I’m fortunate to have a full-set of Mary’s cinema posters in my collection, from her début, Eskimo Nell (1974), to her last, Mary Millington’s World Striptease Extravaganza (1981). I own some oddities too, including a very scarce MM triple-bill from as late as 1985, which was produced exclusively for the Moulin cinema in Soho. I purchased the majority of these posters during the early-1990s, and whilst the UK quads for Come Play with Me or The Playbirds still occasionally crop up on eBay (often commanding a very high price), there are other Mary posters which are far harder to come by.
Mary’s films were often lumped together in double, or triple-bills. In July 1979 Queen of the Blues was released as one half of a two-hander with the Hong Kong-made Massage Girls of Bangkok. The latter film’s explicit sex scenes were so heavily cut that Screen International bemoaned its ‘mightily confusing plot’, which is certainly saying something, since Queen of the Blues looked like it had been edited with a lawnmower too. The following year The Playbirds was re-released with José Larraz’s Spanish kinky sexploiter La Visita del Vicio, charmingly re-titled as Violation of the Bitch. The film’s tag-line (“She asked for it…”) and poster imagery of a busty blonde cowering beneath the barrel of a rifle seem utterly jaw-dropping by today’s standards. The following year the hugely-profitable Queen of the Blues, which originally broke box office records for the Centa Cinema, Piccadilly, was resuscitated again as the support movie alongside another curious Euro import.
Orinoco: Paraiso del Sexo was nothing to do with Wimbledon Common’s hungriest Womble, instead it was a 1979 Spanish-Italian co-production about a group of scantily-clad young women who are imprisoned in a South American jungle jail; forced to dig for precious stones by their brutal captors. As well as having sex with the sweaty guards, there’s lots of lingering shots of the women bathing in their open-air shower, lesbianism, topless cat-fights and gratuitous violence. Additionally, some hardcore sex scenes were shot for Continental audiences, and the film – in its full 101 minute version – played successfully in indie cinemas around Europe. In various territories it was re-titled Hotel Paradise, surely as some sort of ironic joke. British distributor Tigon Films purchased the film in 1980 and for some inexplicable reason re-named it I’m Coming Your Way, a rather frothy title for such a grim sexploitation picture. Cut to 66 minutes, it was promoted by its UK distributors as a new ‘hot, bubbling, steaming sex film’. The Monthly Film Bulletin gleefully described it as ‘risible rubbish’ with the extensive cuts making ‘merciful nonsense of the plot.’
The film’s main star was Ajita Wilson, a striking-looking black model who started her career as an exotic dancer in New York in the mid-1970s, before graduating to low-budget feature films (hard and softcore), primarily shot in Italy, Greece and Spain, including Black Aphrodite (1977) and Jess Franco’s Sadomania (1981). Many of her movies played UK cinemas (in truncated versions), but few of her fans at the time realised that she was actually a transsexual – her birth name was George Wilson. She died, aged just 26, after a fatal car accident in Rome, in May 1987, and has been pretty much forgotten since, despite appearing in some 40-or-so B-movies.
I’m Coming Your Way and Queen of the Blues premiered at the Eros Cinema at Piccadilly Circus on 3 December 1981. Quite what the British ‘dirty mac’ brigade thought about an ‘X’-rated meal of Soho strippers filmed in long shot, followed by violent hi-jinks in a Venezuelan prison camp is anybody’s guess. What I do know is that this curious double-bill wasn’t a success. It played at the Eros for only six weeks before being pulled and transferring (even less successfully) to cinemas in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Rotherham. Even a dubious photo-spread in Playbirds Colour Special #44 couldn’t entice punters.
I’ve never much liked the poster either – a joyous snap of Mary smiling on stage from Queen of the Blues juxtaposed next to an image of a distressed girl being strangled by a python. The UK failure of the movie probably speaks volumes about what home-grown sex film fans wanted from their dedicated cinema programmes, certainly compared to their European counterparts. As London’s Evening News once said in 1977, Brits enjoy ‘porn with a smile’. UK audiences were all for ‘Come Playing’ with saucy nurses at an Oxfordshire hotel, but ‘Coming Your Way’ down the Orinoco River just wasn’t an appealing proposition.
All words strictly © Simon Sheridan 2014-2015