The Summer of ’76 Revisited

As Britain swelters in an extended 2018 heatwave, many people’s minds drift back to the summer of 1976, when parts of the country experienced 45 days without rainfall and the UK basked in record-breaking temperatures. Britain’s hottest ever day was recorded in Cheltenham, in Gloucestershire, on 3 July 1976, when the thermometer nearly burst at an incredible 35.9 °C (or 96.6° Fahrenheit).

Filming July 2018
It seems appropriate then, that I returned to Cheltenham this month to film some additional footage for my forthcoming new movie. And it’s absolutely no coincidence these scenes are set in the drought of July 1976. We spent a few days filming ice cold Fab lollies, orange space-hoppers, garish tank-tops and some amazing Afro hair. More details on the film later this year…

Photograph © Simon Sheridan 2018

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This is… The End (Titles)

I’m currently extremely busy in the studio editing my new movie, and filming some funky new scenes for the end title sequence. More news in 2019, but in the meantime, it’s going to look something like this…

Simon Sheridan new film

Photo strictly © Simon Sheridan 2018

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‘Respectable’ screening for Open Doors Heritage Day

Every September, as part of the Heritage Open Days scheme, hundreds of great buildings across the UK open their doors to visitors. In London alone over 250,000 people take the opportunity to get under the skin of the capital’s amazing architecture, and visit buildings which are usually not accessible to the general public.

As part of this amazing celebration of architecture and history, The Barge House bar and restaurant in Haggerston, London N1, will be playing host to some of the kinkiest attractions in the country!

Over the weekend of the 16 and 17 September 2017 the building will be taking inspiration from its previous incarnation as the original 1970s’ print-works of David Sullivan’s adult magazines, many of which featured Mary Millington within their pages.

Open Doors Mary Millington

Taking its cue from the building’s colourful past, The Barge House hosts a weekend that will explore the history and culture of British erotica and provide a provocative programme of exhibitions, discussions and performances.

The bar, mezzanine and event lounge will be transformed into gallery and performance spaces that will host stimulating talks, screenings, installations and workshops based around sex in print, celluloid and online, plus the factors that influence porn culture.

It seems wholly appropriate then that my documentary Respectable – The Mary Millington Story will be screening in the venue at 4.30pm on Saturday 16 September, followed by a Q&A.

The full programme of events, and information on how to book tickets, can be found on the Barge House website.

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My new movie… coming 2019

I’m very proud to officially announce that for the past few months I’ve been busy directing my new movie. A follow-up to Respectable, which was released last year, my latest film is again firmly rooted in my favourite decade, the colourful, glitter-splattered 1970s.

Although there are some undeniable crossovers with the last documentary – fame, struggle and terrible tragedy – this is a quite a different tale. It’s a story about… Everything.

My wonderful crew and I have been filming in London, Brighton, Liverpool, Gloucester and Bristol, and along the way we’ve met some incredible interviewees, who tell a story nobody has ever heard before. We start post-production this autumn, and the film will be released at October 2019. In the meantime, here’s a shot of us shooting alongside the River Thames on London’s Southbank.

Simon Sheridan new film

Photograph strictly © Simon Sheridan 2017

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Suzy, Come Home!

On Friday evening I was extremely honoured to take a 1970s’ film legend out to dinner in Kensington. Suzy Mandel – the star of numerous classic sexploitation movies including Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976), Come Play with Me (1977), The Playbirds (1978) and Stanley Long’s Adventures of a Plumber’s Mate (1978) – was making a very rare trip to England.

Suzy Mandel Simon Sherida

Although raised in Kent and Essex, Suzy has lived in the USA for nearly 40 years and she last visited her homeland in 1999. She started her career as a fashion model before moving into television and film, encouraged by her grandmother. Her first ‘saucy’ film role was in 1976’s Intimate Games, and Suzy’s appearance so impressed comedian Benny Hill that he approached her to appear in his top-rated Thames Television sketch show in January 1977. Suzy subsequently became one of the most sought-after glamour actresses in Britain, and was twice paired up with Mary Millington on screen in David Sullivan-produced movies. She would’ve made it a hat-trick as David offered her a role in Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair (1979), but Suzy had to decline when she moved abroad.

Suzy is warm, very funny and full of great stories and myself, my producer Claire and Suzy’s good friend Dee have all been trying to persuade her to return home to England on a more permanent basis!

Thanks, Suzy, for a wonderful night out. We hope to see you again soon.

All words and photograph strictly © Simon Sheridan 2017

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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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