Clarissa Harlowe is a young eighteenth-century Englishwoman whose family are trying to force her to marry a repellent but aristocratic suitor. The handsome Lovelace helps her escape but his intentions towards her prove to be less than entirely honourable – out of the frying pan into the furnace. The place of safety to which he takes her is really a brothel run by Mrs Sinclair (Cathryn Harrison) and her whores including Sally (Shirley Henderson): the cultured Cousin Charlotte (Francesca Longrigg) and Lady Betty (Diana Quick) are more whores. For Clarissa it ends badly but along the way we see a range of eighteenth-century ladies: aristocratic, country gentry, low-life and low-life in disguise. The standards of oral hygene, dentistry and orthodonty are clearly not of twenty-first century standards.
Marilyn MacDonald was the makeup designer.