Mary is Open for Business!

Every September, as part of the Heritage Open Days scheme, hundreds of great buildings across the UK open their doors to visitors. In London alone over 250,000 people take the opportunity to get under the skin of the capital’s amazing architecture, and visit buildings which are not usually accessible to the general public.

As part of this amazing celebration of architecture and history, The Barge House bar and restaurant in Haggerston, London N1, will be playing host to some of the kinkiest attractions in the country!

Over the weekend of the 16 and 17 September the building will be taking inspiration from its previous incarnation as the original 1970s’ print-works of David Sullivan’s adult magazines, many of which featured Mary Millington within their pages.

Open Doors Mary Millington

Taking its cue from the building’s colourful past, The Barge House hosts a weekend that will explore the history and culture of British erotica and provide a provocative programme of exhibitions, discussions and performances. The bar, mezzanine and event lounge will be transformed into gallery and performance spaces that will host stimulating talks, screenings, installations and workshops based around sex in print, celluloid and online, plus the factors that influence porn culture.

Mary Millington Barge House

It seems wholly appropriate then that Respectable – The Mary Millington Story will be having a very special screening in the venue at 4.30pm on Saturday 16 September, followed by a Q&A with director/producer Simon Sheridan.

The full programme of events, and information on how to book tickets, can be found on the Barge House website.

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The Ghost on the Canvas

Today – 19 August 2017 – marks the anniversary of Mary Millington’s tragic death. Her family and friends, and myself, will continue to celebrate the colourful, unique life of this amazing, pioneering young woman.

38 years after her passing, Mary lives on in film, photographs and words, and her legacy endures. She touched the lives of so many people who never even met her.

In the lyrics of the late Glen Campbell, one of Mary’s all-time favourite singers…

 ‘Ashes to ashes we all fall in love, with the ghost on the canvas…’

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Mary’s Rhinestone Dream

Mary was always an enthusiastic lover of pop music from her teenage years right through to her tragically young death, aged just 33. Aside from her love of British singer-songwriter Labi Siffre, her other passion was for US Country and Western performer Glen Campbell.

Over the course of a 55-year-long recording career, Campbell released over 60 albums and Mary was particularly enamoured of his classic 1975 album Rhinestone Cowboy, the title track of which she was known to sing along too, quite loudly, although Mary professed to having no musical talent whatsoever! Her friends still recall that Mary played his songs endlessly on her record player.

Rhinestone Cowboy

After a valiant fight against Alzheimer’s disease Glen Campbell died yesterday aged 81. In hindsight, the ‘hustling for success’ sentiment of Rhinestone Cowbody seems particularly poignant to Mary’s own struggles in her private life. Maybe that’s why the lyrics resonated so much with her.

“Well, I really don’t mind the rain. And a smile can hide all the pain…”

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Keep It Up in Spain

One of the favourite cinema posters I have in my archive is from Mary’s 1978 release El Decapendon. If you’ve never heard of this film before, that’s totally understandable, since it’s the Spanish version of 1976’s historical sex romp, Keep It Up Downstairs, directed by the wonderful Robert Young.

Keep It Up Downstairs premiered in the UK on 29 July 1976 at the now-demolished ABC cinema on London’s Edgware Road. The film was the first in which Mary was credited on-screen with her ‘Millington’ moniker, and despite relatively lavish production values (for a British sex comedy) and a cast boasting Diana Dors, Francoise Pascal and Willie Rushton, the movie was sadly not a box office success.

El Decapendon Mary Millington

As with most sex comedies of the era it was shot with additional hardcore sequences. In the case of Keep It Up Downstairs these extra scenes were overseen – rather surprisingly – by producer Hazel Adair, best known as the co-creator of ITV soap opera, Crossroads. The more explicit (and dubbed) version of the film was released throughout Europe, to varying degrees of success. Nearly two years after its British debut, it premiered in Spain on 5 June 1978, released by Mundial Films, under the title El Decapendon, a spoof on director Pier Pablo Pasolini’s hugely controversial Italian film, Il Decameron.

