screams out, `Eat it! Eat it!
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Format: VHS Tape
This is John's trashiest and best work. I thought it would be hard to top Pink Flamingoes, but this one does it. I love Grizelda and who can't love Edith Massey as Queen Carlotta. This movie is a must have for Waters' fans.
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By A Customer on February 26, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
If you love Mr. Waters films this is a MUST for your collection.Edith Massey is great in this movie. She plays Queen Carlotta and she is pure evil. Who would inject their own daugther with rabies? You can say all you want about actresses like, Streep,Moore,Fields,Roberts,etc. GIVE ME EDITH MASSEY over those girls anyday! EDITH MASSEY in Pretty Woman would have been great to see... REST HER SOUL!
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Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
DESPERATE LIVING, John Waters' first movie without his muse Divine, is a fitfully entertaining and really bizarre affair that's hard to sit through at times, but still kind of works by sheer force of will. The story (if one can call it that) is about a woman named Peggy (Mink Stole) who has been recently let out of a mental institution. After accidentally killing her husband, she runs away to the (fictional) town of Mortville, a slum which is ruled by a tyrannical queen, Carlotta (Edith Massey). This film serves as kind of an intermediary between his earlier "trash" and the more mainstream fare Waters began making in the 80's. The cinematic quality has yet to be cemented, and his actors shout most of their lines as if the audience was deaf, but there still is humor found in some pretty dark and off-the-wall material. Towards the end, there's even some political commentary thrown in about fascism, oppressive government and class warfare. It would seem slightly shoehorned if the movie hadn't taken place in this fictional/alternate universe, but it still gives the film a little depth. As far as acting goes, nobody really gives a "great" performance, but they still have fun with the lines they were given to say. Edith Massey was probably the most entertaining out of them all, as a sick "monarch" who gets pleasure out of making her subjects miserable, and even torments her own daughter. The camerawork and cinematography isn't too great either, but it was fairly standard for Waters' lower-budget work. The music was fine too, and there's a nice tune that bookends the film. Overall, it's not as great as the collaborations with Divine but it still stands out as one of John Waters' better films before he went more mainstream. For me, it was a little hard to sit through at times but I'm glad that I stuck it out until the end.
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