Rediscovering the Millington Film Archive

In 2009 I brought Odeon Entertainment and David Sullivan together to finally release Mary’s back-catalogue on DVD. However, before we could proceed we needed to look at what original 35mm materials still existed. With some trepidation, in November 2009, I travelled to Sullivan’s storage warehouse in Barking, East London to see what was left of his movie archive. In the corner of a vast building stuffed ceiling-high with pornographic DVDs and crates of sex aids were several wooden pallets piled high with dozens of rusting silver film canisters. All were labelled with yellowing stickers from Kay’s Laboratories, London N5, and Rank Film in Denham.

To my huge relief all the original 35mm negatives still existed – everything from 1977’s Come Play with Me, right through to lesser-known productions like Foxy Female Boxers (1983). Alas, the holy grail of Mary’s films – the fabled hardcore version of Come Play with Me – was not to be found, but the more explicit cut of Emmanuelle in Soho (1981) was in evidence, as were original cinema negatives of The Playbirds, Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair, Queen of the Blues and Mary Millington’s True Blue Confessions.

The films had dropped out of UK theatrical circulation in 1985, and had been remained untouched in the warehouse since September 1994. It was decided that three of Mary’s film’s would be restored to HD quality – Come Play with Me, The Playbirds and David Galaxy, along with Sex Is My Business, a previously ‘lost’ short Mary had made with director George Harrison Marks in 1975. Ironically, all restoration work was completed by the Grading, Restoration & Archive team in the hallowed corridors of BBC TV Centre in early 2010, overseen by the wonderful Audrey Coleman. The excellent authoring of the DVDs was then completed by Richard Elliott at Odeon in Leicestershire.

By happy coincidence, the 26 April 2010 DVD release date of Come Play with Me very nearly coincided with film’s 33rd anniversary of its original premiere at the Moulin Cinema, Soho in spring 1977. I can honestly say that being involved in bringing Mary’s films to a fresh audience – pristine, colourful and digitally remastered – is one of the most rewarding moments of my career to date.

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