Dirty Girls is the cinematic equivalent of people-watching. As when observing passers-by on the sidewalk or in an airport, the film does not offer a narrative so much as the chance to peek at human behavior in strangers. We watch these characters for a few minutes, learn a little bit about them, but before we can become too attached to them, they are gone.
The film, one of Radley Metzger's first, will likely bore some viewers out of their skulls, but those with patience and open minds will likely find the deliberately-paced Dirty Girls engrossing, amusing, and charming.
The movie is presented as a series of vignettes which follow a handful of high-classed prostitutes, each separately and in turn. It's clear that Metzger values mood highly in his erotica, as there is much cigarette smoking and jazz in each scene, but it's not as if there isn't a pretty girl doffing her top to help things along. A smarmy narrator purrs a bit of purple prose over portions of each segment, which points out some of the weaknesses in Metzger's storytelling abilities, but there's a bit of retro authenticity to the deep voice as it intones silly platitudes about "the woman of ten thousand pleasures."
Only die-hard Metzger fans need add this to their permanent collections; those looking to expand their film educations would do well to pop it in their players over a weekend. Thirteen year-olds looking for cheap thrills should seek out Metzger's bawdier -- and funnier -- Score.
Although the print has lots of character, with the speckles and scratches that are usual in a movie of this age, I do think that more attention could have been paid to the soundtrack. While mono is nothing to be ashamed of, perhaps the sound transfer is a bit too authentic -- down to every last hiss and pop. The fabulous jazz soundtrack would be doubly wonderful if it could just be heard a little more clearly.
The extras included on the Dirty Girls disc are more than I would have expected -- someone actually went back and rescued some of the material cut from the original version of the film. Most of these deleted scenes are alternate readings of lines that exist in the film, usually with a bit more nudity or with more controversial material. One dress-up fantasy that was cut involves a nun's habit, something that might be used for comic relief these days, but at the time was probably deemed too scandalous for theatrical release.
Also included is a rather choppy trailer for the film that gives away too much of the movie's modest plot twists. I'm happy I bypassed the trailer in favor of watching the film first.
Chris Holland, 12/28/00