Whore (1991 film)

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Whore (movie poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKen Russell
Produced byRonaldo Vasconcellos
Dan Ireland
Screenplay byKen Russell
Deborah Dalton
Based onWhore
by David Hines
Music byMichael Gibbs
CinematographyAmir M. Mokri
Edited byBrian Tagg
Cheap Date
Distributed byTrimark Pictures
Release date
  • 21 June 1991 (1991-06-21) (UK)
  • 21 October 1991 (1991-10-21) (US)
Running time
85 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
Box office$1,008,404[2]

Whore is a 1991 British-American drama film directed by Ken Russell and starring Theresa Russell (no relation to Ken). The screenplay by Russell is based on David Hines' monologue, Bondage. While not a financial success grossing a little over $1 million, the film did attract some positive notices, and generated an unrelated sequel, a 1994 film Whore II.


Liz is a Los Angeles street prostitute. The audience first sees her attempting to get a customer on a busy downtown street near a tunnel. She addresses the audience directly on her life and problems throughout the film. When a van stops by, she gives it the brush off, recalling the last time she serviced a man in a van: it turned out there were several other men in the van, who gang-raped her and left her for dead. A passerby gives her his handkerchief and offers to take her to a hospital. She refuses, makes up a boyfriend story and asks for some money. She sends him the money back with a thank you note and a new handkerchief.

Liz isn't merely attempting to get a customer, however: she is attempting to escape her pimp, Blake. Blake is a well-dressed, businesslike and extremely controlling man.

As Liz stops off at a strip club for a drink, she explains how she ended up as she did: she was a small town girl, who married a violent drunk named Charlie (Frank Smith). Though they have a child together, she can no longer cope and leaves him, taking her son with her, as he's sleeping it off. She takes a job on the graveyard shift at a diner, and when a customer offers her more money to have sex with him, she decides, given her rather low pay, to take it. She does this independently for a time until she meets Blake, who takes her to LA. Though Blake does do some things for her (including getting her tattooed), he is ultimately as cruel as her husband, so she decides to escape from him.

A local homeless person/street performer named Rasta decides to treat Liz to a movie. Though Rasta is a bit scary (his act involves walking on broken glass), Liz agrees. At this point the scenes of Liz and Rasta at the movie are intercut with Blake explaining his life to the audience, giving the impression that Liz and Rasta are watching Blake's soliloquy.

After the movie, Liz talks to the audience about her son, whom she clearly loves, though he's now in foster care. She finally gets a customer and services him. He has a heart attack, and Liz panics, trying to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, without success. Blake happens along then. He takes Liz's money and tries to rob the dead customer. When Liz tries to stop him, Blake tries to strangle Liz and threatens to put her son into gay prostitution, with Liz retorting "I'll kill you first!". Rasta comes to the rescue, killing Blake. A grateful Liz gives her thanks and walks away.



The original play Bondage on which the film was based was written by a London taxi driver David Hines (b. 1945), who based it on a conversation with a local prostitute he drove.[3] The play was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Ken Russell wrote, "one day in London, Hines literally jumped out of his cab and stopped me in the street, to ask if I would write the screenplay; and make it into a film. I read the play and agreed to have a go." The play was about a British girl working in King's Cross, but Russell said, "No one in England wanted to know. So I had to go to America for the lolly. Now she's a Hollywood hooker on Sunset Boulevard. So why couldn't I get financed in the UK? The budget was low, the potential high, the risk minimal. Perhaps the subject was considered too sleazy for export. Maybe it could never have been shown on TV. Maybe my face doesn't fit in with the film establishment here."[4]


Lacking large studio support, the film was produced and distributed by Trimark Pictures. The film's small shooting budget is reflected in the choppy editing and production values. Presumably to save on crew expenses, Ken Russell is listed as camera operator in production credits (under the name Alf).

Russell adapted the play to the screen as an answer to the film Pretty Woman released at around that same time.

Ban in Ireland[edit]

In the Republic of Ireland, the film was banned on 9 August 1991.[5] The decision was upheld by the Films Appeal Board on 20 September, although an earlier appeal meeting held on 28 August failed to come to a decision. This postponed the Irish home release as well, due on the week of the failed appeal with 2,000 copies. The video distributor (National Cable Vision) submitted a tape to Sheamus Smith, who headed the Irish Film Censor Board at the time, for a reconsideration on home media – no evidence exists of whether or not this was successful.[6][7][8]


The film achieved limited distribution in U.S. movie houses, mainly due to its NC-17 rating. It did not achieve critical acclaim, and quickly moved into pay-per-view and VHS release in R-Rated and Unrated versions. Whore was also released on video with the title If You Can't Say It, Just See It.[9]

An unrelated direct-to-video sequel, Whore II, was released three years later in 1994, written and directed by Amos Kollek. Coincidentally, a clip from Kollek's earlier film, High Stakes, is seen in Whore.


  1. ^ "WHORE (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 2 May 1991. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  2. ^ Whore at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ Webpage with Hines' short biography
  4. ^ Russell, Ken (1994). The Lion Roars. p. 143–144.
  5. ^ "Films banned in Ireland". boards.ie. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  6. ^ Dwyer, Michael (13 August 1991). "Russell film ban to be appealed". The Irish Times.
  7. ^ Dwyer, Michael (29 August 1991). "Board fails to decide on Russell film". The Irish Times.
  8. ^ Dwyer, Michael (21 September 1991). "Ban on Russell film is upheld". The Irish Times.
  9. ^ Hunt, Dennis (31 January 1992). "Ken Russell's Movie Available in Four Versions". Los Angeles Times.

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