El Decapendon 1978 poster

Despite Mary’s fairly small supporting role in the movie, as saucy scullery maid Polly, on the Spanish poster she totally dominates the colourful artwork – caught in a clinch with co-star Simon Brent.

All words strictly © Simon Sheridan 2017

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Happy Birthday… ‘Come Play with Me’

Exactly 40 years ago – 28 April 1977 – something quite extraordinary happened; a low budget sex comedy named Come Play with Me opened at the Moulin Cinema at 42-44 Great Windmill Street, Soho, and changed British cinema history forever. Regular readers of producer David Sullivan’s magazines, like Whitehouse and Playbirds, had been anxiously waiting for this momentous day with baited breath. Come Play with Me had been relentlessly promoted within the pages of his top-shelf publications since the previous October, when shooting had commenced. Hardcore photographs from the ‘overseas version’ and extravagant flowery prose promised cinema-goers “Mary Millington and 20 nymphomaniac nurses in the rawest, most explicit British film ever made”. What punters got for their admission price of 90p was something quite different, not that anybody seemed to be complaining.

“It had Mary appearing in it, so I knew I could sell it,” says David Sullivan today. “It was as easy as that! The fans wanted to see her. It didn’t matter that she didn’t have a big part. It made no real difference what the film was about. Having said that, I have a soft spot for Come Play with Me. It’s a cute little movie. I was a big fan of Irene Handl. She offered to go topless had she been a few years younger! All the cast enjoyed it, despite what you read!”

Come Play with Me (Moulin cinema 1978)

Indeed, on 14 November 1976, after the film had just wrapped its prudent four-week shoot the News of the World reported, on its front page, that many of Mary Millington’s co-stars, including British comedy’s Grande Dame Irene plus Alfie Bass and Tommy Godfrey were horrified by the hardcore shenanigans going on. Under the headline We Didn’t Know It Was a Blue Movie, Say The Stars, many of the ‘legit’ actors were quoted decrying Sullivan’s ‘unfair’ and ‘objectionable’ work practices. At the time, the producer was unrepentant, saying: “The sex scenes will make Linda Lovelace look like Noddy!”

The tabloid scandal made for priceless publicity (“There really is no such thing as bad publicity,” says David now), and whetted the public’s appetite for a film which they were led to believe would change cinema forever. And it did, but in ways nobody could ever imagine. Come Play with Me opened with little mainstream press fanfare on Thursday 28 April 1977, but immediately broke box office records at the Moulin. David Sullivan had craftily come to an agreement with the Classic Group, who operated the cinema, that just so long as his film’s weekly taking didn’t drop beneath a certain ‘break figure’ then they would have to keep screening it. And screening it they did – solidly throughout the rest of 1977, all of 1978, all of 1979, all of 1980 and right up to 5 March 1981. Notching up an astonishing 201 consecutive weeks, it is still an unbroken record for a British film.

Across the UK the film did brisk business too – opening in Birmingham on 5 June 1977; in Bristol on 19 June and Blackpool on 14 July. Virtually everywhere it opened it smashed provincial box office records. This modest little ‘X’-rated sex film costing around £120,000 went on to gross something in the region of £5,000,000.

So on this special anniversary I salute the longest-running movie in British cinema history, and its star Mary Millington who rightfully deserves her part in the film’s incredible success. Not everybody is going to admire Come Play with Me, but I love it, even if one of its surviving stars doesn’t agree with me. “I think the film is absolute rubbish,” laughs actress Sue Longhurst. “I just never understood its appeal.”

