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Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea

Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea (2004)



Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 47
Fresh: 45 | Rotten: 2

Plagues And Pleasures is a thoroughly engrossing account, both humorous and disheartening, of a once bustling community ravaged by ecological change and human greed.


Average Rating: 7.2/10
Critic Reviews: 15
Fresh: 14 | Rotten: 1

Plagues And Pleasures is a thoroughly engrossing account, both humorous and disheartening, of a once bustling community ravaged by ecological change and human greed.



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Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 521

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Movie Info

As co-directed by Jeff Springer and Chris Metzler, the documentary Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea travels to the titular body of water for an idiosyncratic look at a decidedly odd locale. An inland ocean with a close proximity to the urban areas of southern California, the Salton once clocked in as a veritable paradise - many tagged it "The California Riviera." By the early years of the 21st century, however, the Salton had dwindled to a decrepit ecological catastrophe. Plagues and

Sep 25, 2007

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All Critics (47) | Top Critics (15) | Fresh (45) | Rotten (2) | DVD (8)

It makes for a strange, but somewhat endearing, melange of the grim and comic.

December 6, 2007 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
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The movie is engaging for the way it documents the rise and fall of a semi-natural landmark, and especially for the way it shows how people still come to California to remake themselves.

November 29, 2007 Full Review Source: AV Club
AV Club
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Plagues and Pleasures is simultaneously fun and creepy, best appreciated by those who enjoy similar profiles of Detroit's crumbling grandeur.

October 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Detroit Free Press
Detroit Free Press
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Narrated with morbid relish by John Waters, this witty doc chronicles the rise and ruination of the Salton Sea, a tiny inland ocean once promoted as 'California's Riviera' but now a festering, apocalyptically hideous ecological disaster zone.

July 12, 2007 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
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As documentary subjects go, the Salton Sea was ripe for the plucking: This man-made phenomenon is one of the weirdest stories of the West.

June 4, 2007
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Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer found a strange place -- in California, of all places -- and made a video postcard about its colorful denizens and ecological calamity.

June 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea is funny and compassionate, but it shows us a future that could befall any American community that suddenly becomes economically unsound, or politically inconvenient.

September 13, 2009 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

Narrated by John Waters, Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea is an odd bird -- wacky and poignant, funny and sobering, but this portrait of a forgotten paradise is a must-see.

September 13, 2009 Full Review Source: San Diego Metropolitan
San Diego Metropolitan

While the doc flounders as a coherent story of human folly, it's a cheeky travelmercial guaranteed to get the curious to make the road trip to this near-abandoned resort.

September 13, 2009 Full Review Source: I.E. Weekly
I.E. Weekly

a one-off kinda film that is worth seeing for its sheer jaw-drop factor

January 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

[A] thoroughly engrossing documentary.

November 30, 2007 Full Review Source: PopMatters

Funny, tragic, and informative Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea is an unforgettable portrait of a desert town turned into a sewer.

November 28, 2007 Full Review Source:

Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea is an engaging, entertaining snapshot of a long, tragicomic moment in American history.

November 28, 2007 Full Review Source: Bryant Frazer's Deep Focus
Bryant Frazer's Deep Focus

Plagues and Pleasures is the best kind of short vacation; you get to lounge with some interesting people, plus you get to learn a little something about the local environment and what can be done to keep it going.

November 14, 2007 Full Review Source: MetroActive

Because of Metzler and Springer's appetite for raw experience, what could have been a depressing horror movie is wildly funny and enraging. It's the rare documentary with something for everyone.

November 5, 2007 Full Review Source: Baltimore Sun
Baltimore Sun

The documentary is informative and entertaining and gives you both sides of the great debate. You may not want to take a vacation to the Salton Sea, but you'll enjoy the visit there.

November 4, 2007 Full Review Source:

Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer's 'sea-umentary' is a compelling tale of human foible, greed and inertia.

October 29, 2007 Full Review Source: JWR

Plagues and Pleasures of the Salton Sea can best be described as An Inconvenient Truth with a stronger sense of humor, a keen sense of the cost of neglect and with a cast of characters who'd make the residents of Twin Peaks seem mundane.

