IMDb > Desperate Living (1977)
Desperate Living
Top Links
trailers and videosfull cast and crewtriviaofficial sitesmemorable quotes
main detailscombined detailsfull cast and crewcompany credits
Awards & Reviews
user reviewsexternal reviewsawardsuser ratingsparents guidemessage board
Plot & Quotes
plot summarysynopsisplot keywordsmemorable quotes
Did You Know?
triviagoofssoundtrack listingcrazy creditsalternate versionsmovie connectionsFAQ
Other Info
box office/businessrelease datesfilming locationstechnical specsliterature listingsNewsDesk
taglines trailers and videos posters photo gallery
External Links
showtimesofficial sitesmiscellaneousphotographssound clipsvideo clips

Desperate Living (1977) More at IMDbPro »

Photos (See all 16 | slideshow)


User Rating:
7.2/10   3,293 votes »
Your Rating:
Saving vote...
Deleting vote...
/10   (delete | history)
Sorry, there was a problem
MOVIEmeter: ?
No change in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
View company contact information for Desperate Living on IMDbPro.
It isn't very pretty.....
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. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
(25 articles)
Know a Lonely Old One? Dial up the Call Girl of Cthulhu
 (From Dread Central. 30 May 2014, 9:00 AM, PDT)

I Believe In Unicorns | 2014 SXSW Review
 (From ioncinema. 17 March 2014, 6:00 AM, PDT)

DVD, Digital Release: I Am Divine
 (From Disc Dish. 6 February 2014, 2:36 PM, PST)

User Reviews:
Water's punk satire on fascism See more (57 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Liz Renay ... Muffy St. Jacques

Mink Stole ... Peggy Gravel

Susan Lowe ... Mole McHenry

Edith Massey ... Queen Carlotta
Mary Vivian Pearce ... Princess Coo-Coo

Jean Hill ... Grizelda Brown

Brook Yeaton ... Bosley Jr. (as Brook Blake)
Karen Gerwig ... Beth
Jay Allan ... Kid
Al Strapelli ... Doctor Evans
George Stover ... Bosley Gravel
Turkey Joe ... Motorcycle Cop
Willie Brooks ... Pieman
James Yeaton ... Dead Bum
Ed Peranio ... Lieutenant Wilson
Steve Butow ... Lt. Grogan
Channing Wilroy ... Lieutenant Wilson
Steve Parker ... Goon
Pete Denzer ... Goon
Chuck Yeaton ... Goon
David Klein ... Goon
Ralph Crocker ... Goon
Peter Koper ... Goon
Sally Albaugh ... Hag
Kenny Orye ... Eater
Warren Newcomb ... Page
Roland Hertz ... Muffy's Husband
Pirie Woods ... Baby Sitter
Damien Overholser ... Baby In Refrigerator
Ed Butner ... Referee
H.C. Kliemisch ... Big Jimmy Dong
Paul Swift ... Mr. Paul
George Figgs ... Herbert
Marina Melin ... Shina
Cookie Mueller ... Flipper
Pat Moran ... Bathroom Pervert
Sharon Niesp ... Shotsie
George Hulse ... Sex Change Doctor
Delores Delux ... Nurse
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Frank J. Butler ... Harmonica Player (uncredited)
Richard Ellsberry ... Patient in Waiting Room (uncredited)
Alan Reese ... Extra (uncredited)

Directed by
John Waters 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
John Waters 

Produced by
James McKenzie .... associate producer
William Platt .... associate producer
David Spencer .... associate producer
John Waters .... producer
Original Music by
Chris Lobingier 
Allen Yarus 
Cinematography by
Thomas Loizeaux (director of photography)
John Waters 
Film Editing by
Charles Roggero 
Art Direction by
Vincent Peranio 
Costume Design by
Van Smith 
Makeup Department
Jon Aaron .... assistant hair stylist
Celeste Hall .... assistant hair stylist
Christine Mason .... hair stylist
Van Smith .... makeup artist
Production Management
Robert Maier .... unit manager
Pat Moran .... production manager
Art Department
Delores Delux .... assistant art director (as Dolores Deluxe)
Steve Parker .... assistant set designer
Ed Peranio .... assistant set designer
Vincent Peranio .... set designer
Sound Department
Richard Ellsberry .... assistant sound
Robert Maier .... sound
Special Effects by
Ed Peranio .... special effects
Tom Watkins .... special effects
Camera and Electrical Department
Laurel Douglas .... still photographer
David Insley .... assistant camera
Kevin Weber .... lighting assistant
Steve Yeager .... still photographer
Music Department
Chris Lobingier .... music arranger
Allen Yarus .... music arranger
Other crew
William Platt .... video
Alan Rose .... credits
Pete Garey .... production advisor (uncredited)
Crew believed to be complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
90 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Argentina:18 | Australia:R | Canada:18A | Canada:16+ (Quebec) | France:-16 | France:-18 (original rating) | New Zealand:R18 | UK:18 | UK:(Banned) (1977) | USA:R (re-rating) | USA:X (self applied)
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

