Monday, November 11, 2019

The Gladiator (1986)

Given the oftentimes provocative and confrontational nature of his films and indeed, his personality, Abel Ferrara might not seem like the number one contender for television projects however a look at his filmography reveals many a TV credit, several of which are rather interesting. Ferrara's most high profile TV work came in 1985 when he helmed 2 episodes of Miami Vice during the second season and the feature length pilot episode of the NBC series Crime Story was directed by Ferrara in 1986. Ferrara followed up China Girl (1987) with The Loner (1988), a TV feature that once again centered around cops and Ferrara was also behind a fascinatingly cryptic segment of the HBO anthology film Subway Stories: Tales from the Underground (1997) entitled “Love on the A-Train”. One of the more curious TV projects Ferrara was involved with was the third episode of the first season of the short lived ABC series FBI: The Untold Stories, with Ferrara directing portions of “The Judge Wood Case”, detailing the assassination of Judge John H. Wood Jr., who was shot and killed in 1979 by Charles Harrelson, father of actor Woody Harrelson. Ferrara's best TV work however came in 1986 in the form of The Gladiator, a TV film that, coming in the wake of films like Ms. 45 (1981) and Fear City (1984), feels the most at home among the rest of his output.

Eager to get out on the road after getting his learners permit, Jeff Benton goes for a driving lesson with his older brother Rick. After speeding up at a yellow light, the two find themselves being aggressively followed by a mysterious driver who begins rear-ending Rick's truck, the distraction causing Jeff to miss a red light and the two are stuck by an 18-wheeler, killing Jeff. Stricken with grief and rage after getting out of the hospital, Rick, a mechanic by trade, turns vigilante, vowing to avenge his brothers death and soon takes to the streets in his newly suped up truck, dubbing himself “The Gladiator” after his late brothers soccer team, and quickly gains the attention of the public and police, taking out reckless drivers with his main target being the “Death Car” driver who killed his brother and has been responsible for more fatal hit-and-runs in the area.

Despite the fact that Ferrara has referred to The Gladiator as “pure prostitution” and “strictly for the paycheck”, the film hardly feels like an anonymous work for hire job and a closer inspection makes the film seem like the intended follow-up to the aforementioned Ms. 45 and Fear City. The vengeance angle of the story obviously places the film somewhat in the territory of Ms. 45 (though to be certain both films are very different from each other) but it's Fear City the film feels the closest too, especially as it relates to the main characters of both films. Much like Tom Berrenger's Matt Rossi in Fear City, Ken Wahl's Rick is in constant conflict with himself. Pushed to extremes to right a wrong, the constantly moody Rick eventually enters that morally gray area so many Ferrara characters find themselves in as he begins to question if his vigilante tactics are doing the good he intended, making Rick fit right in with the likes of the titular Bad Lieutenant (1992) and Eddie Israel in Dangerous Game (1993). What's also worth noting is that Ferrara doesn't seem to be making any particular judgments as it relates to vigilante justice, choosing instead to focus solely on Rick's state of mind as the vigilantism increases just as he did with Zoe Lund's Thana in Ms. 45. This sets the film apart from so many other TV movies which often have a “message” behind them. Never once does the film come off as preachy in any way.

An interesting thing regarding the film according to Ferrara that was revealed in Brad Stevens' Abel Ferrara: The Moral Vision, Ferrara took on the project partly so Nicholas St. John could get an advance to write the first draft of King of New York (1990), though St. John had no part in writing The Gladiator. Ferrara also humorously stated that the film was partly a means to get away from winter in New York for a few weeks and smash a lot of cars and it should be said that although the majority of the film is quite somber tonally speaking, the action scenes involving Rick taking out reckless drivers do have a nice energy to them and the scenes of Rick suping up his truck and the truck itself is a gloriously 80's creation as is the final showdown between Rick and the “Death Car” driver in a junkyard. All things considered, The Gladiator has had a pretty remarkable shelf life. Originally airing on ABC on February 3, 1986, the film was eventually broadcast overseas and unlike several Ferrara films, has had several DVD releases. Obviously being a made-for-TV film puts it in a fairly low-key category compared to other Ferrara features but The Gladiator has much to offer and plenty of Ferrara's personal touches making the end product seem much more than an excuse to spend a few weeks in LA.




