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Desperate Living (1977)

A neurotic society woman murders her husband with the help of her maid and, on the lam, escape to Mortville, a homeless community ruled over by a fascist queen.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Bosley Jr. (as Brook Blake)
Karen Gerwig ...
Jay Allan ...
Al Strapelli ...
Doctor Evans
Bosley Gravel
Turkey Joe ...
Willie Brooks ...
James Yeaton ...
Dead Bum
Ed Peranio ...
Lieutenant Wilson


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 <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

queen | murder | maid | shack | lesbian | See All (137) »


It isn't very pretty.....


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

27 May 1977 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Mortville  »

Filming Locations:



Box Office


$65,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


John Waters: [manson] There is a portrait of Charles Manson in Queen Carlotta's cardboard castle. Also, someone in Mortville cries out "Squeaky Fromme, where are you when we need you?" Lynette Fromme, aka "Squeaky", was a Manson follower who tried to assassinate US President 'Gerald Ford'. 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 »


Mr. Paul: This Backwards Day's a lot of shit, ain't it?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Desperate Living's opening credits appear beside an overhead shot of a formal table setting, in which a maid serves a cooked rat as the main course, which is salted and eaten. See more »


Referenced in Seinfeld: The Smelly Car (1993) See more »

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User Reviews

Definitely not for the faint of heart!
26 November 2004 | by See all my reviews

Possibly more depraved than "Pink Flamingos", if that's possible, "Desperate Living" is a paradox for the senses. Although tasteless and shocking, it is ultimately warm hearted and uproariously hilarious. Those familiar with John's style know that these contradictions work splendidly within the context that he intended them to. Never mean spirited, the outrageousness lends itself to an overall statement on the callousness of society itself. Mink Stole is simply incredible as Peggy Gravel. Her ranting and raving throughout the film is side splitting. Special mention to Jean Hill as Grizelda, Liz Renay as Muffy, and of course the ever demure (ha!) Edith Massey as Queen Carlotta. Leave all inhibitions at the door and enjoy this twisted fairy tale roller coaster ride of a good time! A definite 9/10!!

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