Mortville—the fictional setting of Waters’s mid-career masterpiece—is a dangerous place. Ruled by a despotic queen (Edith Massey) and her small army of leathered-up Nazi enforcers, overrun with ruin, dilapidation, and decay, and populated by a motley crew of outlaws and outcasts, it’s a vision of what the world might look like if Waters were God. When two runaways, a mentally unstable suburban housewife (Mink Stole) and her obese maid (Jean Hill), disrupt the town’s already unstable balance of power, chaos and revolution ensue. Amateur sex-change-operation reversals, attempts at biological warfare, cross-dressing highway patrolmen, butch-lesbian wrestlers, frozen babies, and nudist-colony digressions: Waters’s first feature made without Divine or David Lochary—the latter passed away the year of the film’s release—is a catalogue of horrors that veers between comedy and disgust, or, as Waters himself described it, “a fairy tale for fucked-up children.”

Photos by Steve Yeager © Charm City

  • Directed By John Waters
  • 1977
  • USA
  • 35mm
  • 90 minutes