7.2/10
4,258
56 user 44 critic

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.

Director:

John Waters

Writer:

John Waters
Reviews

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video

ON DISC

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Polyester (1981)
Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A suburban housewife's world falls apart when she finds that her pornographer husband is serially unfaithful to her, her daughter is 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
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A spoiled schoolgirl 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
Comedy | Crime | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Lady Divine becomes enraged when her boyfriend cheats on her, and descends into a life of murder and mayhem.

Director: John Waters
Stars: Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce
Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

Notorious Baltimore criminal and underground figure Divine goes up against 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
Mondo Trasho (1969)
Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 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
Pecker (1998)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A talented young photographer, who enjoys snapping photos of his satirical, perverted Baltimore neighborhood and his wacky family, gets dragged into a world of pretentious artists from New York City and finds newfound fame.

Director: John Waters
Stars: Edward Furlong, Christina Ricci, Bess Armstrong
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
A Dirty Shame (2004)
Comedy
    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
Serial Mom (1994)
Comedy | Crime | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A sweet mother finds herself participating in homicidal activities when she sees the occasion call for it.

Director: John Waters
Stars: Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake
Comedy | Short
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 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
Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Child actors perform a 'kid-friendly' table read version of John Water's notorious 1972 X-rated cult classic film, Pink Flamingos.

Director: John Waters
Stars: Madelyn Beckett, Taylor Howard-Goergens, Dexter Shaffer
Cry-Baby (1990)
Comedy | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

In 1950s Baltimore, a bad boy with a heart of gold wins the love of a good girl, whose boyfriend sets out for revenge.

Director: John Waters
Stars: Johnny Depp, Ricki Lake, Amy Locane
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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 Karen Gerwig ... Beth
Jay Allan Jay Allan ... Kid
Al Strapelli Al Strapelli ... Doctor Evans
George Stover ... Bosley Gravel
Turkey Joe Turkey Joe ... Motorcycle Cop
Willie Brooks Willie Brooks ... Pieman
James Yeaton James Yeaton ... Dead Bum
Ed Peranio Ed Peranio ... Lieutenant Wilson
Edit

Storyline

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 (136) »

Taglines:

It isn't very pretty.....


Certificate:

See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

27 May 1977 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mortville See more »

Filming Locations:

Baltimore, Maryland, USA See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$65,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Charm City Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Actress Susan Lowe who played "Mole McHenry" in the movie is actually very beautiful. After changing her appearance to play the part, her children were horrified, and it caused problems with her marriage. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Princess Coo-Coo: Oh Herbert, we're safe now. I'm sorry I had to drag you all that way, but those silly nudists wanted to BURY you! Oh I love you too, my darling- Mother can't hurt us now. We'll get married tonight. You don't look so well, I hope you perk up for our honeymoon!
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 »

Alternate Versions

In Italy, the film was heavily dubbed, censored, and retitled "Punk Story." See more »

Connections

Referenced in No Stopping the Stover (2016) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Bad movie hygiene
7 August 2004 | by BornJadedSee all my reviews

All of John Waters' early films, beyond being purposefully shocking and repulsive, have this really tangible dirty, raunchy quality to them. They're movies with bad hygiene, like the porno movies whose actors have dirt under their fingernails or pimples in all the wrong places. Waters has a special gift for compiling the most disgusting items and the most disgusting combinations of items (lesbian glory holes, marshmallows and Cheez-its, egg-addicted 250-lb women, bleeding gums and French kissing, 'Surfin' Bird' and anal lip-syncing) for maximum effect, filming everything in grainy, artless 16mm with alternately wooden and over-the-top line-readings not dissimilar to the acting in a porno flick.

If you've seen Waters on television, he has a certain sophisticated charm to his wit, and perhaps a dirtier director wouldn't have the right sensibility to make films as authentically dirty as this one, or the discretion enough to choose performers as dirty-looking as Turkey Joe and Kenny Orye. The fact that Waters does not show any contempt or opinion about his subjects is important. He has this open, accepting non-judgmental affection for everyone in his films that makes the films themselves OF the filth they are depicting rather than simply about that filth, and he embraces those of notoriety and dubious character such as Patty Hearst and Liz Renay. He's subversive not by philosophy or decision, but by nature. Subversiveness for Waters means a good time. What distinguishes his work as "underground" rather than "exploitation" is that he celebrates the depravity and freakishness of his performers rather than exploiting.

Every single character in 'Desperate Living' is a sociopath, as it takes place primarily in a fairy-tale town called Mortville, to which housewife Peggy Gravel (Mike Stole) and her 300-lb black maid Grizelda (Jean Hill) flee after the latter murders Stole's husband by sitting on his face. Everyone in Mortville is trashy and, well, desperate, and there's a vivid pre-punk vibe here amongst psycho-dyke Mole, played by Susan Lowe, and others, and in the garish, tacky colors of the town's decor, which Waters reports was constructed entirely out of garbage with only one exception.

While I find Waters' 'Pink Flamingos' boring once the shocks become familiar, 'Desperate Living' is a fascinating movie to watch. It's probably Waters' most depraved and outrageous movie, and the funniest of his pre-'Polyester' movies. You get to see the hefty Jean Hill naked, rolling around in bed with Mink Stole, and you get to see Waters regular Edith Massey in all her snaggletoothed wonder as the wicked Queen Carlotta, being pleasured by one of her many leather-clad man-servants. You'll see this and, if nothing else, probably want to catalogue these bits to friends or show them the film, just to get a rise out of them.


33 of 33 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 56 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Popular Action and Adventure Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular action and adventure titles available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed