Uncut? Widescreen? How About Just the Least Worst DVD of Ken Russell's Whore Available?

Alright, readers, get your Ken Russell Completist hats on again, and I'll get my Obscure, Foreign DVD hat on. I've spent a considerable amount of time researching DVD releases of Whore, one of the more controversial films by Russell. And, the situation is pretty dire; just look at its dvdcompare page... all more or less fullscreen, all cut. Presumably all taken from VHS. Just one low quality, dodgy import after another. And many of those don't have the original English audio track. Of course, it's never been released at all in the US or UK. Well, I've dug deeper, and I believe I've found... the least worst DVD option available.
Whore is based off a theatrical monologue called Bondage by English writer David Hines. Here, Theresa Russell (no relation) talks to the audience directly, telling us her unglamorized account of her life as a prostitute. But rather than being on stage, she's out on the streets, in peoples' homes, and everywhere else during the the course of her story, while constantly breaking the fourth wall. She has scenes with other characters, and during one uncharacteristic moment, another character is even allowed to monologue to the audience. It's actually a rather unique and effective combination of the faithful, theatrical piece and the additional opportunity afforded to the cinematic medium: a play that moves out into the world. And as it's Ken Russell, it's also rather provocative.
The cut/ uncut nature of this film is so complex, movie-censorship has had to create two separate articles on this film. But the short version of it is that there are essentially three cuts of this film. The original, uncut version, the heavily censored R-rated cut and the less censored NC-17 cut. The completely uncut version doesn't seem to be available anywhere outside of VHS. Believe me, I'm looked into it, so just give up on trying to find a copy of that. But, at least, it seems like almost every DVD release includes the NC-17 cut as opposed to the R-rated. The difference between the unrated and NC-17 is mostly dialogue, actually, and seems to have been cut for pacing rather than censorship. As opposed to the R-rated version, which is all about cutting down the sex, violence and swearing. So the R is to be avoided, but the NC-17 isn't so bad.
Now, the dvdcompare article I linked to earlier mentions several foreign discs, including an Italian one. But the DVD I've landed on is actually a newer Italian disc from a label called Pulp Video (this one, not this more common one). It's still cut, but at least it's the NC-17 cut, and like all the others, it looks like it's sourced from VHS. So it's very soft and washed out, but so is every disc. It's also 1.33, and I know a couple of the other DVDs are 1.56:1. But I believe those are just cropped versions of the 1.33, and who ever heard of 1.56? I don't buy that as a more accurate representation; at least Russell probably had the 1.33 in mind as a secondary ratio. Still, so far, compared to other editions, it's basically a dead tie.
The reason I've latched onto this disc as opposed to any other is that it actually has extras. None of the others can say that (beyond bonus trailers and other fluff). Now, don't get me wrong; there's no Ken Russell commentary... this isn't exactly The Lord Of the Ring extended appendixes here. But there's some stuff; an effort was made. And looking back at the transfer, it's not interlaced. The menus are animated. I feel like with this release, they at least tried to make the best disc possible given the materials they were limited to, which is more than you can say for most of their competitors.

This disc has 2.0 English audio, plus 2.0 and a 5.1 mix of the Italian dub. It also has optional Italian subtitles, which also work on the extras, but they're removable.
So what we get is essentially the film's original electronic press kit. You get a four minute featurette of on-set interviews with Ken and Theresa Russell, Benjamin Mouton and producer Dan Ireland, plus some behind the scenes footage. Then there's another four minute interview featurette just with Theresa, and a four minute (four was the magic number for Trimark, apparently) collection of promo scenes. They're like deleted scenes except they're in the movie (even the R-rated cut), just meant to be like talk show clips or other press looking for clips of the film. There's also the film's original, misleading theatrical trailer (making Whore sound like a titillating male fantasy rather than an expose of how women are mistreated) and a photo gallery. So yeah, nothing to run and alert the neighbors about; but it does add a little value.
So obviously what's really needed is some serious company like Criterion or Arrow to give Whore the respect Russell's work deserves, and release a high quality special edition of the uncut version taken from an HD scan of the original film elements. But this movie is locked behind the Lions Gate, so don't hold your breath. Instead, at least I've found you the best edition of this film you can get. It's NC-17, English audio without any forced subs, not interlaced, open matte and even has a few little extras. Recommended, if only because of how dire the situation is.


  1. On February 4th a new german DVD-Edition of the film has been released (by StudioCanal).

    It features the film in either 1.78:1 (according amazon) or 1.85:1 (according OFDb) anamorphic widescreen. The english language track is included as DD 2.0 surround. The disc features no subtitles, but to my knowledge it should be the first ddition to feature the film in widescreen.

    The version used should be the NC-17-version of the film.



    1. Oh wow! I've got to wish for stuff on this blog more often; I've got like a 50% grant ratio so far. XD

    2. :)

      For those interested I did some screenshots:







      Unfortunataly it's not all roses. They didn't manage to restore the 2-sec-cut that was already present on the old german DVD - the moment when the pimp's throat get's cut. You can hear it but all you see is the result afterwards. So it is still cut by 2 seconds (in regards to the NC-17-version). That's unfortunate as this scene was in the german cinematic-version and in some TV-airings too (although on TV there were versions with it and without).

    3. Wow, that's heaps better! Shame about the cut, but now that a much higher quality master has surfaced, we'll see more releases in other regions.

  2. Saw this one in theatre when it was released, most unusual, even for a Ken Russell... Theresa Russell is just great in it, and it's not as though there is any hardcore penetration or even an ejaculating dick to be seen here, just back to that same old goddamned moralistic bullshit argument that the fucking MPAA continues to complain about to this very day... and that complaint seems to still be, that, to their ridiculously sensitive republican, right-wing, born-again-Christian sensibilities, any film which consists of even just dialogue scenes graphically expressing and freely describing those shameless, heated moments when humans be gettin' their groove on is EXACTLY as morally objectionable and censorship-prone as a hardcore XXX feature showing any and everything... It is the same kind of bullshit, uneducated and illogically-arrived at opinionation and clearly unjust comparison (or more accurately, lack of any kind of clear-thinking comparison) which continues to this very day, and which was also responsible for John Waters abandoning the auteur ship after they fucked him over similarly (and brutally, punishingly and unjustly) with A DIRTY SHAME, which was yet another sex-driven film that consisted of little more than a 90-minute barrage of vivid descriptions of various sex acts and only displayed two soft penises, a vagina, two pair of breasts (one set fake) and included absolutely ZERO sex scenes for the entire running time, but was slapped with the dreaded NC-17 rating over, of all childish pre-Victorian over-reactions, dialogue and potty language and toilet humor! Good old MPAA, man fuck those dumb cunts! WHORE suffered/continues to be treated like a fucking snuff film in the U.S. for the exact same, thoroughly illogical and dangerous reasoning!