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Desperate Living

By Jerry Renshaw

Everyone in Desperate Living's Mortville has some horrible secret to hide. The mentally unstable Peggy Gravel (Mink Stole, in a superb display of overacting) and her 300-pound-plus maid Grizelda must take it on the lam after Grizelda smothers Peggy's husband under her elephantine buttocks. They find themselves in Mortville, a shanty fiefdom ruled by the grotesque Queen Carlotta (the incomparable Edith Massey). The evil queen delights in tormenting her subjects, but Peggy and Grizelda soon team up with a pair of lesbian outcasts, and a rebellion is in the air. John Waters's Desperate Living takes on the air of a seedy, trash fairy tale as the humiliated residents of Mortville rise up against the queen and the cursed princess finds herself in a power struggle against her mother. Notable for the absence of Waters regular Divine, this movie pushes the rest of the cast to their over-the-top best. Fifties sex bomb Liz Renay has a great time as Muffy St. Jacques, half of the lesbian couple, and was still looking great by the '70s. The tumbledown sets of Mortville add a surreal touch to the movie, but Edith Massey steals every scene she's in as the hateful, repulsive Queen Carlotta. Note that the actors' breath is clearly visible in many scenes; it was filmed outdoors in a bitter Baltimore winter. Nasty, shabby, gross, and hilarious, this is John Waters at his best.

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Buy this VHS movie from! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from! (Click here!)Soundtrack unavailable at - try eBay (see links below)Rated XNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: John Waters

Stars: Liz Renay, Mink Stole

Released: May 24, 1977

Availability: DVD VHS

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