“By the time I made Desperate Living, the era of midnight movies was over, so at the time it was the least successful of all my films. Weirdly enough, it now does really well on video and college campuses. And I’m not quite sure why.”–John Waters
FEATURING: , Susan Lowe, Liz Renay, Jean Hill, , , “Turkey Joe”
PLOT: With the help of 400 pound maid Griselda, suburban housewife Peggy accidentally murders her deceptively bucolic husband and goes on the lam. A cop directs the fugitives toward a Pleasure Island for criminals called Mortville. Things go south with the village’s fascistic matriarch, until there’s a mutiny in the ramshackle town.
- was originally intended for the role of Mole McHenry (eventually played by Susan Lowe), but could not back out of an alternate commitment. Desperate Living is the only film Waters made during Divine’s lifetime in which the hefty transvestite did not appear.
- Waters did not cast regular died soon after Desperate Living was released, either from a PCP overdose or from bleeding to death during an accident that occurred while he was tripping on PCP (reports differ). for the film due to the latter’s drug use. Lochary
- The tagline was “It isn’t very pretty”—a radical understatement.
- Budgeted at $65,000, this was Waters’ most expensive film to date. 1974’s Female Trouble had a budget of $25,000, while 1972’s Pink Flamingos cost a mere $10,000.
- The extras of Mortville were homeless residents from the Baltimore skid row, bused in for a single day’s shoot.
- According to Waters, lesbian groups in Boston protested the film, forcing its cancellation in Beantown.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: The opening credit scene of a dead rat served on expensive china, salted, and eaten at a swank dinner party. It sets the table for what’s to come.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Cross-dressing cop; toddler in the fridge; scissors self-castration
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Waters outdoes Multiple Maniacs‘ “cavalcade of perversion” in this grunge fairy tale that includes systematic lesbianism, cross-dressing, odious hippie sex scenes, cannibalism, necrophilia, bat rabies, copious facial warts, and gap-toothed queen Edith Massey sexually serviced by leather-bound Nazis.
Opening credits for Desperate Living
COMMENTS: The finale in John Waters’ “Trash Trilogy,” Desperate Continue reading 280. DESPERATE LIVING (1977)