Hussy (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (4th October 2019).
The Film

Written and directed by Matthew Chapman (Strangers Kiss), and starring the great Helen Mirren (Age of Consent), Hussy is an offbeat blend of adult thriller and almost romantic comedy.

Set in the seedier side of London, the film focuses on a prostitute, played by Mirren, who begins an affair with a man, played by John Shea (Missing), harbouring a dark secret.

Part of producer Don Boyd’s efforts to reinvigorate British cinema in the late seventies and early eighties, with films such as The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle and the cinema version of Scum, Hussy is an unsung and under seen gem deserving of a wider audience.

Video

Beaty (Helen Mirren) is working as a high class prostitute when she meets Emory (John Shea) a technician at the club she works at and they begin an open relationship. It soon leads to something deeper but it transpires that Emory is associated with drug smuggler Max (Murray Salem). They working on a deal so Beaty and Emory can leave and live in peace with her young son.

Things take a turn for the worse when Beaty's ex Alex (Paul Angelis) turns up who's a bit of a psycho and is just out of the slammer. Emory and Max recruit Alex to go along on the deal and you just know it ain't going to go well.

A dark neo-noir drama which has a title that led me to believe that it was a drama about a prostitute and her life ... but it's so much more complex than that. It doesn't entirely work as it takes on too much but it's well made and acted with a matter of fact quality in the film making that lends it some weight. The characters are honestly written and portrayed in shades of grey and are not always likeable but we understand where they're coming from.

Ultimately it's about people who're seeking something better ... and getting out of the quagmire of gangland London may just be too much for them. Hussy is a more intimate and small scale film than others of it's ilk like The Long Good Friday (1980) or Empire State (1987); more akin to Angel (1982) albeit without the artiness and extensive melancholia and violence or Bellman & True (1987).

I don't think anyone will mistake this for a long-lost classic but it's a solid minor gem well worth seeking out.

There's something about the look of UK crime cinema from this period that I just love; neo-noirs like Hussy (1979), The Long Good Friday, Angel (1982), Slayground (1983), Mona Lisa (1986), Bellman & True and Empire State. Hussy was made in '79 but released in 1980 and the wonderfully evocative, gritty but slick neon coloured look just sings in this glorious new Blu-ray release from Powerhouse Films.

Firstly, grain is plentiful from first frame to last and is like a velvet cloak covering the proceedings. Expertly encoded it looks wonderful and exceedingly filmic. I'm sure there will be some who'll carp at this but grain is inherent to film and one of the visual aspects that I love so much about this era.

This is a quite a colourful film being set in downmarket clubland and amongst the seedy denizens of that world.e '70s fashion never looked so vivid with it's bright colours segueing into that early '80s tackiness with hair and makeup becoming bigger and more elaborate. I saw no signs of colour bleed or any other issues along those lines.

Contrast is excellent and well layered with no lost detail; detail is in fact very good at all focal planes with closeups obviously coming off best. The tacky fabrics also shine well in this transfer. Black levels are also as they should be with nice pure black and no unintended crush. I could also see no digital artefacts or print damage; Euro London have looked after the OCN well.

An excellent transfer that makes the most out of the source. I'm guessing, but Hussy is probably one of those films that probably suffered on standard definition video with hazy look, grainy and dark but I suspect it's given a new lease on life here.

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 1.85:1 / 95:17

Audio

English LPCM 1.0
Subtitles: English HoH

Crisp, clear, generally full bodied mono track has plenty of depth given the limited nature of it being mono so there is some tinniness here and there. Music comes off pretty awell and as there are several club scenes those bits join the video quality to present a wonderfully colourful and seedy ambiance. Dialogue is always clear and to the fore, but should anyone have any issues there's the typically superb subtitles for the hard of hearing to help. As good as can be expected shy of a total rebuild from the sound stems.

Extras

"Selected Scenes Commentary on Hussy with Writer-Director Matthew Chapman" 2019 featurette (36:11)

A condensed commentary track in which Chapman discusses how the film relates to his own experiences working in clubland. His descriptions of the smell of "old booze and smoke" in the fabric of the club are evocative and amusing. Essentially Chapman was John Shea's character and he had an affair with a hostess which forms the central core of the film. Hussy was shot fast and dirty in twenty days. Also interesting are Chapman's memories of meeting the Kray twins.

"A New Outfit: John Shea on Hussy" 2019 featurette (34:12)

Shea discusses how he auditioned for the part against William Hurt and Kevin Kline; meeting and working with Mirren; his initial meeting with Don Boyd; the 'love' scene; Mirren's 'secret' for doing nude scenes; doing driving scenes; how a land rover [range rover] got covered by the tide; seeing the premiere and seeing the massive poster with himself, Mirren and a 'bottle of wine'.

"Club Life: Jenny Runacre on Hussy" 2019 featurette (5:21)

Runacre discusses her career working on Boulevard magazine; how she got the part; her wardrobe, which she kept; the seediness of London prior to development and the accurate portrait of club life at the time.

"More Than Meets the Eye: Executive Producer Don Boyd on Hussy" 2019 featurette (21:03)

Boyd kicks off discussing how Hussy came about because an amount of money became available and that Boyd didn't fancy directing a film himself so they went with Chapman and his script. Also how they got Mirren to do a PR call in Churchill's Club; sex scenes in the film; the sleaziest Fleet Street reporters accentuating the sex angle; having an American leading man; how he feels that Hussy is a love story set in a seedy, exploitative world; the film's lack of success critically and financially.

"Musical Fabric: Composer George Fenton on Hussy" 2019 featurette (7:19)

Fenton discusses his score for Hussy; how the scores are handled by differing producers on different films with some being hands on and others not; Chapman's relationship with Victoria Tennant and her writing lyrics for the songs; how the music is woven through the fabric of the film; his thoughts on the film now.

"An Archival Interview with Sam Peffer" 2012 audio interview with the poster artist (3:17)

Fascinating discussion with Peffer about his long career doing book covers and film posters. How he got the nickname 'Peff'; the Bond book covers; how the Hussy poster was made less revealing; the posters for Flesh Gordon, Cannibal Holocaust, Adventures of a Taxi Driver.

U theatrical trailer (1:21)
X theatrical trailer (3:01)


Hard to believe that a U trailer was produced for this 18-certificate film but here it is along with the much longer standard red band trailer.

Hussy Image gallery: Original Promotional Material (15 images)

Limited but nice HD gallery; mainly publicity shots of Mirren.

32-page liner notes booklet with a new essay by Rebecca Nicole Williams, extracts from a 1979 interview with Don Boyd, a look at the film’s Rosemary Kingsland novelisation, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits

Another superb booklet; need I say more. As usual, worth the price of the disc by itself.

Packaging

Standard, clear BD case.

Overall

Another largely forgotten little film gets the deluxe treatment from Powerhouse Films as part of their beloved Indicator series. Picture couldn't be bettered with a first rate encode wrapping the whole thing up gloriously. The sound is about as good as it can be with some minor issues but that's down to production. A film I have been curious about since I first heard about it in the early '90s. I'd always assumed that it was a character study of a high class prostitute in London, but it's much more that.

Hussy would make a great Mirren double bill with The Long Good Friday (1980). Extras are substantial given that this is little known film and very, very choice. Pride of place for me goes to the usual superb booklet but nothing is fat here.

Given that this is a welcome revival of an overlooked minor gem, a possible candidate for one of the discs of the year and a must buy for any self respecting film buff, especially those into noir or the star.

The Film: B- Video: A+ Audio: A- Extras: A Overall: A

 


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