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Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea

4.5 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Fabulously offbeat and refreshingly upbeat, this lovable film gets friendly with the natives of the Salton Sea an inland ocean of massive fish kills, rotting resorts, and 120 degree nights located just minutes from urban Southern California. This award-winning film from directors Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer details the rise and fall of the Salton Sea, from its heyday as the California Riviera where boaters and Beach Boys mingled in paradise to its present state of decaying, forgotten ecological disaster. From wonderland to wasteland, PLAGUES & PLEASURES ON THE SALTON SEA captures a place far more interesting than the shopping malls and parking lots of suburban America, a wacky world where a beer-swilling Hungarian Revolutionary, a geriatric nudist, and a religious zealot building a monument to God all find solace and community.

Crisply and hilariously narrated by oddball auteur John Waters, and featuring music by desert lounge rockers Friends of Deans Martinez, PLAGUES & PLEASURES ON THE SALTON SEA melds high camp with stark realism, offering both a sobering message about the consequences of tampering with nature and a heart-warming tale of individualism.

Special Features

  • Audio Commentaries with Filmmakers and Salton Sea Locals; Lost Interviews; Deleted Scenes; LEONARD & THE MOUNTAIN Short Film; MIRACLE IN THE DESERT Real Estate Promotional Film; FRUIT OF THE VINE Vignette on the Salton Sea Skateboarding Scene; LSD A GO GO Short Film; CONSUMING FIRE Music Shot at the Salton Sea; Filmmaker Biographies; Short Film on Friends of Dean Martinez


A heartbreaking, sidesplitting parade of humanity. --The Village Voice

An interesting, disturbing, and humorous look at environmental disaster. --Berkeley Daily Planet

A must see. --Kansas City Star

Product Details

  • Actors: John Waters, Sonny Bono, Friends of Dean Martinez
  • Directors: Chris Metzler, Jeff Springer
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: September 25, 2007
  • Run Time: 73 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000S0GYP2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,450 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 15, 2008
Format: DVD
Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea is a rarity -- a film about an (apparent) ecological disaster and the strange and remarkable and funny stories and lifestyles that built themselves around it. The Salton Sea was created in about 1905 when the Colorado River was diverted to irrigate farms nearby and the runoff formed a lake in the Salton Sink, just 20 miles off the coast of Palm Springs. In the '50s it was promoted aggressively as a tourist spot and real estate boomed -- but then due to a number of factors (including the fact that excessive heat in the summer kills off hundreds of thousands of fish every year, leaving a bad smell) the Sea was mostly abandoned -- leaving only the hardy and stubborn, and many of them are cool and odd ducks: a former Hungarian revolutionary named Hunky Dory; an old man who likes to let it all hang out; the game warden; the real estate mogul who expects the boom to come soon; families who have come to escape inner city L.A.

The film does an excellent job providing a portrait of the wildlife (both human and otherwise) that surrounds the sea, and catalogues the contradictory reasons why they stay -- it is funny, poignant, bizarre and engaging, and the narration by John Waters hits just the right tone. It dispells some of the many myths that surround the Salton Sea (the fish are NOT poisonous, the lake is NOT toxic -- birds die from the bacteria that come to eat the fish that die because of a lack of oxygen in the salty water when it gets very hot) -- but perhaps more importantly exposes the existence of this strange and remarkable place, a testament simultaneously to our lack of foresight and to our ingenuity in making the best of unforeseen circumstances.
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I just saw this documentary on Independent Film Channel and it blew me away! I never knew about the Salton Sea until now. A place I'll have to see for myself. A failed utopia in the typical progress happy colors of the 50's and 60's turned into a stinking body of water with the hollow walls of those hotels and stores from those better days as hurting reminders how perfect it once was. This film expplains how it came into existence and why it went downhill. The focus is also on the people who live there today and how they deal with the masses of rotting fish and dying birds which die in the sea every summer...and about the hope the people still have for the old times to return one day...
Great music by Friends Of Dean Martinez and narrated by John Waters.
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My daughter, a close friend and I made a "pit stop" at the Ski Inn in Bombay Beach on our pilgrimage to Leonard Knight's Salvation Mountain. I wish that we could have spent more time with the cast of characters who made this bar their home on this warm spring afternoon. We learned from the bartender himself and from a lovely couple sipping Natural Light beer over ice in a mason jar that The Salton Sea is just given a "bad rap". They are proud of their home and will defend it to any who question. What I believe is that anyone who chooses to live in the desert year round is...special. They may be a bit odd. They may be a bit eccentric. These desert rats, however, are friendly and are the salt of the earth.

After viewing this film, beautifully narrated by John Waters, I had an even better appreciation of this area and it's inhabitants. The history of the Salton Sea is interesting, quirky and very touching. Could I live there? No. I don't have the chutzpah. Do I admire this group of non-conformists? Absolutely.
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Really fun movie, and such great videography. The creators do a wonderful job with the juxtaposition of interviews with strange and forboding views of the decaying structures of the Salton Sea, some of them half immersed in the brine. I felt a little sad for the residents,as I wondered if some of them knew how much pathos filled the scene in which they were interviewed.

The movie in my opinion is a study in the mechanisms of hope, hubris, folly, and illusion. The viewer learns that the Salton Sea is not a natural body of water, but was created by out of an accident with river diversion channels. Once it had formed, people adapted to the accident, and tried to create a seaside vacation resort in the desert. The effort made good for a few capital years, (and the interviews suggest that many of those interviewed are still in a sense living in hopes of a return to those golden times) but then came the flood, and the ruin, and things fell apart. Amidst talk of returning the SEa to its former glory, the reality of the receding shoreline lurks in the background, while the Sea spills forth its disgusting effluvia -- the thousands of dead tilapia, the corpses of pelicans who die of botulism after eating the sickened fish - the result of excessive salinity combined with excessive heat. Now, as San Diego takes the agricultural runoff water which was the only thing helping keep the Sea in existence, it seems doomed, and a new threat lurks in the air -- problems with dust storms kicked up by in the exposed, dry lakebed.
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