Desperate Living (1977)

R  |   |  Comedy, Crime, Fantasy  |  27 May 1977 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.2/10 from 3,532 users  
Reviews: 57 user | 37 critic

A rich housewife enlists her maid's help to murder her husband; they go on the lam and end up in Mortville, a homeless community built into a garbage dump.



0Check in

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Video




Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A spoiled school-girl runs away from home, gets pregnant while hitch-hiking, and ends up as a fashion model for a pair of beauticians who like to photograph women committing crimes.

Director: John Waters
Stars: Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce
Polyester (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A suburban housewife's world falls apart when her pornographer husband admits he's serially unfaithful to her, her daughter gets pregnant, and her son is suspected of being the foot-fetishist who's been breaking local women's feet.

Director: John Waters
Stars: Divine, Tab Hunter, Edith Massey
Comedy | Crime | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

Notorious Baltimore criminal and underground figure Divine goes up against Connie & Raymond Marble, a sleazy married couple who make a passionate attempt to humiliate her and seize her tabloid-given title as "The Filthiest Person Alive".

Director: John Waters
Stars: Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce
Pecker (1998)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A Baltimore sandwich shop employee becomes an overnight sensation when photographs he's taken of his weird family become the latest rage in the art world. The young man is called "Pecker" ... See full summary »

Director: John Waters
Stars: Edward Furlong, Christina Ricci, Bess Armstrong
A Dirty Shame (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.1/10 X  

An uptight, middle-aged, repressed woman turns into a sex addict after getting hit on the head, and she then falls into an underground subculture of sex addicts in suburban Baltimore.

Director: John Waters
Stars: Tracey Ullman, Chris Isaak, Selma Blair
Comedy | Crime | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

An insane independent film director and his renegade group of teenage filmmakers kidnap an A-list Hollywood actress and force her to star in their underground film.

Director: John Waters
Stars: Melanie Griffith, Stephen Dorff, Alicia Witt
Hairspray (1988)
Comedy | Music | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A 'pleasantly plump' teenager teaches 1962 Baltimore a thing or two about integration after landing a spot on a local TV dance show.

Director: John Waters
Stars: Sonny Bono, Ruth Brown, Divine
Serial Mom (1994)
Comedy | Crime | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A sweet mother takes a little too much at heart for the defence of her family.

Director: John Waters
Stars: Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake
Divine Trash (1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

The life and times of Baltimore film maker and midnight movie pioneer, John Waters. Intercut with a 1972 interview of Waters are clips from his first films and recent interviews with his ... See full summary »

Director: Steve Yeager
Stars: John Waters, Pat Waters, John Waters Sr.
Comedy | Crime | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

The travelling sideshow 'Lady Divine's Cavalcade of Perversions' is actually a front for a group of psychotic kidnappers, with Lady Divine herself the most vicious and depraved of all - but... See full summary »

Director: John Waters
Stars: Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce
Mondo Trasho (1969)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A day in the lives of a hit-and-run driver and her victim, and the bizarre things that happen to them before and after they collide (sexual assault by a crazed foot-fetishist, visions of ... See full summary »

Director: John Waters
Stars: Mary Vivian Pearce, Divine, David Lochary
Comedy | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A John Waters film where Divine plays Diane Linkletter, daughter of Art Linkletter and commits suicide.

Director: John Waters
Stars: David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Divine


Cast overview, first billed only:
Mary Vivian Pearce ...
Bosley Jr. (as Brook Blake)
Karen Gerwig ...
Jay Allan ...
Al Strapelli ...
George Stover ...
Bosley Gravel
Turkey Joe ...
Willie Brooks ...
James Yeaton ...
Dead Bum
Ed Peranio ...


A rich housewife murders her husband with the help of her overweight maid, and the two go on the run, ending up in Mortville, a town providing refuge for criminals. They shack up with a lesbian ex-wrestler and her murderess lover, before running into the tyrannical Queen Carlotta, ruler of Mortville... Written by Michael Brooke <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

queen | murder | maid | shack | lesbian | See All (135) »


It isn't very pretty.....


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

27 May 1977 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Mortville  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$65,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Marilyn Manson sampled Mink Stole's "Communist day-care center" rant for his song "Misery Machine." See more »


When Mole first meets Peggy and Grizelda she tells them that there are no toilets in Mortville, but at the lesbian bar there are toilets, where Peggy is harassed by the 'bathroom pervert'. See more »


Peggy Gravel: Hello? What number are you calling? You've dialed the wrong number! Sorry? What good is that? How can you ever repay the last thirty seconds you have stolen from my life? I hate you, your husband, your children, and your relatives!
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the closing credits, both Lieutenant Wilson and Lieutenant Williams are credited as being played by Ed Peranio. See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Great John Waters classic
18 May 2000 | by (DVD Drive-In) – See all my reviews

Fans of John Waters have always disputed which of his films is his best. Two titles will almost always come up: "Female Trouble" and this movie. While I prefer the former, I can understand why "Desperate Living" would also be considered his best!

While Divine was touring with an off-Broadway play, Waters decided to make a movie starring only women! While there are a few men here and there, the cast is predominantly women! Mink Stole is Peggy Gravel, the snobby upper-class lunatic who goes into frantic anxiety attacks and thinks her children have sex! Jean Hill makes one of two film performances as Grizelda Brown, the black maid who smothers Peggy's husband by sitting on him! Susan Lowe is the butch Mole and Liz Renay is the slutty Muffy, two lesbian lovers in the scuzzy town of Mortville! Edith Massey is the evil Queen Carlotta, the tyrannical ruler of Mortville whose soldiers are leather-clad homosexuals! Mary Vivian Pearce is Princess Coo Coo, the half-wit who wants to marry a nudist garbageman! Cookie Mueller is Flipper, a sadistic nightclub performer who tortures men on stage, and Susan Niesp is her lover who sleeps with midgets! If this sounds like entertainment to you, "Desperate Living" is right up your alley! Additional highlights: a transvestite motorcycle cop with bleeding gums, a bizarre lesbian scene between Peggy and Grizelda, and a sex change resulting in a disgusting penis for Mole, which is eventually cut off with scissors and eaten by a dog!

All of the performances are top-notch, the script and dialogue are hilarious, and overall, "Desperate Living" is worthy of being called Waters' best film (but it isn't). Recommended for those who are looking for a comedy that's different.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Best/Worst John Waters Movie??? brianwiik
favorite line dorkessfreak
What's with Mink Stole's leg brace? crescentfresh7
Sad News missgoddess85
Hello All PrincessCooCoo
desperate living audio files...? deborah-degouts
Discuss Desperate Living (1977) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: