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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‘Respectable’ wins the ‘Legend’ Award at UKAP 2016

Last night – 27 September 2016 – Respectable – The Mary Millington Story returned to the big screen at the Prince Charles Cinema, off Leicester Square, in the heart of London’s West End. The Prince Charles is now best known as a cinema specialising in ‘cult’ films, but 40 years ago it was well-loved for its ‘X’-rated programming. The original Emmanuelle movie, starring the late, great Sylvia Kristel, played here solidly between late-1974 to early 1977 (however, it didn’t beat Mary’s record-breaking 201-week run in Come Play with Me at the Moulin in Soho).

respectable-prince-charles-2016

After the screening, Respectable’s director, Simon Sheridan, was joined on stage for a Q&A with adult filmmaker Pandora Blake and industry legend Linsey Dawn McKenzie. Immediately after the event Simon attended the 2016 UKAP Awards on Leicester Square where he was presented with the ‘Legend’ award by Linsey, Ben Dover and Alistair Graham.

Simon Sheridan UKAP 2016

This is the first time in its history that UKAP has given the ‘Legend’ award. “I’m overwhelmed with the support that Respectable has received over the past six months, since it first came out,” Simon said. “I’m so proud that Mary is finally getting the recognition she deserves, and would like to thank Terry Stephens at UKAP and the British adult industry for its continuing support. I’m really thrilled that Mary’s name lives on.”

Photographs strictly © Simon Sheridan 2016

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Mary Returns to the West End!

Respectable Mary Millington Prince Charles cinema

We are delighted to announce that on 27 September 2016, Respectable – The Mary Millington Story will be returning to London’s West End. The film will be showing at the legendary Prince Charles Cinema, off Leicester Square at 6pm. The screening will be immediately followed by a Q&A with director Simon Sheridan, and some very special guests. More details and tickets can be obtained from the Eventbrite booking website.

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Lover, liberator, legend…

RIP Mary Millington 1945-1979

2016 has been quite a year for Mary Millington. In April Respectable was released in London’s West End and on Netflix around the world. The reaction to the film has been astonishing. Additionally, Mary’s name has been immortalised forever in Soho, in the form of a blue plaque, erected in Great Windmill Street. Next month Respectable returns to the West End, and Mary’s unique life and career will recognised with a very special award. More on that soon.

But today, 19 August, we remember that it’s an incredible 37 years since Mary lost her life. She was an extraordinary woman. A lover. A liberator. A legend. We will never forget her.

“The song is ended, but the melody lingers on…” Irving Berlin

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Respect for Mary

Respectable – The Mary Millington Story was released in London’s West End on 7 April 2016, the same day we unveiled an official blue plaque to celebrate her life. Respectable has been available on Netflix in the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand since 8 April 2016, and now has a DVD release, complete with a host of special features. I am so incredibly proud that the film has reached such a huge audience worldwide.

Mary Millington Respectable Reviews

Predictably, of course, not everybody is going to like Respectable, but I’m extremely flattered, and gratified, by so many fantastic reviews, and an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the documentary. It’s my first film, and I worked incredibly hard to make it the best, most accurate, tribute as I possibly could. For me, personally, the fact that Mary’s family and friends unanimously loved the film is reward enough.

Mary lives on. She will never be forgotten.

Thanks for all your support.

All words and image strictly © Simon Sheridan 2016

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