© All words strictly Simon Sheridan 2017

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12 months of ‘Respectable’

Respectable T-Shirt

Amazingly, today – 7 April 2017 – marks exactly one year since Respectable – The Mary Millington Story opened in London’s West End. It’s been a fantastic 12 months, with movie screenings in the US and UK and, only last week, the film premiered in Italy at the FilmForumFest. Thanks again to everybody who has supported the movie, and been so positive about Mary’s legacy. Respectable is still available on Netflix in the UK, US, Canada and Australia & New Zealand and on DVD from Simply Media, via Amazon.

Image © Simon Sheridan 2017

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Mary Millington’s Dolce Vita

We are very proud to announce that Simon Sheridan’s film Respectable – The Mary Millington Story will be having its Italian première at the acclaimed Gorizio Film Forum & Festival which runs from 29 March to 2 April 2017.

FilmForum Gorizia 2017

FilmForum/MAGIS is an international movie and media studies event organised by the University of Udine (Italy) in collaboration with Concordia University in Montreal. Inaugurated in 2003, FilmForum has now become one of the most important international events in the field of film and media studies, and renowned for originality of its cutting edge topics.

Director Simon Sheridan will appear at two events – firstly, on Thursday 30 March, for an on-stage discussion of the British porn industry of the Sixties and Seventies, alongside Dr Oliver Carter from the University of Birmingham, and then Simon will be introducing Respectable on Friday evening 31 March. A special screening of Mary’s ground-breaking 1970 movie Miss Bohrloch will also be taking place.

Neither film has never been publicly screened in Italy before, so it’s going to be a huge honour to bring Mary Millington to an Italian audience, more used to the home-grown delights of Cicciolina, Moana Pozzi and Rocco Siffredi.

© Simon Sheridan 2017

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See the Best Nipples in London

Shuby Art

Last year I was approached by innovative British artist, Shuby. An expert in layered silkscreens printed onto canvases, Shuby explained how much she had enjoyed my book Keeping The British End Up and my movie Respectable and asked whether she could use some of the imagery from my archive to use as the basis of new artworks. We hit it off immediately and I happily gave Shuby some scans which she has wittily blown up, re-imagined and garnished with her trademark iconography of kinky rabbits, naughty bowler hats and ready-peeled bananas! Her first solo London show opened this month and runs at the Lawrence Alkin Gallery in New Compton Street, Soho, until 18 February 2017.

Shuby Art

I went to the private launch show last week and the reaction from guests was astonishing. Shuby’s artwork captures a bygone Soho, and celebrates the memorabilia of British sexploitation movies (including those of Stanley Long), Soho sex cinemas, strip clubs and telephone tart cards. I’d recommend the show to everybody, so if you find yourself in the West End pop along for a look. Check out more of Shuby’s creations on her website.

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Merry Christmas!

Mary Millington Christmas

This website would like to wish all admirers of Mary Millington a very Merry Christmas and an exceedingly Happy New Year. Thanks to everybody who made Respectable – The Mary Millington Story such a huge success in 2016. Mary was finally back where she belonged – at the cinema, on television, in the national press, and in the very heart of Soho (by way of a blue plaque). Four decades after her death, 2016 was finally Mary’s year.

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Mary Millington in new Cult Poster Book

A brand new book featuring Mary Millington has just been published by Gingko Books. The Art of The B-Movie Poster collects hundreds of American and European exploitation posters in one hardback volume. There are over 300 pages of mondo, action, horror, sci-fi and sex film posters with individual essays written by the likes of Eric Schaefer, Stephen Jones, Kim Newman and Simon Sheridan. The book is edited by Adam Newell and Simon Sheridan’s ‘sex’ chapter concentrates on classic titles from both sides of the Atlantic – Linda Lovelace’s Deep Throat (1972) and Mary Millington’s Come Play with Me (1977).

Mary Millington cult poster book

The Art of The B-Movie Poster can be ordered now from Amazon.

“The book is a veritable photographic study of exploitation advertising, interspersed with essays discussing the evolution of grindhouse cinema. The text is a massive undertaking, and contains what seems to be reprints of nearly every movie poster to have ever graced Times Square.” Rue Morgue Magazine

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