Exploitation Theater: The Working Girls (1974) AKA That Movie With Cassandra Peterson

vintage movie posters, Cassandra Peterson, Elvira
As I’ve said during last week’s #sinfest flick, Mantis inLace, strip-club movies are good. Any way you slice it, they’re just fun. The important thing to remember when doing these kind of films is that its all about the characters. You can only have so much T & A in a flick before you just decide to have some personal time and shut it off. There are lots of strip films, but none more sought after from this era than Stephanie Rothman’s The Working Girls.

The Working Girls is the story of Honey Wholeman (do what you want with that name), who comes out to Los Angeles to find work. She is able to talk her way into a place even though she doesn’t have a dime to her name (Good luck with that plan nowadays).  She ends up sharing the place with two other women and a beefy guy who doesn’t even bother to put on clothes to introduce himself.
Honey is a hustler as simple as they come, but finds she has a knack for the stock market and ends up working for a weird Millionaire (hey, that happens). Her savior, Denise, ends up banging a guy Honey brings home and sexy Jill starts stripping at a joint called The Tiger’s Tail, which becomes the center of the action. It’s through the associations here that the girls sexuality and free spirit gets them into trouble.
Lets call a spade a spade shall we? The only reason this film endures is not because it’s a grindhouse classic, but because it features a stripper like no other…Cassandra Peterson. For those not in the know (and I can’t imagine someone caring and not knowing this), Cassandra Peterson is Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Before she debuted on channel 9 in Los Angeles, she had already appeared in several films and TV shows, but its was a little local gig that changed not just her history, but horror history forever. She hits the stage and bears all twenty minutes into the film, and it is the hope of her return that keeps us watching.
Elvira Mistress of the dark, Cassandra Peterson, Elvira, old horror movies, horror movie quotes
But again, I digress. Working girls is worth seeing but be warned. Director Stephanie Rothman has a somewhat serious story up her sleeve and though there is a bit of T & A, there is not as much as you would think. Kinda like Faster Pussycat Kill Kill, the movie is retrained and actually has a story to tell rather than an excuse to string naked bodies together.
Each of the women have a lot more on the ball than you would originally think and that is a major plus. Honey is the smartest of the group which is interesting since she comes off as the most worthless at the start.
Sarah Kennedy, who played Honey, was mostly known for comedy like Laugh in and Love, American Style. I think she could have been great if given the chance. Laurie Rose, who played Denise, has had a long career in films like The Adult Version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Waxwork II. Being the painter in Working Girls, she is the most free and accepting of the group. The artist that loves love and wants to help, that’s just how I see her.  Lynne Guthrie had the most interesting credits which included Chesty Morgan U.S. Navy, The Witch Who Came From The Sea, and Night Call Nurses. Her story sort of holds the movie together and having the Mob angle, is the most interesting.
In a way, the title is misleading. It suggests a story of sex workers and even the setting is a bit of a slight of hand. This is a fun film with a serious message. A story of a make shift family trying to find its way in the big and unforgiving city. So if you are up for a movie that has something more to say about women than it advertises, then this is the film for you. A movie that you can laugh at, howl at and even get a little turned on. And if you just want naked hotties, remember, it has Cassandra Peterson stripping. The choice is yours.