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The Playbirds

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Playbirds, London, 1978
(price: 1.00; 162 pages)

The blurb on the back:

The story of the models who entertain millions of men monthly.
Explicitly shocking and sensual, a thrilling suspense story based in the offices of
Playbirds magazine and based on those frankly erotic models who appear in their centrespreads!
A religious maniac attempts to clean up Britain single-handedly by murdering the centrefolds in
Playbirds each month. A bizarre plot of sexual depravity unfolds and climaxes in a most unusual way. The first sex story that is a superb thriller in its own right!

opening lines:
The flickering candle cast its unearthly glow over the body of the naked girl stretched out on the rough stone alter.

Before he decided to seek respectability via football and tabloid newspapers (well, maybe not respectability as such...), David Sullivan was a straightforward pornographer who had ambitions to move into movies. Not just brown paper wrapper jobs, you understand, but full-scale cinematic presentations that would take porn somewhere near the legitimate world of entertainment. In 1977 he funded Come Play With Me and scored a huge hit, making it the British equivalent of Deep Throat, a porn movie that impinged on the mainstream.

Key to the success of that film were two factors. Firstly, Sullivan pioneered the technique later adopted by Rupert Murdoch whereby he relentlessly and shamelessly cross-plugged his products, so that an edition of, say, Whitehouse was rammed full of adverts for the film. Secondly, he mixed his porn stars in with stalwarts of British comedy, including Irene Handl, Bob Todd and Alfie Bass, so that he could pretend the thing was a sex farce, rather than overt pornography - the idea was that it stood in relation to the Confessions movies as they stood to the Carry On films.

Despite all the comedy stuff (which, of course, was appallingly unfunny), the real star of Come Play With Me was Mary Millington, who went into the film as yet another porn model, and emerged as the best known name in the industry. To cash in on her suddenly enhanced profile, 1978 saw the release of her second major movie, The Playbirds.

The same approach was maintained of cross-advertising (there are even several full-page ads in the novel for the film) and of including familiar faces from the third rank of British light entertainment: Windsor Davis, Kenny Lynch, Glynn Edwards. What changed was the shift from comedy to thriller. Essentially a re-make of the 1959 film The Cover Girl Murders (starring a young Harry H Corbett), the mix of sex and murder was actually a bit distasteful and the film didn't replicate the success of the cheesy, corny cheerfulness of Come Play With Me.

It did, however, get itself a novelization, written by David Weldon, formerly Ms Millington's parole officer before his c.v. took a bizarre left-turn, from the script by Robin O'Connor and Bud Tomin. There are several pages of photos (all of them much better than the cover), but - and you're going to find this hard to believe - the book really isn't very good. It's not even vaguely tolerable as a thriller, and it isn't any better as pornography. And, whilst one can see the attraction of the life, one can't help thinking that Mr Weldon might have done better to have resisted the temptation and pursued his career in the probation service, building up his pension entitlement - he certainly had little enough aptitude for writing.

The year after the film was released, Mary Millington's position as the greatest legend of British porn was sadly secured when she committed suicide.


Like this? Try this...

Tell-Tale Tits
visit a fine site dedicated to Ms Mary Millington