Monday, October 28, 2019

Wild Side (1995)

Tempting as it may be when discussing the life, work and especially death of Donald Cammell to revel in the mythology that has grown about the enigmatic writer/director throughout the years, there are instances where what has been reported don't exactly accurately represent what really happened. This is especially the case as it relates to Cammell's 1996 suicide, which, as Sam and Rebecca Umland wrote in their brilliant dissection of Cammell A Life on the Wild Side, the details of Cammell's passing have been greatly exaggerated. Nevertheless, even without the sensational reports, from his friendships with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Marlon Brando to his dalliances with many a beautiful woman, Cammell was undoubtedly a fascinating figure. Cammell was also an especially interesting case study as it relates to the film business, with only a total of four feature credits to his name. Many felt Cammell was poised to become a breakout vanguard director following his and Nicolas Roeg's co-directorial debut film Performance (1970), however Cammell found himself hitting many a roadblock when it came to potential projects, despite penning numerous scripts. Following Demon Seed (1977) and White of the Eye (1987), Cammell finally got the chance to direct what would become his final statement, Wild Side, one of the most curious cult titles of the 90's and a film who's rotten post-production treatment would possibly factor into Cammell's eventual suicide.

After a hotel rendezvous with powerful money launderer Bruno Buckingham (Christopher Walken), Alex Lee (Anne Heche), a bank accountant who moonlights as a high-class call girl under the alias of Johanna is surprised at her home by Tony (Stephen Bauer), Bruno's driver. After raping Alex, Tony reveals that he is in fact an undercover FBI agent involved in a sting to finally bring Bruno down and blackmails Alex into helping him by becoming Bruno's mistress and gaining his trust. Reluctant at first although desperate to not have her double life revealed, Alex agrees. Things become complicated rather quickly as soon as Alex meets Virginia (Joan Chen), Bruno's wife and the immediate attraction between the two becomes an affair, with Alex and Virginia hatching a whole new scheme to run away with the money from Bruno's next big scam.

Best remembered for a lesbian sex scene between Heche and Chen, many will perhaps go into Wild Side expecting a typical erotic crime thriller that was oh so prevalent in the 90's. Although the re-edited cut of the film that was first released did turn the film into something of that sort, Cammell's original directors cut is something else entirely, a thoroughly deranged and fascinating work with Cammell's manic personality permeating throughout. From a purely storytelling perspective the film is intriguing enough, with its tale of money laundering, double crosses and passionate love affairs, but where the film really becomes engaging is in its characterizations and performances. Of course the biggest standout being Walken, given the most unhinged performance of his entire career. Walken himself has even stated that Bruno is perhaps the craziest character he's ever played, and his performance runs the gamut from menacing to comically absurd, oftentimes seamlessly transitioning from one to the other in mere seconds making Bruno a truly unpredictable loose cannon. Bauer also gives a strangely compelling performance and his undercover agent doubling as Bruno's right hand man does somewhat recall the idea of taking on more than one personality that goes all the way back to Performance. The relationship that develops between Heche and Chen that gave the film its infamy is far from lurid excuse for lesbian scenes but in fact a rather touching addition that eventually becomes the films strongest plot point, ultimately giving the film a tremendous amount of heart amidst the lunacy. 

There was a bit of hilarity that arose during the auditioning process when word got out that Cammell's wife and writing partner China Kong was testing potential actresses willingness to go through with the lesbian scenes by French kissing them, a tactic that didn't go down well and eventually came to an end. Unfortunately the story of what happened with the film after production was anything but funny. Just as he did with Performance and Demon Seed, Cammell once again found his film torn away from him by producers at Nu Image, the films distribution company, who drastically re-cut the film, putting all the focus on the lesbian angle and bypassing theaters (although a cut was originally going to be prepared for a screening at the Cannes Film Festival) and going straight to HBO much to Cammell's dismay. It wasn't until 2000, four years after Cammell's suicide, did a directors cut appear, cut together using Cammell's notes by China Kong and Cammell's longtime editor Frank Mazzola which was released on DVD by Tartan, although the butchered Nu Image cut has several DVD releases so buyer beware. It may have taken years after its creators death to finally see the light of day in a form closest to what Cammell intended, but its the vision put forth by Cammell in that directors cut that make this particular walk on the wild side worth taking.



