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  Hussy A Woman Of Substance
Year: 1980
Director: Matthew Chapman
Stars: Helen Mirren, John Shea, Paul Angelis, Murray Salem, Jenny Runacre, Daniel Chasin, Patty Boulaye, Charles Yates, Marika Rivera, Hal Galili, William Hootkins, Rupert Frazer, April Olrich, Sandy Ratcliff, Jill Melford, Imogen Claire
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Beaty Simons (Helen Mirren) had left the nighclub hostess game for a while, but circumstances have conspired against her and she is now back at her old haunt, much to the non-surprise of her fellow ladies of the night. While she is there tonight, a lighting man who works behind the scenes, American Emory Cole (John Shea), gets to talking to her after she has caught his eye, and he manages to wheedle the information out of her that she has a son who her divorced husband only allows to see at weekends. Beaty doesn't think she is ready for another relationship, but could she be wrong?

With heavy inevitability, yes, she is wrong, and so begins a drama that could easily have been a Play for Today on the BBC if it wasn't for some very strong language. Certainly the way it was sold, as a sex-drenched soft porn extravaganza starring a fairly big name at the time, couldn't have been further from the truth, as a few glimpses of nudity were pretty much all you got, and one of the sex scenes was with portly American character actor William Hootkins - talk about a passion killer.

Mind you, he could at least have boasted he had shared such a scene with Helen Mirren, not something you can imagine her being quite so proud of. Mostly this is a trudge through some grottily-filmed angst where Beaty must learn to love again, so in spite of her lack of enthusiasm she does eventually come around to Emory's way of thinking. We keep waiting for some kind of dreadful revelation about him to bring her back down to earth, but all that's there is a mumbled story about his wife dying, not something he was really responsible for anyway.

The film desperately needs some dramatic tension as Mirren may be doing her best with drab material, but there's no spark of life here, no matter that we are offered regular cabaret acts to interrupt and comment on the proceedings, including Patty Boulaye fresh from her attempt at staging a British Saturday Night Fever in The Music Machine. With this problem in mind, and the sequences of Emory charming Beaty's son to show what a great stepfather he would make noticeably lacking in excitement, a new character is introduced in the person of Alex (Paul Angelis).

Angelis does his bit to contribute the necessary threat to the heroine's security, and it's not a bad performance exhibiting the necessary menace as Beaty's ex-boyfriend, but it simply happens along far too late in proceedings to shake things up. At this stage the plotline transforms into a thriller as Alex has just been released from prison and looking for somewhere to stay moves in with the couple, which only puts more strain on their romance. Emory gets involved in an illegal deal to make his fortune and Alex comes along for the ride, hoping to see the back of him so he can get Beaty all to himself, but even this development goes nowhere in particular, leading up to a happy ending that fails to be uplifting and is more of a relief that Hussy is over. It's too mediocre altogether, leaving its better qualities stranded. Music by George Fenton.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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