Production designer Vincent Peranio cooked a real rat so that it could be "eaten" during the opening titles.See more »
Continuity: 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 »
Queen Carlotta:[giving one of her nude guards a spanking] This will teach you to arouse royalty.See more »
Movie Connections:


This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.
7 out of 9 people found the following review useful.
Water's punk satire on fascism, 3 October 2006
Author: David Munn ( from Adelaide, South Australia

It was 1977, the year the Sex Pistols stormed the British pop charts with "Anarchy in the U.K.", and John Waters marked the year with the release of his most joyously angry opus, "Desperate Living".

Peggy Gravel (Mink Stole) is a suburban housewife who returns home from the mental hospital to the care of her husband Bosley (George Stover) and her massive black maid Grizelda (Jean Hill). She is caught up in one long paranoid screaming fit, accusing a neighbourhood kid of trying to murder her with a baseball and fearing that her pre- pubescent children are having sex. When Bosley catches Grizelda stealing and tries to administer "fit medicine" to Peggy, the pair attack him and Grizelda kills him by sitting on his face.

On the run from the law, Peggy and Grizelda have an encounter with a perverted policeman (Turkey Joe) with a panty fetish. In return for their panties, and wet soul kisses, he shows them the way to Morteville, a town so hideous that criminals can live there in a state of "mortification" rather than go to prison.

The pair rent a room from a lesbian couple, butch Mole McHenry (Susan Lowe) and her busty man-loving girlfriend Muffy St. Jacques (ex-stripper Liz Renay). But they are soon arrested by the leather goons of Queen Carlotta (Edith Massey) who orders them to have a trash make- over.

Carlotta's daughter Princess Coo-Coo (Mary Vivien Pierce) is in love with Herbert (Mike Figgs), the garbage collector at the local nudist colony.

Mole makes the ultimate sacrifice for her lover, Peggy joins forces with Queen Carlotta, and Princess Coo-Coo becomes a victim of her mother's insanity, as Morteville moves inexorably toward revolution.

This John Waters classic is a masterpiece of deranged comedy which repays multiple viewings. Beneath the camp humour and cheap gross-out gags is a surprisingly perceptive satire on the infantile, neurotic nature of fascism. Compare this film with Barbet Schroeder's classic documentary "Idi Amin Dada" (1974), and you will see that the psychology of real fascist dictators is not that different from that of Queen Carlotta. (Idi Amin's portrait is one of several that hangs on the wall in Carlotta's castle.)

Some may not like this film as much as John Waters' other early works because of the absence of Divine, but really this is a benefit in a way as it allows Mink Stole to shine in her one starring role and gives great space also to the incomparable Jean Hill. But everyone is good in this film, with Susan Lowe having her one big role in a Waters' movie. The scene in which she reveals her special gift to Muffy actually has a profound undercurrent of tragedy you just don't expect in a Waters' film.

Look out also for one of Waters' most obvious tributes to Herschell Gordon Lewis in the wrestling scene, an appearance by Waters' current casting director Pat Moran as the bathroom pervert (she also played Patty Hitler in deleted scenes from "Pink Flamingos") and the gorgeous Marina Melin (who had been appearing in Waters' films since "Eat Your Makeup" (1968)) baring all as the chief nudist.

Waters really wears his "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and "Wizard of Oz" influences on his sleeve with this one.

Was the above review useful to you?
See more (57 total) »

Message Boards

Discuss this movie with other users on IMDb message board for Desperate Living (1977)
Recent Posts (updated daily)User
David Lochary westing000
Best/Worst John Waters Movie??? brianwiik
favorite line dorkessfreak
Felt sorry for Edith Massey tgemberl
What happend to the nurse/maid? Lips98
A John Waters Christmas, New York robert-1107
See more »


If you enjoyed this title, our database also recommends:
- - - - -
Pink Flamingos Avatar Freeway The Holy Mountain Fellini Satyricon
IMDb User Rating:
IMDb User Rating:
IMDb User Rating:
IMDb User Rating:
IMDb User Rating:
Show more recommendations

Related Links

Full cast and crew Company credits External reviews
News articles IMDb Comedy section IMDb USA section

You may report errors and omissions on this page to the IMDb database managers. They will be examined and if approved will be included in a future update. Clicking the 'Edit page' button will take you through a step-by-step process.