Monday, October 14, 2019

Voodoo Passion (1977)

AKA Der Ruf der blonden Göttin (Call of the Blonde Goddess), Le cri d'amour de la déesse blonde (Love Cry of the Blonde Goddess),Las diosas del porno (The Goddesses of Porn), Märät unet (Wet Dreams) and Porno Shock

Its funny, although hardly surprising, given that it seems to be the case with most artists, that despite how divisive the films of Jess Franco are, even among his own fanbase, the man himself was his own harshest critic. It wasn't uncommon for Franco in interviews to be dismissive of his work, expressing displeasure with one aspect or another. Its nevertheless obvious though to anyone who's well versed in Franco's filmography that there were certain films Franco was very fond of given the multitude of times he would return to a theme or even a character name. An obvious film in this camp would be The Awful Dr. Orloff (1962), a film Franco would keep referencing throughout the remainder of his career. Eugenie... the Story of Her Journey into Perversion (1969) is another stand out, being Franco's first adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's Philosophy in the Bedroom, a text who's inspiration would prove to be endlessly fruitful for Franco. Vampyros Lesbos (1971) would also see its idea's expanded upon by Franco in films such as Lorna the Exorcist (1974), Macumba Sexual (1981), Vampire Blues (1999) and Snakewoman (2005). Another key “springboard” title for Franco was Nightmares Come at Night (1970), the first in a series of semi-related films like The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff (1973), Sexy Sisters (1977) and Voodoo Passion, a tropical twist on some of Franco's favorite re-occurring obsessions.

Susan, the wife of an American diplomat, arrives in Haiti to be with her husband Jack. Almost immediately upon arriving, Susan begins to feel strange, namely due to the hypersexuality of Olga, Jack's sister who's behavior around Jack borders on incestuous. Not long after Susan begins suffering from vivid nightmares involving voodoo ceremonies with each dream ending in Susan's murdering of someone. With each nightmare, Susan begins to believe the murders have actually occurred and aided by the constant presence of voodoo dolls and the voodoo practicing servant Inès, gradually begins to lose touch with reality.

It never ceases to amaze just how far Franco could stretch a story he'd previously told multiple times with only the slightest of tweaks. While he'd expanded upon the ideas initially touched upon in Nightmares Come at Night with the aforementioned The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff, what makes his successful take on the familiar themes found in Voodoo Passion so incredible is that he had shot yet another somewhat relatable film the same year with Sexy Sisters. Still, Voodoo Passion is easily capable of standing on its own two feet. What sets the film apart from Franco's other post-Nightmares Come at Night variations on a theme is the Haitian setting and naturally the voodoo lore that comes with it, which is yet another example of Franco's skill at getting the most out of one particular idea in that voodoo as acts as a perfect primer for not only the films supernatural side but for other facets of the story as well. Per usual with this type of story, Franco gradually poses the idea of something far more sinister of a more natural origin is afoot and while some of the twists of the story can be seen as far-fetched, credit must nevertheless be given to Franco for following through as they are rather clever. It should come as no surprise that the films biggest highlights are Susan's voodoo ritual based dreams with Franco's typically hallucinatory eroticism in abundance, giving way to several striking visuals and pulsating tribal drums blaring over the soundtrack.

