Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mary Millington - Another Girl Another Planet

Mary Millington, British Sex Cinema, Seventies Glamour

One of the great determiners of radical national decline in the Seventies in the United Kingdom - alongside the hopeless battle against inflation, industrial unrest and terrorism - was the fact that one of the biggest grossing British movies of 1977 was the sex comedy Come Play With Me starring Mary Millington which ran continuously for four years at the Moulin Cinema in Great Windmill Street in London's Soho. The same year in the USA Annie Hall, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Saturday Night Fever were released.

In the course of the past few years we have seen the reissue of all three of Millington's mainstream cinema releases on DVD, another edition of Simon Sheridan's superb Keeping The British End Up history of the genre, a high profile documentary Respectable and a blue plaque in Soho's Great Windmill Street to her memory.

Of the main movies themselves, Come Play With Me may not be the sort of thing you want to watch with your mother but you could probably get away with watching it with your father these days even if he was a comedy vicar. The hot sexual dynamics of The Playbirds in turn are capped by the constant presence of Windsor Davies, one of the That's Life lackeys and Dave the barman from Minder in almost every scene as police officers. Likewise the political incorrectness of some of the dialogue is up there with the lyrical content of the first three albums by The Stranglers. Confessions From The David Galaxy Affair does stand out slightly from the others it must be said as containing possibly the worst piece of character acting in British dramatic history from the late husband of the late Diana Dors - Alan Lake.

The movies however do have significant historic importance in throwing light on the extraordinary censorship of the time in Great Britain which was so out of kilter with mainland Europe. Sheridan's book notes how so many hardcore scenes were shot during the making of these frothy asexual comedy romps for sole inclusion in the dirty foreign export versions. Likewise - and as is so typical of bloody everything in the past three decades of our country's social history - these British movies were contemporaneously marketed in one of the leading UK portfolios of adult magazines (which included one title named after public decency mandarin Mary Whitehouse herself) as containing extreme sexual content to be avoided by those of a nervous disposition. Do you ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

Outside the context of the three movies as discussed - and the dark netherworld of satanic carnal sin she briefly shared with Alfie Bass, Irene Handl and Cardew Robinson - Mary Millington herself certainly lived the unexpurgated sexual dream (or nightmare) every bit as much as Linda Lovelace or Marilyn Chambers. Sherdian's earlier biography covers this in considerable detail from her initial forays into pornography in order to fund her mother's healthcare through to her suicide at the age of 33.

However in contrast to the scene in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights where a cocaine-fuelled pool party takes place for porn industry habitues - against the scorching background of a Californian sun and Eric Burdon and War's dreamy Spill The Wine - the posthumous and utterly tasteless documentary of Millington's life True Blue Confessions includes footage of public jazz magazine browsing at what is clearly suggested to be the actual sex shop she ran in a seedy South London street.

With all the erotic intent and measured sensuality of a labored and indecisive chip shop order for battered sausage, Mary Millington frankly underscores in the narrative that:'s a myth about the Dirty Raincoat Brigade....they really don't exist...customers aren't dragged in...they come in because they want to...and they want to be able to take it away and read it in the privacy of their own homes...they should have the right to do that...there are hundreds of thousands of very lonely men...they've no chance at all over ever picking up a girl...but they can buy sexy magazines and take them home and masturbate while they look at the pictures which gives them the relief which I feel they need.

Such a commonsense and indeed quintessentially British contribution to the history of adult cinema from beautiful long-lost Mary Ruth Quilter (1945-1979) - Britain's once and future Golden Girl.

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