October 8, 2007 Full Review Source:

If Divine were still alive today, he-she might well be wintering on the edge of The Salton Sea.

October 3, 2007 Full Review Source:

The ridiculous and the sublime collide, with tragicomic results, in Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea, Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer's lively, fascinating chronicle of "Paradise Lost" in the Southern California desert.

October 3, 2007

Ecological disaster meets greed and a desperate bid for human salvation, in this metaphorical meditation on the forecast apocalyptic doom of America.

September 30, 2007 Full Review Source: WBAI Web Radio
WBAI Web Radio

Kudos to the directors for painting such a lavish, involving portrait of a fascinating town.

September 25, 2007 Full Review Source: Arizona Daily Star
Arizona Daily Star

we've seen movies about eccentrics before, but few of them have much to do with anything actually important.

September 22, 2007 Full Review Source:

Audience Reviews for Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea

VERY interesting documentary on one of my favorite places to visit. For those who know a lot about the Salton Sea or for those who know little to nothing at all, this documentary will intrigue you.
December 3, 2011
Eric Alvarez

Super Reviewer

Back at the beginning of the last century, mankind had some grandiose ideas and in several areas decided to play god while having no idea of the consequences. Plagues and Pleasures of The Salton Sea is a documentary of one such adventure.

Seeing the fertile land of California's Imperial Valley going to waste do to a lack of water, the government decided to create a man-made tributary of the Colorado River that would feed the valley several hundred miles to the west. For a time this worked well and crops were grown in abundance, until a particularly rainy season poured far more water than the man-made tributary could hold. Funny thing, water seeks a low point, which was an area called The Salton Sink, an alkali bed some 200 ft below sea level. Before the tributary could be tamed, enough water rushed into the sink to form a sea 30 miles long and 20 miles wide.

Not to worry, said the government, it's 110 degrees there in the summer, so it will evaporate in no time. Good thinking, except they forgot about all the run off from the Imperial Valley. So there you have it - a mistake that caused a huge inland sea (called a sea because the alkali bed it rests on gives it a high saline content).

Developers were watching how Palm Springs grew from a sleepy berg to bustling upscale home of the stars and figured that they could do even better with the Salton Sea because it had something that Palm Springs didn't: water sports. So they stocked the sea with fish, built docks and boating ramps and said come on down and buy a lot. Again, this worked for a time and it looked like perhaps this would become the Riviera of the US (as it was advertised). Unfortunately, yet again there was a rainy year in the late 60's and.... The sea rose 10' and flooded everything. Oopsy.

With potential buyers now wary of the next flood, the area fell into decay, which was further exasperated by several dry years in which the sea's saline content rose the point where the fish no longer had enough oxygen to survive - cut to the next scene with literally millions of fish lying dead on the shores, stinking to high heaven.

But still there is a beauty to be found there, even today. Much of the sea has been labeled a wildlife habitat and it is a safe haven for hundreds of migrating bird species. The film points out that even with all the dams built along the Colorado River, the county of San Diego managed to push through regulations given them the right to siphon off billions of gallons each year, which will potentially impact the Salton Sea to the point where in 15 years it could very well go dry. Once again the politico's fail to learn from past mistakes (the entire history of the sea is one mismanagement after another), ignoring no only the impact on bird life but the impending ecological disaster of exposing a 600 sq mile alkali bed to the high winds of the area (think of salt blowing all over those green golf courses in Palm Springs, only 30 miles away).

This is the point of the film - mankind's hubris in thinking that we can control the environment. This error of judgment is seen all over, from the damming of rivers (and subsequent loss of fish species) to the misguided attempts of the BLM in trying to control horse and wolf populations while ignoring natural selection).

Along the way the film also introduces us to some of the wacky characters that still call the Salton Sea home. The area seems full of hermits and free thinkers - those outside the mainstream who can survive primarily by supping on the still abundant fish supply. The film intersperses live interviews along with historical footage in an enticing cocktail that I am glad I imbibed; though I admit that this topic may mean more to me since I've been down around that area many a time.
June 30, 2011
paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

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