Happy 40th Birthday, Come Play with Me!

Exactly 40 years ago today – 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 cinemagoers “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 pop art

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 history. 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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Postcard from Italy

Come Play with Me Gorizia

I had a great time in Europe recently for the Italian premiere of my film, Respectable – The Mary Millington Story. As well as the screening, I took part in a discussion on British exploitation films from the 1970s. Here’s a photo of me and some of the team at one of the events. You can see my face has some interesting words projected over it! Huge thanks to the Italian organisers of the FilmForum Festival in Gorizia, including Federico, Giovanna, and Enrico.

Photo strictly © Simon Sheridan 2017

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Ciao, Baby! ‘Respectable’ premieres in Italy

Gorizia Film Festival 2017

I’m very proud to announce that my film Respectable – The Mary Millington Story will be having its Italian première at the Gorizio Film Forum & Festival which runs from 29 March to 2 April 2017.

FilmForum/MAGIS is an international movie and media studies event organized 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 events in the field of film and media studies, and is renowned for the originality of its cutting edge topics.

I’ll be appearing 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 I’ll introducing Respectable on Friday evening 31 March.

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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Take Off Your Clothes… in an Art Gallery

Shuby Art

Last year I was approached by the innovative British pop 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 do pop along for a look. Check out more of Shuby’s creations on her website.

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New Cult Poster Book Out Now!

My latest book venture 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 myself. The book is edited by Adam Newell and my 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).

B-Movie Poster book Simon Sheridan

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 – my debut film 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. Immediately after the screening I attended the lavish 2016 UKAP Awards, where I was presented with the ‘Legend’ award by Linsey Dawn McKenzie, Ben Dover and Alistair Graham.

Simon Sheridan UKAP 2016

This is the very 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, and so proud that Mary is finally getting the recognition she deserves. I’d particularly like to thank Terry Stephens at UKAP and the British adult industry for its continuing support. 

Photographs strictly © Simon Sheridan 2016

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‘Respectable’ Returns to London’s West End

Respectable Mary Millington Sept 2016

I’m very pleased 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. Immediately after the screening there will be a Q&A with myself and some special guests. More details and tickets can be obtained from the Eventbrite booking website.

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Lover, Liberator, Legend

Mary Millington tribute

2016 has been quite a year for Mary Millington. In April my debut film,  Respectable – The Mary Millington Story, was released in London’s West End and then was made available on Netflix around the world. The reaction to the film has been wonderful. 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. I will never forget her; she changed my life.

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

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Carrying On…

Carry On Behind

I’ve recently been interviewed by Carry On Blogging, the excellent ‘Carry On’ movie fan-site. They gently probed me about my love of British sex comedies, the making of my debut film Respectable, as well as getting me to reveal which is my favourite Carry On of all. You can read my interview on their website.

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Respect for ‘Respectable’

Respectable – The Mary Millington Story was released in London’s West End on 7 April 2015, 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.

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.

Thanks for all your support.

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