Director: Stephanie Rothman
Code Red Releasing

After TERMINAL ISLAND, Code Red Releasing brings another Stephanie Rothman/Dimension Pictures obscurity to DVD with THE WORKING GIRLS (featuring an early – and bare – performance by Cassandra “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark” Peterson).

Honey (Sarah Kennedy, THE TELEPHONE BOOK) wanders into Los Angeles without a penny to her name. She plans to sleep on the beach until sign painter/apartment building manager Denise (Laurie Rose, THE ABDUCTORS) takes her into her own apartment. While job hunting, Honey meets street musician Mike (Ken Del Conte, THE YOUNG RUNAWAYS) and takes him home with her. Denise is not too shocked to find a naked man in her bed and decides she wants him to model for her. When things get more serious, they figure that liberated Honey will not mind, but she does. After they all forgive each other, Honey hits the streets again in search of work (cue montage of Honey entering and exiting various office buildings and walking around 1970s Los Angeles). She is eventually hired by Mrs. Borden (Mary Beth Hughes, I ACCUSE MY PARENTS) to murder her husband for ten thousand dollars, but Honey double crosses her in a sting operation.

Meanwhile, Denise’s roommate Jill (Lynne Guthrie, NIGHT CALL NURSES) – who is working her way through law school as a waitress at a strip club – is offered more money by The Tiger’s Tail club owner Sidney (Gene Elman, LINDA LOVELACE FOR PRESIDENT) to be a stripper. After hearing about Honey’s sting operation, Vernon (Solomon Sturges, CHARRO!) – a millionaire living out of his limousine – hires Honey to be his paid companion. Honey quickly grows bored of hanging out in Vernon’s limousine watching television so Vernon sends her out to find him money-making ideas (cue a library research montage). When Sidney goes to Acapulco for vacation, he leaves Jill in charge of the club but does not warn her that he owes protection money to mobster Nick (Mark Thomas, THE FINAL COUNTDOWN). She stands up to him and they end up sleeping together (although Jill is worried about what effect her relationship with a mobster will have on her future plans to be a judge, even though both running a strip club and stripping). Denise discovers that Mike is using his street singing as a cover for fencing jewelry. Things come to a head when Nick informs Jill that Mike’s independent dealings is not sitting well with the local operation, but he forbids her to get involved.

As the synopsis suggests, the titular working girls in Rothman’s film are not that type of “working girls” (for that, see Lizzie Borden’s like-titled 1986 film). Although there is some R-rated nudity (including Peterson’s strip act, for which this film is best known today), THE WORKING GIRLS is a continuation of the theme of found families from her other Dimension productions TERMINAL ISLAND and GROUP MARRIAGE. The women are all strong and independent, and the men are all engaged in shifty activities, but they try to find ways to make their unconventional relationships work. The three storylines are somewhat disproportionate in coverage and interest (Honey is not some TEOREMA-esque catalyst, so the ending does not make up for the audience's declining interest in her relationship with Vernon) but the end result is still entertaining. USC film grad Rothman was the first female awarded the Director’s Guild fellowship and learned her trade with Roger Corman in the 1960s and 1970s as associate producer on QUEEN OF BLOOD and VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET before directing some of the reshoots for Francis Ford Coppola’s OPERATION TITIAN (which had already been reshot by Jack Hill. After directing THE VELVET VAMPIRE and THE STUDENT NURSES for Corman’s New World, she joined Lawrence Woolner’s Dimension Pictures along with her husband Charles S. Schwartz (who produced this film). Michael Andres, who provided a Johnny Cash-esque theme song for TERMINAL ISLAND, provides another odd folksy score this film (he also worked on GROUP MARRIAGE). Cinematographer Daniel Lacambre shot the aforementioned Rothman films, as well as THE VELVET VAMPIRE, but had begun his career with Eric Rohmer’s short SUZANNE’S CAREER. Editor John A. O’Connor (also carried over from TERMINAL ISLAND) went on to edit the slasher FINAL EXAM and produce John Hough’s memorable AMERICAN GOTHIC.

Kennedy had previously taken it all off for Nelson Lyon’s arty comedy THE TELEPHONE BOOK, her first film. She appeared as a regular on LAUGH-IN (her voice is very similar to Goldie Hawn’s bimbo persona from that period) and continued to work in television before retiring and becoming a children's author. Although the film is not strictly a comedy, Rothman’s script provides her and the rest of the cast members plenty of funny lines (when Jill shows up at Denise’s apartment with a bruise from her scuffle with Nick and the hoods beating up Mike, she explains she was “fighting on the Italian front”). Like Rothman, Guthrie had had done prior work for Corman’s New World. Rose had a prestigious handful of exploitation credits during the 1970s – including Jonathan Demme’s THE HOT BOX – before becoming belly dancer Mesmera (she continued to work in film and television during the 1980s and 1990s, including many roles as a belly dancer). You might not recognize Peterson’s face, but her voice is unmistakably Elvira. Like most of the film’s supporting players, Thomas and Del Conte have resumes full of guest appearances on well-known television of the time. Sturges (son of director Preston Sturges) worked in film and television, but THE WORKING GIRLS was his last credit.

Code Red debuts a new opening logo with THE WORKING GIRLS (and its companion release GROUP MARRIAGE). The 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic, progressive, single-layer transfer was supervised by Rothman herself (mastered in HD from the UCLA archival 35mm print). Other than the usual scratches, digs, and speckling at reel change points, the image is very clean and colorful and the audio is also in good condition. Extras include the film’s theatrical trailer (2:00) and a new video interview with actress Laurie Rose aka Mesmera (12:04). She spends the first couple minutes talking about the film (she mentions working with Peterson) before talking about several of her other exploitation roles such as THE HOT BOX, POLICEWOMEN, ROOMMATES, and BLOOD VOYAGE. She concludes her interview with a belly-dancing performance. Trailers for Rothman’s GROUP MARRIAGE and TERMINAL ISLAND are the only other extras. (Eric Cotenas)