Mary Millington was, unquestionably, the most successful female British box office star of late-1970s cinema, but aside from her big-screen adventures she made a number of pornographic productions on 8mm for the home entertainment market. But the question always arises as to how many of these films did she actually make? With a number of ‘lost’ 8mm films resurfacing in recent years – including another one this month – it might be a good time to look at what’s actually out there.
What is certain is the fact that Mary’s first ever film was Miss Bohrloch, shot in 1970 by director John Lindsay for Charlie Brown’s Frankfurt-based Tabu company. Miss Bohrloch was all-out hardcore, with Mary performing in every single sexual permutation with two long-haired Euro-boys. Although Mary had initially basked in the critical and commercial success of the film on the Continent, it did not lead to a long-relationship with the Tabu label. Instead, Mary stuck with John Lindsay who starred her in four more hardcore films for the copycat-sounding Taboo label, financed by tubby Australian Charles ‘Chuck’ Sloman (initially using the more glamorous ‘Karl Ordinez’ moniker). These films were shot both in the UK and Holland and included Betrayed, Oral Connection, Special Assignment and Oh, Nurse! Mary categorically only did these four productions for Taboo, as confirmed by Sloman in a 1981 interview conducted for Late Night Video magazine.
So did Mary turn her back on heterosexual hardcore porn thereafter? It seems so. Whilst Mary had embraced her hardcore career early on, it transpired it wasn’t a role she was wholly comfortable with. David Sullivan knew all about Mary’s 8mm background before they met, but he told me this year that when he and Mary started dating in 1974 she begged him not to watch Miss Bohrloch. “She told me that it wasn’t the ‘real’ Mary performing on screen” he explained. “So I never saw it back then. In fact, it was only in 2014 that I finally watched it on the internet.” When I first interviewed Mary’s one-time publicist John M East, in the late-1990s, he assured me Mary had told him she’d appeared in “about 18 hardcore films”, although, I now realise this is blatantly untrue. I genuinely believe Mary only made five explicit shorts – one for Brown’s Tabu, and a further four for Lindsay’s Taboo.
In an interview with Cinema Blue magazine in 1977, Mary claimed that prior to shooting Come Play with Me, she had only made “six shorts and a Danish feature. Blue movies are great. Educational and great tension relievers!” The ‘Danish’ film she mentions is actually Swedish – Private Pleasures, a feature-length production in which Mary has lesbian sex with actor Ted Cegerblad’s on-screen girlfriend Elona Glenn. Tellingly, her hardcore scene in Come Play with Me was with another female too, co-star Penny Chisholm.
So what are these “six shorts” Mary talks of? Is Mary hinting at a sixth hardcore 8mm film or is she simply getting her sums wrong? Probably, the latter. After all, she conveniently forgets to mention several of her other big screen films (Eskimo Nell, Erotic Inferno, Intimate Games or Keep It Up Downstairs), all of which she’d shot by this time, either. Of course, Mary did appear in softcore 8mm films too. She made at least two for George Harrison Marks – Sex Is My Business (set in a sex shop) and Blonde & Black (an interracial lesbian short) and yet another lesbian duo, Response, for Russell Gay. Additionally, Mary appeared in a couple of UK-made productions for Mountain Films. These include Wild Lovers and another obscurity, newly rediscovered.
My friend Colin Lane – an 8mm collector extraordinaire – recently purchased an anonymous film reel featuring a familiar blonde, and asked me to take a look at it. The film is called Party Pieces (aka Foursome), a monochrome Mountain Films production, probably dating from 1974. Following an almost identical plot to Wild Lovers, it features four participants (three female, one male) who initiate a bit of impromptu shagging during a festive get-together. One of the performers is Mary, whilst the other three actors are a hairy, tattooed man in a paisley shirt and necktie, and two bubbly brunettes (one with straight-hair, the other one with wavy).
The action begins on a suburban staircase strewn with party balloons and streamers. It’s an awkwardly-shot sequence with the four actors crammed into a bizarrely tight space. Wine is poured into glasses, party poppers are fired and everybody is having a good giggle. Mary, in particular, is laughing and joking with her friends, and has probably never looked happier, or more relaxed, on screen. After an interminable preamble, the party-goers divide into two couplings – Mary remains at the top of the stairs with the wavy-haired brunette, whilst the other girl and her swarthy fella sneak off to a nearby bedroom.
Naturally enough, nothing much happens in this strictly softcore affair. Mary and her female companion enjoy some lesbian groping on the stairs, and their heterosexual chums engage in flaccid bonking on the bed. Like Wild Lovers, the direction is somewhat amateurish, performers look straight at the camera, and the sex scenes are jarringly intercut at regular junctures with a still image of two half-filled wine glasses. Towards the end of the film, Mary and her girlfriend enter the bedroom; they all get stuck-in, before Mary ends up shagging the man, whilst the two brunettes awkwardly look on. Then everything fades to black and it’s all over.
What really stands out is Mary’s undeniable magnetism on screen. Even if she hadn’t gone on to become a huge star, her performance is utterly mesmerising compared to her lacklustre co-stars. It’s not just the sight of Mary’s beautiful body being exposed on the staircase; it’s her carefree, giggly charm which imbues Party Piece with pure magic.
So who actually directed this mini-epic? It certainly wasn’t George Harrison Marks, Russell Gay or John Lindsay, but thanks to the help of my friend Pete Walker, (once a glamour film director himself, before he helmed cult horror classics like House of Whipcord), I’ve uncovered the truth about Mountain Films and the unlikely duo who left behind a career in ladies’ fashion to become pornographers. I shan’t be revealing any more for now, but the true story will be exposed when a brand new transfer of Wild Lovers appears on the Eskimo Nell blu-ray, released in early-2015.
Party Pieces has enjoyed a wash-and-brush-up too; I’ve had it completely digitally restored at Pinewood Studios this past week, and it looks stunning. It was gratifying to watch a little 40-year-old porn film being spruced up in a studio right opposite a room where post-production on the multi-million dollar Star Wars: The Force Awakens was taking place. I think Mary would’ve liked that. But all this doesn’t solve the problem of knowing just how many more Mary Millington 8mm productions are still out there. Is Party Pieces really the final missing ‘piece’ in the Millington film jigsaw, or are we about to be surprised by an even bigger discovery? Only time will tell…
All words, research and photos strictly © Simon Sheridan 2014-2015
Special thanks, as always, to the fantastic Colin Lane.