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Ken Russell later films



Ken Russell - Whore - title

"Pretty Woman was about a character who lived in an R-rated world, and Whore is about a woman who lives in the real one" (Roger Ebert, 18 Oct 1991, click here)

Whore from 1991, a late gem by Ken Russell.

Russell experiments with actress Theresa Russell (no relation) as whore Liz talking directly to the camera.

Ken Russell - Whore

There are strong links to Crimes of Passion, and some scenes are repeats of the earlier film, but whereas Crimes of Passion looked at sexuality, Whore is another rite of passage film as the whore develops her independence.  The mixture of whore and mother is also more convincing than China Blue's dual life in Crimes.

Yvonne Tasker calls the film minimalist and continues "Here prostitution is offered as an explicit metaphor for class exploitation with an alliance between Russell's white prostitute, a white educated lesbian and 'Rasta' (Antonio Fargas) a black man who finally comes to her rescue.  This stagy adaptation (much of it given over to Liz/Theresa Russell speaking directly to camera was marketed as 'sexy' film, but operates in quite other terms as a discourse on the 'working girl'" (Yvonne Tasker, Working Girls: Gender and Sexuality in Popular Cinema, Routledge, 1998, chapter 9).

It is not a perfect film, the early scenes could be tightened up, and a couple of minor characters are annoying, but Theresa Russell's performance and Russell's imagery make it worth seeing .  Ken Russell was surprised when I told him I rated the film, and he said critics savaged it- time kills critics.

Although the film is Russell's third American film (Altered States and Crimes of Passion went before) it was originally set in Britain, based on a play by David Hines.  The play, about a prostitute around the London King Cross area, was a monologue which led to Ken Russell's direct-to-camera approach which make it almost a one-woman film.  I have unsuccessfully tried to find a copy of the play- any help appreciated.

Theresa Russell in Ken Russell Whore  Theresa Russell in Ken Russell Whore

Liz is sick of passing her money to her pimp (Benjamin Mouton), and the film develops through flashbacks including violence from clients as well as from the pimp.

Theresa Russell in Ken Russell Whore

Elizabeth Morehead - Whore - Ken Russell 

She does find peace and happiness with friend Katie (Elizabeth Morehead) but the pimp finds them.

One reviewer has nothing good to say about the film "What is most depressing, given the hectoring tone of Liz's monologues, is the way the film comes alive when her hateful pimp usurps the voice-over to brag about his entrepreneurial skills" (NFMonday, Time Out, 10 Sept 2012, click here).

Another prudish reviewer is distressed about "costumes that leave little to the imagination and quite a lot to be desired in the department of decency and good taste" - does she think street prostitutes dress with decency and good taste?  (Lola Borg, Empire Magazine, 1 Jan 2000, click here).

While not liking the film, the reviewer in The New York Times is more perceptive "Though the casting is not perfect, Theresa Russell, an actress with a good deal of class about her, gives a credible performance as Liz, a Los Angeles streetwalker" (Vincent Canby, New York Times, 4 Oct 1991).

Ken Russell Whore

The censored title is If You Can't Say It, Just See It.  This was a censored version to be sold in malls and supermarkets. The new title is crudely placed over the original.  It grossed over $1m in America.

Ken Russell Whore credit
 


All images from the film and the DVD cover of the alternative title.

Whore 2 - Amos Kollek - title

There is a film Whore 2 from 1994 which despite the title has no connection with Ken Russell's film.  Directed by Amos Kollek who interviews actual New York prostitutes and follows a fictional story.  However despite talking to actual prostitutes the interviews all seem scripted and acted and there is little sympathy for any of the characters and little sense of how and why the prostitutes work and survive.

"Undermining the film is the director's ponderous portrayal of Jack.  Mr. Kollek, who has appeared in other films of his own, is a smotheringly dull screen presence who speaks in a droning monotone. Although the generalizations Jack draws about the prostitutes he meets may be correct, they have a tritely sentimental ring. Underneath their hard shells, he declares, they are really lost little girls" (Stephen Holden, 28 Jan 1994, New York Times).  The reviewer gives the alternative title Bad Girls.

The image is from the film.




People

Theresa Russell in Ken Russell Whore

Ken Russell Whore

Theresa Russell is especially good as the whore.

Ken Russell Whore cameo

Russell has a cameo role playing the head waiter. He also does camerawork, credited as Alf Russell.

The screenplay was by Russell and Deborah Dalton based on the play.  The editor was Brian Tagg who also worked on various Russell films including Crimes of Passion, Prisoners of Honor and and The Strange Affliction of Anton Bruckner.  The Cinematography was by Amir M. Mokri.


An early film role for Danny Trejo.

The music includes:

  • Doing the Bang by Fascination

  • Let Me Be Your Fantasy by Girls Club

  • Your Love by Sadie Morgan

  • Love of Loves by Frankie Lane

  • The Castle Beat by Castlebeat

  • Tell Me All Your Secrets by Nerissa

  • This Man by Bill Kelly and the House of Cards

  • Selfish by Velma Wright

  • The Bitch Better Have My Money by AMG

  • On The Border by Bill Kelly and the House of Cards

  • A Girl's Gotta Do by Bonnie Barnard

    plus excerpts from classical music, more familiar territory for Russell

  • Beethoven Symphony 6 movements 1, 5

  • Tchaikovsky Nutcracker Suite, Arab Dance

  • Mussorgsky Night on Bare Mountain



Best Image

Theresa Russell in Ken Russell Whore

Theresa Russell lying on a bench with her long hair falling down, but filmed sideways so it looks as if she is upright and her hair is straight out.

Ken Russell Whore     Ken Russell Whore

The phallic food.
 



Best Scene

Ken Russell - Whore

The two girls talking together or reading or watching a film with one falling asleep.

The pimp trying to impress everyone in the high class restaurant and being put down by the waiter and the violinist.
 



Themes

Ken Russell Whore

There is a film within the film.  One scene takes place in a cinema showing The Lair of the White Worm in a double bill with Space Sluts go to College (an invented film, I can find no reference to it).

Ken Russell Whore

Another cinema is showing Crimes de Pasion (Crimes of Passion).

Theresa Russell in Ken Russell Whore  Ken Russell - Lady Chatterley

A favourite Ken Russell shot- in silhouette with stairs.   Compare with Lady Chatterley (right).

Theresa Russell in Ken Russell Whore

The use of mirrors recurs in many Russell films.

There is promiscuous sexuality (compare Crimes of Passion), latent lesbianism and violent off-screen rape (compare The Music Lovers).
 



Films

Other films released in the same year include Silence of the Lambs, JFK and Boyz N the Hood.


 Silence of the Lambs  JFK  Boyz N The Hood

 

More films

Click title for film French Dressing * Billion Dollar Brain * Women in Love * The Music Lovers* The Devils * The Boy Friend * Savage Messiah * Mahler * Tommy * Lisztomania * Valentino * Altered States * Crimes of Passion * Gothic * Aria * The Lair of the White Worm * Salome's Last Dance * The Rainbow * Whore

 

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