What tot or teenager of a certain generation wasn’t tantalized by this naughty number? When I first saw this poster for 1991’s sensitively titled Whore (it should come with an explanation point, like Oliver!), I didn’t know who the hell Ken Russell was (and I still kind of don’t) and Theresa Russell was not that chick from the Nic Roeg movies, but rather that dead-eyed lady from Black Widow and Physical Evidence (not the Kent Jones collection but the low-simmer Burt Reynolds vehicle). With her narcotized come-hither glance, given from that dingy bed seemingly perched in the middle of a back-alley urban wasteland, Whore‘s whore was a sweet and salty prospect indeed, promising the thrill of sex but seemingly without the, you know, sexiness. The black-bordered coldness of this scenario was what was most appealing and appalling—just where was Theresa Russell planning on taking me?
My memories of this film (or rather, this poster, as I still have never seen the actual movie—watching it might dilute the vividness of this one sheet) are however linked with a different iteration than the one you see above. Upon its release, apparently the film’s very title was shocking enough to warrant its censorship in certain papers. The solution? To stick a haphazardly placed stamp over the title that read: “If you can’t say it, just see it.” This always sent me into giggle spasms, not just because of the cute turn of phrase but also because I wondered who it was addressing. If one was offended by the title, why would they choose to watch the film? And if they did, what lessons would they learn? Either way, surely Whore had something to teach the world, even if nobody, alas, was listening. Maybe one day I (and the world) will catch up with Whore, surely marketed in 1991 as the antidote to Pretty Woman, hence the tagline “This is no bedtime story.” Maybe I will learn its lessons. Or maybe I’m just the king of wishful thinking.