Voodoo Passion was one of several collaborations between Franco and Swiss producer Erwin C. Dietrich, a fruitful partnership which produced two of Franco's very best films, Doriana Gray (1976) and Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (1977). Franco and Dietrich's working relationship got off to a bit of a rocky start after Dietrich first saw Barbed Wire Dolls (1976), the first Franco film he backed due to its rough aesthetic and out of focus moments with Dietrich even considering not releasing the film at all. After releasing the film and seeing how profitable it became, Dietrich stopped having second thoughts about Franco for the most part, though several of the films Franco made with Dietrich stick out on account of Franco not operating the camera as he was want to do. Interestingly, despite Dietrich distaste for the freewheeling, handheld camera work that he found so off-putting in Barbed Wire Dolls, he later claimed that Franco was ahead of his time with that style of shooting, even going so far as saying that Franco predicted Lars von Trier's “Dogme 95” movement which insisted on more naturalistic shooting and handheld camerawork. Voodoo Passion might not exactly fit that description but Francophiles that have yet to see the film will find plenty to love as the film is one example out of many that showcases Franco's talent for re-purposing old storylines without the feeling of redundancy.  



Monday, September 30, 2019

Darkness (2009)


AKA T.M.A.

The passing of Juraj Herz in April 2018 was a massive blow to not just fans of eccentric cinema but for world cinema as a whole. Herz was an interesting character from the very beginning of his directorial career. While he could technically be considered part of the Czech New Wave, there were things about his films that set him apart from his Czech counterparts. Early on Herz showed an adeptness for fantastic genre material in the form of The Cremator (1969), a classic horror and black comedy hybrid that highlighted Herz's highly stylized and surreal visual sensibilities. Herz further honed his horror craft with Morgiana (1972) and would later take another somewhat cheeky turn with Ferat Vampire (1982) about a vampyric car that runs on human blood. Like a lot of his fellow Czech directors, Herz also had a particular skill when it came to fairy tales, his take on Beauty and the Beast (1978) standing out as one of the most original takes on the classic tale with its humanoid bird/man hybrid beast. Other films like The Ninth Heart (1979) and The Frog Prince (1991) also showcased Herz's skills at fairy tale storytelling. Herz would make a return to horror one final time later in his career in 2009 with Darkness, a film that, despite its rather anonymously bland title, breathes new life into a classic, tried and true horror film scenario.

Needing some time away from his hard partying ways, Marek, a successful musician, travels back to his childhood home for some rest and relaxation. Almost immediately after arriving however Marek is greeted with hostility from the locals who warn him that the house should have remained vacant. Not long after settling in, Marek begins to feel the presence of others in the house and begins having fragmented flashbacks to his childhood to an incident involving his sister Tereza, who's long been institutionalized. With the otherworldly presences becoming stronger, Marek begins to feel he's losing his mind and seeks the help of a local historian, uncovering the tragic history of his house involving the Nazi's in WWII, all the while Tereza is planning a trip back home.

Both a literal and metaphorical ghost story, Darkness is very much a film about the ghosts of the past rearing their ugly head in the present. The set-up is a classic horror scenario. The old, dark house with a troubled past, unwelcoming locals looking upon the newcomer in town with suspicion and disdain, skeletons in the family closet, all given a fresh spin by Herz. While the film is a literal ghost story in that Marek's house is truly being occupied by specters from beyond, the film's more metaphorical ghosts are represented via Marek's family history, with Tereza becoming an increasingly more important character as the film progresses, the fractured flashbacks giving the impression at times that Marek might possibly be going insane, adding to the already heightened sense of paranoia permeating the film. The ghosts of history also play a major role with the WWII backstory giving the film some pretty heavy emotional weight, the backstories of some of the side characters factoring in as well making things more intriguing. The film differs quite a bit stylistically from Herz's past horrors in favor of a more dreary look and tone which, given the material is understandable and eerily effective, with a sense of mounting dread being sustained for the majority of the film. The well-worn trope of the unfriendly locals feels even slightly more sinister and harsh, and Herz even spices the film up with some jolting bits of gore with have an Italian feel some moments of fierce, nearly X-rated sexuality.

