STUDIO: The Weinstein Company
MSRP: $28.95
RUNNING TIME: 103 min.
• Making-of Featurette
• Commentary by the Director
• Photo Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer

The Pitch

“The three most important words in nude entertainment: Dame Judi Dench.”

The Humans

Judi Dench (Die Another Day), Bob Hoskins (Heart Condition), Christopher Guest (Beyond Therapy), Will Young, Kelly Reilly

A message we can all get behind.

The Nutshell

In 1937, wealthy and eccentric widow Laura Henderson (Dench) opens a London theatre. She and showman Vivian Van Damm (Hoskins) produce England’s first Paris-style variety show, featuring nude girls posed in ‘artistic’ tableaux. Defying forces ranging from moralistic critics to the German bombings of World War II, they never close.

"Have you tried the wine steward?"

The Lowdown

Mrs. Henderson Presents starts out as a silly stage-door comedy, but modulates effectively for the more serious, and sadly relevant, second half. The real-life Mrs. Henderson lost her son in World War I, and there’s something touching, if naive, about her commitment to bring beauty to doomed young soldiers.

No really. Gawd bless ‘er.

The film compresses historical events (my research indicates that the theatre really opened five years earlier), but maintains a strong period sense. The casting plays a big part: the players all look and move like early-20th-century types. Newcomer Reilly (as the show’s top poseur) and pop star Young (as the featured singer, natch) hold their own remarkably well amid the distinguished cast. For the record, we are spared a denuded Dench (ogle her in Iris if you’re curious), though the curvy Mr. Hoskins does pull a Keitel. As a bonus, it’s fun to see Lord Haden-Guest actually playing an English Lord.

"Good heavens, Bob. You look like you’ve just run into a Bacon."

The Package

Full-bleed 16:9 transfer—a little soft, but that seems to be the way the film was shot. Two forced trailers, for The Libertine and Transamerica. Cute menu design. The making-of is brief but informative, and fills in a bit of the real-life history with a visit from some of the original Windmill Girls.

Director Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette, Dangerous Liaisons, Dirty Pretty Things) provides commentary, and sounds a little embarrassed to be associated with such relatively wholesome entertainment. He does seem to have enjoyed the gig, thanks to the talented cast and the bounteous nakedness.

8 out of 10