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Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea (2007)

John Waters , Sonny Bono , Chris Metzler , Jeff Springer  |  NR |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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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.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (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 (35 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000S0GYP2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,184 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea" on IMDb

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

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome! July 8, 2007
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Salton Sea....Just a "Bad Rap" November 21, 2010
By Nancy
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The strangest place I've never been to January 3, 2008
I rented this and then bought it--this is a really interesting DVD regarding the Salton Sea in southern California, how it was created 100 or so years ago BY MISTAKE, how they tried to promote and develop it, it's heyday in the '50's and '60's, and it's consistent decline into an ecological disaster since then. Couple that with all the really interesting, very individualistic folks who for some reason still live there, and add in John Waters narrating and presto--Hello Dali!
This is a very strange and wonderful documentary--it grows on you like a fungus
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie! December 25, 2007
This is a great overview of the Salton Sea history and culture. The people there will stay in your mind and you may find yourself drawn down for a visit! Excellent music and use of photographs, and narration from John Waters. I've seen it a dozen times and still love it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It made me want to visit the place November 29, 2007
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I bought the DVD and wasn't disappointed. This documentary is fun to watch. Everything about it is so offbeat... the people featured, narrator John Waters and the place itself. The extra features were also good.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique & interesting September 21, 2011
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I first became aware of this film on the Documentary Channel. After seeing it I figured, "Gotta' have it!" It takes you to a different time & place (like someone said, reminiscent of the Twilight Zone). It gives a brief history of the Salton Sea & it shows how (like many places) people can love or despise an area, depending on their perspective. I've often said that "Truth is stranger than fiction" & this film proves it. I'd recommend this to anyone with a taste for the unique or out-of-the-ordinary.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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I've loved watching this movie. It's the best out there on the Salton Sea, and the people really sell it. I've watched it three times and I plan on watching it a fourth, fifth, and sixth, too.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Salton Sea
I became so interested in The Salton Sea, that I wanted to see this DVD. What an interesting story of a place that used to be similar to Palm Springs. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Patsy Hood
4.0 out of 5 stars Eye Opener from the past
A revealing look at a botched engineering project attempting to bring water to a place that could not afford the problems it created. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jim F.
4.0 out of 5 stars Plagues and Pleasures of the Salton Sea
It was interesting and quite informative. Makes me want to visit Bombay Beach. I do recommend it for others to view.

Published 6 months ago by Russ T. Butner
3.0 out of 5 stars Cheap propery in no mans's land. If you really want to get away from...
Intetesting documentary style movie, old footage and current interviews of those in the small settlements along the shoreline.
Buyer beware!
Published 8 months ago by x
4.0 out of 5 stars Bet you never heard of this place...!
This is well worth owning. It is a piece of American history that very few of us have ever heard about. Read more
Published 9 months ago by 3rdtimer
5.0 out of 5 stars best doc ever
Best of its type I have ever seen. The music, the production value, and the residents male this informative and likable film a favorite. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Joe
5.0 out of 5 stars Visiting Cali Every Year...
And I've never once visited the Salton Sea. Just studying a map one day piqued my interest in this man-made lake as in "Why haven't I heard about it before" ... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Spencer MacKenzie
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Film
I had never heard of the Salton Sea before I had seen this movie on TV. A unique documentary filled with interesting interviews of the inhabitants. I just had to own the DVD..
Published 9 months ago by flying squid
3.0 out of 5 stars Good content, solid interviews, see photos of the ruins before they...
Production value and quality is out of date. Content is good. Great to see the photos of this place BEFORE much of it was bulldozed.
Published 10 months ago by Tom
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but Also Too Long -
Years ago I'd been to the Salton Sea (35 miles long, 15 miles wide and below sea level), but somewhat repulsed by the very high heat, smell of dead fish, flies, shoreline trash,... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Loyd E. Eskildson
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