"Absorbing, fascinating and ultimately touching tribute to a unique British star"
Okay, I’m going to confess something up front here: I have never seen a Mary Millington film. Well, not unless you count ESKIMO NELL which I reviewed on here a while ago. I haven’t seen THE PLAYBIRDS (1978), CONFESSIONS FROM THE DAVID GALAXY AFFAIR (1979), or even what is probably her most famous film, Harrison Marks’ knockabout nudie comedy romp COME PLAY WITH ME (1977). That last film holds the record for the longest continuous cinema run of a British movie, by the way, which says far more about the British cinema going public in 1977-1981 than it does about the quality of the film.
But even though I’ve never seen Mary in her full glory, as it were, I know who she is. If you grew up in the 1970s as I did she was impossible to ignore, even if you were way under the age to be able to buy magazines like Whitehouse and Knave. For a star of both hardcore (initially at least) and softcore pornography to become such a household name was something we shall probably never see the likes of again. But Mary Millington was a unique individual, and Simon Sheridan’s excellent new documentary detailing the ups and downs and ins and outs (sorry couldn’t resist - Harrison Marks would have been proud - ooer - actually I’ll stop now) of Mary’s career is as much a fine tribute as it is a valuable document of a fascinating period in British cultural history.
All the usual details we might expect from such a documentary biopic are present and correct - Mary’s birth and childhood in Dorking, her early marriage, her lively outgoing and exhibitionistic character, her need to obtain money to support her ailing mother, necessitating her (entirely voluntary) move into the world of modelling for ‘mucky books’ as one interviewee puts it. And then her rise to fame and fortune under the auspices of porn impresario David Sullivan, culminating in her appearances in the movies listed above, followed by a brief and tragic spiral into cocaine abuse and her death at the ridiculously young age of 33.
Where Mr Sheridan scores huge points is in the number of interviewees he has managed to assemble for this journey through Mary’s life. Family members, celebrities (Dudley Sutton is always hilariously good value), other glamour models (Linzi Drew and Pat Ashley among them), producers and directors (including Stanley Long and Arnold Louis Miller) and David Sullivan himself. The interviews have obviously been conducted with sensitivity and they are linked by a narration from Dexter Fletcher, whose tone and delivery are perfect for the subject matter. There are also clips from some of Mary’s films, including the earlier more explicit stuff that I can’t imagine anyone is going to find sexy these days.
Extras include a feature-length commentary track with Simon Sheridan and the BFI’s Sam Dunn, ten more minutes of Dave Sullivan, interviews with Sue Longhurst and Ed Tudor-Pole, the short silent film PARTY PIECES, and a couple of trailers.
RESPECTABLE - THE MARY MILLINGTON STORY is how you do a documentary. As I said above, I have never seen a Mary Millington picture, and I can’t say I want to now, but Simon Sheridan’s absorbing film provides us with a fascinating look at an interesting time for British exploitation. Most of all, it’s probably the best tribute its star or anyone who knew and loved her could wish for. And yes, as so many people are keen to point out, she really did seem like genuinely nice girl. Highly recommended and a contender for documentary of the year.
Simon Sheridan's RESPECTABLE - THE MARY MILLINGTON STORY is out on DVD from Simply Media on 2nd May 2016