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  Working Girls, The Nose To The Grindstone
Year: 1974
Director: Stephanie Rothman
Stars: Sarah Kennedy, Laurie Rose, Mark Thomas, Lynn Guthrie, Ken Del Conte, Solomon Sturges, Gene Elman, Mary Beth Hughes, Lou Tiano, Cassandra Peterson, Bob Schott
Genre: Comedy, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Honey (Sarah Kennedy) arrives in Los Angeles looking for a new life, and she starts by visiting a diner and ordering lunch. Once she's eaten, she has bad news for the owner: Honey has no money, and can't think of a way to make up for her subterfuge - but he can, and she quickly gets the idea, too quickly in fact as she starts to strip off there and then in public. The owner is shocked and bustles her out, but she still has the problem of no job, no food, and nowhere to live, although a chance meeting with sign painter and artist Denise (Laurie Rose) is a step in the right direction...

If The Working Girls (not to be confused with the Lizzie Borden prostitution movie of the eighties) is recalled for anything very much these days, it's because of one scene and one actress in that scene. She was Cassandra Peterson, who in the next decade would find fame as a horror host, celebrity and star of her own movie as Elvira, but back in 1974 she was a struggling actress and director Stephanie Rothman gave her a job playing a stripper here. Therefore a generation (maybe more than one, actually) who watched Elvira have been very interested in seeing this, considering Miss Peterson gave us quite an eyeful.

But as with many of Rothman's films, the fact there was a woman behind the camera counted for some interesting variations on the typical exploitation flick of the seventies. This was one of the movies she made for Dimension Pictures, a spin-off from Roger Corman's New World which she and her husband had a business interest in and made a number of films for; this was the next one she made after the slightly better known Terminal Island, and they all featured a feminist perspective to some extent, while still delivering the requisite sex and/or violence the audience wanted to see. Nevertheless, some have found it amusing to watch Rothman's work and try to spot the parts where she asserts her sisterhood.

So in this one, for example there's a scene where Peterson's Katya teaches a new stripper, Jill (Lynn Guthrie), the secret of getting through a routine, which turns out to be imagining the audience naked, and sure enough as she is taking off her spangly bra we get to see a bunch of leering middle-aged men in the buff as well, which could be viewed as a form of revenge, but is mostly part and parcel of Rothman's sense of humour, this pretty much being a comedy. Not only that, but the other men in the cast seem to get naked a lot more than the women, not that this was wall-to-wall nudity but you could see The Working Girls as designed to cheer both genders.

That would depend on your tolerance for its low budget spinning out of flimsy situations, and for a short movie it already feels overstretched by the halfway point. Honey is not your average dumb blonde who a male director might have placed at the centre of the action, however, as while she may be helium voiced and cutesy, she does have a degree in mathematics, so it's not as if she doesn't have the qualifications for a decent job. What she gets is an offer to become a hitwoman and a position as paid companion to a millionaire (Solomon Sturges, son of cult comedy director Preston Sturges) which don't exactly test her abilities. Meanwhile Jill gets mixed up with a gangster, and Denise notes her boyfriend/model is involved with shady business too, leaving the women to come through and save the day, although the actual ending is more open than a proper conclusion with a sense of finality. You have to have the stomach for seventies trash (of which this is fairly mild) to be able to watch this all the way through, but it has a brightness which is to its benefit. Music by Michael Andres.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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