All the WWII elements in the film were added by Herz with screenwriter Martin Nemec calling his original script more “intimate”. The war was a constant reoccurring theme for Herz, himself a Holocaust survivor, most famously fused with horror in The Cremator but also in films such as The Night Overtakes Me (1986) and Habermann (2010). During a behind the scenes look at Darkness, Herz explains his attraction to genre came about from reading fairly tales as a child and his later discovering of Edger Allan Poe, the suspense he felt while reading giving him the urge to create the same type of suspense for people watching his films. Herz would describe himself as a “devout atheist” who, despite loving making films about the supernatural, doesn't believe in it himself. Interesting then that there was an occultist on set who claimed to be in communication with a ghost. Nemec was quick to believe the set was indeed haunted with his laptop disappearing into thin air and the boom operators mic not picking up sound when it would normally pick out sounds from miles away. Darkness certainly sicks out from Herz's other works in the genre due to its modernity but with Herz at the helm all the shortcomings associated with such a term are sidestepped with Herz delivering a fine example of contemporary horror worthy of standing along side his previous genre classics. 





Monday, September 16, 2019

Spider (2002)


One of the most common descriptors used when discussing the work of David Cronenberg is “cold” or “detached” as it relates to his approach to his material and certainly his characters. While this is true to a certain extent as Cronenberg's films do tend to have a very clinical aesthetic, and his handling of characters could be described as psychoanalytical and fairly objective, with Cronenberg making little to no judgments of his characters, his films are hardly emotionless. For instance the divorce at the center of The Brood (1979) is sure to hit close to home for many as are the family dynamics explored in A History of Violence (2005) and even Maps to the Stars (2014) is an oddly touching film once the final scene ends. The Fly (1986) is well regarded for being a tragic love story at heart and the downfall of the twins in Dead Ringers (1988) is incredibly heartbreaking. Crash (1996), often regarded as Cronenberg's coldest, is, much like The Fly, ultimately revealed to be a love story. While his work was always psychologically complex, around the turn of the new millennium Cronenberg's films started to become even more more psychologically focused and it was Spider in 2002, another film that, clinical on the surface, slowly reveals itself to have a strong emotional core, the prime emotion being melancholy, seemed to usher in a new era for Cronenberg.

After being released from a mental institution, Dennis Cleg (Ralph Fiennes), known as “Spider”, is sent to live in a halfway house. Once there, Spider begins exploring the surrounding neighborhood where he grew up and begins to relive memories of his childhood involving his parents (Miranda Richardson and Gabriel Byrne), gradually putting the pieces of the puzzle that led to his current situation back together.

Even by Cronenberg standards, Spider plays some masterful tricks on the brain. Part of its genius lies in the way the film is structured. It begins simple enough, and the many transitions from past to present are easily discernible, yet Cronenberg slyly complicates matters in the most subtle of ways leading to more and more questions as the film progresses. Although the film isn't a first person narrative, it feels as such and therefore presents everything the way Spider sees it, which in itself poses a lot of questions as it relates to the reliability of his narration given his disposition. Very few films are able to get into a character's mindset with the ease of Spider which is what gives the film a powerful emotional edge. The world Spider inhabits in both his mind and physical surroundings is a sad and lonely place, represented by the films production design and washed out, almost sickly green color scheme. Even the slightly more colorful moments of fantasy taking place in a sunny pasture have a tinge of despair to them. The feeling of gloom and despondency is felt right from the opening credits until the end and eventually does begin to weigh heavy and lingers long after the film has ended. Of course the film rests almost entirely on Fiennes' shoulders who, despite never uttering one single word, only gibberish, brilliantly conveys Spider's tangled through process and Richardson's tackling of not one but three roles plays a major part in the films mental trickery.

