The appeals board of the movie industry's Classification & Ratings Administration refused Friday to lift an adults-only, NC-17 rating for director Ken Russell's "Whore," his upcoming movie about prostitution.
The distributor, Los Angeles-based Trimark Pictures, which had filed an appeal last week, said "Whore" is an unglamorous, realistic depiction of the world's oldest profession. Trimark officials said young people should see it as a lesson in the realities of street life.
A less restrictive R-rating would have made the film open to teen-agers accompanied by adults and would have made it easier for Trimark to advertise the movie. In many instances, television outlets and some publications limit or ban ads for films rated for adults only.
The movie stars actress Theresa Russell (no relation to the director). It is scheduled to open in Los Angeles and New York on Oct. 4.
The Classification & Ratings Administration of the Motion Picture Assn. of America and the National Assn. of Theater Owners rated the film NC-17 in May.
After the appeal was rejected on Friday, CARA chairman Richard D. Heffner said that the movie's "intense and graphic sensuality, language and violence will lead parents to insist that the industry's rating system designate it out-of-bounds for children under 17."
Heffner, who usually never discusses ratings, was confronted by a number of TV crews and reporters when he emerged from the appeals board meeting at the MPAA's New York offices. "They asked me questions and I answered them," he said in a telephone interview.
He said it was the "treatment" of the subject matter that led to the film's NC-17 rating, "not the subject matter," as the distributor claims. Heffner said that the filmmakers' comparison of their movie to the subject matter of the hit movie "Pretty Woman" starring Julia Roberts as a prostitute, was "an enormously cynical but obviously successful technique (in gaining press attention). . . .
"But it's ridiculous," he continued. "When a film is chock full of graphic violence, it has to be off limits to children."
Trimark chairman Mark Amin said he is upset that the CARA board would give "a film like 'Pretty Woman,' which glamorizes prostitution, an R, while giving 'Whore' a tougher rating. The public gets the wrong idea, thinking it will be pornographic. It's not."
Amin produced a letter of support from a local group called Children of the Night, an organization formed to get children off the streets and out of prostitution. Executive director Lois Lee wrote: "Due to films like 'Pretty Woman,' many troubled teens believe they can run away to Beverly Hills, engage in prostitution, meet a prince and live happily ever after. 'Whore' debunks that entire myth. . . ."
Heffner said the major studios are given NC-17 ratings "every week, but they go back and edit them to R's." In this case, he said, "Trimark brought the film back without any changes . . . even though the filmmakers have known for a fact why we rated their film NC-17."
Trimark chairman Amin said his company was never told what the problems were. He said his next step will be to persuade director Russell, who is known for such erotic films as "Women in Love" and "Crimes of Passion," to make cuts.
"He is contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated movie, but we hope to do it without forcing the contract," Amin said.