(UK - 1980)
Written and directed by Matthew Chapman. Cast: Helen Mirren, John Shea, Paul Angelis, Murray Salem, Jenny Runacre, Marika Rivera, Patti Boulaye, Daniel Chasin, Charles Yates, Jill Melford, Hal Gallili, William Hootkins, Rupert Frazer, Sandy Ratcliff, April Olrich, Ric Young. (R, 95 mins)
A deep dive into the seedy underbelly of late '70s London, 1980's HUSSY was in regular rotation on Showtimes late-night "After Hours" in the early '80s, thus lumping it in with other legendary softcore staples like THE STUD (1978) and THE BITCH (1979). It's got a decent amount of skin but it isn't as relentlessly tawdry as those two Joan Collins potboilers. It isn't even the trashiest 1980 movie to star Helen Mirren, as she also had CALIGULA in theaters that same year. 1980 also found her co-starring in the British gangster classic THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, and while the similarities pretty much begin and end with the presence of Mirren, HUSSY more or less abandons the T&A around the midpoint as things take a decidedly darker turn with sketchy criminals and clandestine drug deals. Mirren is Beaty Simons, a high-class London prostitute who works out of a cabaret called The Baron Club. She catches the eye of Emory (John Shea), an American expat who works sound and lights for the club, and on his night off, he makes arrangements for her services despite her insistence that "You're broke and I'm expensive." Though she makes good money, she has dreams of getting out of the life, moving to the country, and owning an antique shop, all part of a plan of establishing a more respectable existence and regaining permanent custody of her ten-year-old son Billy (Daniel Chasin). Emory is running from his own past as well--he's widower whose wife died under mysterious circumstances involving poisoned berries, for which he blames himself for letting her eat. It's a story so heartbreaking that Beaty's immediate response when he tells her in a parked car is, in true softcore fashion, "Make love to me. Right here."
HEART OF MIDNIGHT), but he found some steady work as a screenwriter on projects as varied as the 1992 wife-swapping thriller CONSENTING ADULTS, 1994's gonzo COLOR OF NIGHT, the 2001 Martin Lawrence/Danny DeVito comedy WHAT'S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN? and the 2003 John Grisham adaptation RUNAWAY JURY. Just out on Blu-ray from Twilight Time (because physical media is dead), HUSSY suffers from a seriously abrupt ending, and while "After Hours" insomniacs and pre-pubescent boys probably didn't find it as consistently trashy as THE STUD or THE BITCH (sorry, Mirren doesn't go for a spin on the Joan Collins fuck swing), it does do an effective job of capturing a snapshot of a distinct time and place. The sordid atmosphere of The Baron Club and the denizens it hosts in its own way conveys that vivid sense of empty melancholy that permeated the sweaty, smoke-filled confines of Fontaine Khaled's posh disco Hobo in THE STUD.
This review is dedicated to film historian and Twilight Time founder Nick Redman.