Although Spider does suffer from a specific psychological disorder, Cronenberg wisely chose not to name it and even went so far as to remove moments in the script that would have called for effects, stating in an interview “I took the special effects sequences out of the script, because I think those effects... are recognizable to an audience as effects, as hallucinations that can’t possibly be real. And the unspoken purpose of the movie was to make the audience be “Spider.” So when he’s hallucinating and thinking something is real, we must also feel that.” Cronenberg also explained that despite the films focus on psychology, his main interest is still the body stating “Oh, there’s only a fleshy element. I am healing the Cartesian rift. I am an embodied person. I really understand the connection between body and mind... When you’re studying the human mind, you can’t take the mind out of it; you have to put it back into the brain. For me, it’s all body.” Spider is also a film that, if it wasn't already apparent from his entire filmography, Cronenberg, along with Fiennes and Richardson, are all in their chosen professions for the right reasons, with the films low budget forcing all three to defer their salaries and its obvious the amount of care that went into Spider, a film with the same amount of heart as brains behind it.





Monday, September 2, 2019

The Fall of the Louse of Usher (2002)


Much like the advent of VHS and the affordability of the home video camera in the 80's made it possible for virtually anybody to make a movie, the digital revolution and the increased availability of camcorders that came along in the late 90's and early 2000's led to even more opportunities for people to realize their filmmaking ambitions. Just as the 80's saw a glut of shot-on-video productions, the new millennium led to an innumerable amount of digitally lensed features, a fair amount by amateurs, but what digital cameras also offered was the chance for already established directors to work with total creative control away from studio interference as well as smaller crews. Jess Franco would be a prime example of a veteran director who dove head first into the digital sea, shooting a plethora of highly personal, experimental features on digital video. David Lynch was also a vocal proponent of shooting digitally, his epic Inland Empire (2006) being shot on a consumer grade Sony PD-150 camera. Ken Russell was yet another director to embrace the freedom digital video offered with Russell's later works consisting of several homemade digital shorts but the film that would become his final feature, 2002's The Fall of the Louse of Usher, has the distinction of not only being the crown jewel of his digital works but also one of the most outlandish titles in Russell's entire oeuvre.

After being convicted of murdering his wife Annabel Lee, rock star Roderick Usher is committed to an insane asylum under the watchful eye of Dr. Calahari (played by Russell himself). Almost immediately, Usher soon discovers that Calahari, along with his eccentric nurse ABC Smith, are just as if not more insane than their patients as he struggles to uncover the truth about his wife's death while being subjugated to Calahari's bizarre forms of treatment turning his already confused mind into a nonstop surreal waking nightmare.

Subtitled "A Gothic Tale for the 21st Century", The Fall of the Louse of Usher is Russell completely unfiltered. Not that he ever let any producer hold him back, but even by Russell standards, Louse is a relentless barrage of lunacy from beginning to end. Stuck somewhere between a home movie and a music video, with the film fully becoming the later in parts, Russell's biggest influence as the title suggests is Edgar Allan Poe but not just The Fall of the House of Usher and Annabel Lee, as Russell mentions Poe by name throughout the film, even using plot points from Murders in the Rue Morgue to suggest possible clues to the mystery surrounding Usher's wife's death. That's of course if anyone isn't utterly lost by the time the film gets to the Rue Morgue references as the plot often takes a backseat to Russell's over-the-top visuals, all done on the most shoestring of budgets, including everything from a mummy, a gorilla, an orgy featuring blow-up dolls and an inflatable dinosaur and even a massive inflatable castle. While most humorless types will be quick to dismiss the film solely on its look, the film is actually rather interesting in that its almost as if Russell an co. were relishing in the artifice, purposefully making every aspect of the film look as cheap as possible and yet there is an ingenuity to all the homemade effects and costumes, the punk rock, DIY spirit of the production making the film all the more endearing.

The film was very much a labor of love from Russell and his wife Lisi Tribble, with Russell not only writing, directing and starring in the film (and hamming it up marvelously complete with a hilariously exaggerated German accent) but also acting as the cinematographer, producer and editor while Tribble pulled quadruple duties in the acting department playing four different roles. The film was again the product of a time of immense creativity for Russell who would follow it with several shorts, including a segment in the horror anthology films Trapped Ashes (2006) titled “The Girl With the Golden Breasts” as well as a hysterically incendiary Christmas themed internet short A Kitten for Hitler (2007). Prior to Louse, Russell had been working pretty much exclusively in television after his final theatrical feature Whore (1991) was unceremoniously slapped with an NC-17 rating, resulting in a limited release. It's perhaps safe to assume that The Fall of the Louse of Usher was the type of movie Russell was clamoring to make during his made-for-TV years, the advent of digital video finally giving him the resources. It's the product of legend effectively telling the filmmaking establishment he didn't need them anymore. Although some may run away in horror at the rough aesthetics of it, The Fall of the Louse of Usher is without question 100% pure Ken Russell and that in itself is something to admire. 


