Reviewed by John Perry
Rating: 8 Beans
or anyone who ever wants to see a really bad movie (and I mean that in an Ed Wood way), go rent an old John Waters movie. Back in the 1970s he made a slew of hilariously twisted comedies -- "Pink Flamingos", "Female Trouble", "Mondo Trasho", and this one -- his last before getting cleaner with 1981's "Polyester".
The best thing about his older movies is watching them with friends and watching their reactions. Just like his trashterpiece "Pink Flamingos" had singing buttholes, mother-son incest, and Divine chowing down on dog feces, "Desperate Living" has a few memorable moments, as well. (Memorable meaning, "Oh my God I can't believe they showed that!!!")
Mink Stole and Jean Hill play Peggy and Grizelda, a severely neurotic housewife and her 350-pound maid who become fugitives after they kill Peggy's husband (Grizelda sits on him). They take off with the law hot on their tail, until they get a tip from a lengerie-loving cop that there's a hidden village nearby.
That's when they go to Mortville, a village inhabited by wanted criminals. Peggy and Grizelda befriend a lesbian couple -- the prip-and-proper Muffy St. Jacques (Liz Renay) and the butch-dyke Mole McHenry (Susan Lowe) -- both wanted murderers. All is fine in Mortville until the demented Queen Carlotta (Edith Massey, also known as the egg lady in "Pink Flamingos") goes out of control, wanting to infect the people of Mortville with her new potion for rabies.
Yes, it's as warped as it sounds. John Waters himself described the film as "a monstrous fairy tale", and that more than applies. The sets look like they're made of cardboard, and the acting is hilariously awful. But it's not the campiness and the amateurishness that makes "Desperate Living" such a treat, it's Waters' talent to shock.
While not even close to the shock value shown in "Pink Flamingos", Waters still makes the viewer's jaw drop at times. For example, in one scene, Mort comes home from the plastic surgeon to show Muffy her brand new sex change. When Muffy doesn't like it, Mort takes out the scissors, and... snip. When I saw that scene I didn't even notice my legs were crossing themselves.
I don't want to spoil all the good stuff in "Desperate Living", it's something to see for yourself. But, be warned: if you had trouble stomaching this one, stay the hell away from "Pink Flamingos", it's ten times worse.
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