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Desperate Lives

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Director  Robert Michael Lewis
Initial DVD release  April 21, 2010
Country  United States
6/10 IMDb

Genre  Drama
Music director  Bruce Broughton
Writer  Lew Hunter
Language  English
Desperate Lives movie poster

Release date  March 3, 1982
Cast  Diana Scarwid (Eileen Phillips), Doug McKeon (Scott Cameron), Helen Hunt (Sandy Cameron), William Windom (Dr. Jarvis), Art Hindle (Stan)
Similar movies  Fish Tank, Lucy, Rampage: The Hillside Strangler Murders, Sex, Party and Lies, Factory Girl, Jolene
Tagline  Who's killing young kids with drugs and crime?

Desperate lives trailer 1982

Desperate Lives is a 1982 American made-for-television drama film about drug use in a high school. The film has a very strong anti-drug message.


Desperate lives tv movie feature clip

Plot summary

The Cameron family seems, on the surface, to be the perfect family, but things are not as they seem. Their two teenage children, Scott and Sandy, fall in with the wrong crowds at their high school and eventually become involved with drug experimentation. Sandy, after ingesting angel dust made by her boyfriend in the school's chemistry lab, jumps through a glass window of the school (purposely cutting her arms with the cut glass in the process) and is subsequently paralyzed from the fall.

A caring idealistic guidance counselor, Eileen Phillips, sees the problem that is going on in the school and, after other tragic incidents involving two other students (one of which involves Scott and his girlfriend smoking drugs and crashing their car off a cliff) and when no one else on the staff is willing to do anything about it, takes the steps to deal with and confront the problem. The aftermath of this tragedy makes Scott and Sandy's parents realize that even their "perfect" kids can be affected by drugs, especially after Scott has a violent reaction and goes into the hospital.

At a school assembly, Eileen Phillips storms in and confronts the students about the increasing drug use, sending a message to the crowd about the effects of what the drug problem is doing to the kids and the tragedies that resulted because of it.


  • Diana Scarwid as Eileen Phillips
  • Doug McKeon as Scott Cameron
  • Helen Hunt as Sandy Cameron
  • William Windom as Dr. Jarvis
  • Art Hindle as Stan
  • Tom Atkins as John Cameron
  • Norman Alden as Coach
  • Tricia Cast as Susan Garber
  • Sam Bottoms as Ken Baynes
  • Diane Ladd as Carol Cameron
  • Grant Cramer as Steve
  • Michele Greene as Julie Jordan
  • Terry Alexander as Robert Walsh
  • Joyce Brothers as Mrs. Watson (as Dr. Joyce Brothers)
  • Aggie Terry as Cindy
  • Katherine Kelly Lang as Mary
  • Susan McClung as Sarah
  • Clayton Rohner as Monte
  • Jennifer Parsons as Olivia (as Jenny Parsons)
  • Mykelti Williamson as Jack (as Mykel T. Williamson)
  • Jane Milmore as Jane
  • Curt Ayers as Jesse
  • Michele Laurita as Diana
  • Glenn-Michael Jones as Al
  • Joey Green as Howard
  • Michael Cummings as Brad Davis
  • Viola Kates Stimpson as Grandmother
  • DVD release

    Desperate Lives was released on DVD in April 21, 2010, and is still available to buy on


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