Monday, August 19, 2019

Whore (1991)


Leave it to the MPAA to add more fuel to a fire they were allegedly attempting to put out. When the NC-17 rating was introduced in 1990, thus retiring the X rating, the intent was to make a distinction between films designed for adults with content stronger than normally found in R-rated films but weren't hardcore sex films which is what the X rating had become synonymous with. The rating quickly developed a stigma of its own however and became known as a “kiss of death” for any film given the rating, with many theater chains refusing to show NC-17 rated films and various retail outlets refusing to stock NC-17 films. With the exception of Showgirls (1995), which was one of the very few major studio films with the rating to get a wide release, the majority of the films given the rating were interdependent productions, making any attempt to gain an R rating especially difficult with the MPAA's vague suggestions for cuts as opposed to the detailed outlines given to studio films. Ken Russell's 1991 film Whore was yet another independent film given the rating, rather unjustifiably as had the film been released by a big studio it would have been given an R without incident, which no doubt played a hand in the films limited release, depriving a large audience of Russell's unfiltered antidote to the lies of Pretty Woman (1990).

Presented as docudrama, the film follows Liz (Theresa Russell), a streetwise Los Angeles prostitute going about her business, narrating the details of her life which led her to the life she currently lives, waxing philosophic on her line of work and life in general, giving detailed accounts of her failed marriage, estranged son and some of her more eccentric clients, all the while desperately trying to avoid her violent pimp Blake.

In a lot of ways Whore can be seen as a companion to Russell's Crimes of Passion (1984) which also dealt with prostitution albeit in a much more colorful fashion. Much like Crimes of Passion, Whore deals with some pretty heavy subject matter. Again, the film was Russell's response after being disgusted by what her perceived to be the glamorization of the life of a prostitute in Pretty Woman and sought out to present what the life of a lady of the night is truly like. Quite often it isn't pleasant with several of Liz's encounters ending very badly and at times violently and naturally the reoccurring motif of the threat of her abusive pimp brings an even more dangerous nature to Liz's already high risk job. At the same time, the film has a tendency to shift tones, often abruptly with Russell's bizarre sense of humor coming into play several times so a scene that is at once troubling suddenly becomes absurdly hilarious, Liz's accounts of the turn-on's of her clientele, be they an elderly man who loves to get beat with a cane or a successful business man with a peculiar type of shoe fetish are especially hysterical. Theresa Russell really goes for in both her exaggerated street-tough guise as well as during the more tender, confessional moments revealing the more unfortunate aspects of her backstory and despite the tonal shifts, the film is never short on sincerity or sympathy, with the constant fourth wall breaking making for more intimate characterization.

At a 2010 career retrospective Theresa Russell claimed the film was her most difficult both technically and emotionally. Russell stated “There was monologue after monologue after monologue. I mean just in terms of just pure, technical stuff... I was worried about being boring, so much of it was just me walking along on the street as a hooker just talking, constantly talking to the camera... but anytime your doing a character like her that basically feels very bad about themselves, you know that's the place where you gotta go and you have to understand what motivated her to do these things to herself and her body and be who she was... as an actor its hard sometimes your just oh man its such a beautiful day I just want to go in my garden... OK your a piece of shit... you gotta work your way into it and then go to work!” Perhaps due to the films limited release frightening potential future backers, Whore would become Russell's final theatrical feature with Russell working in television and making digital films on his own until his passing in 2011. Whore still remains one of Russell's most underseen works but it also stands as a film as bold as its title and the fact that the film is a collaboration between the two most fierce Russell's in film, Ken and Theresa, makes it a must see.