Playbirds (1978)

Playbirds (1978)

Film: Mary Millington is best known for being the UK’s best know striptease artist, and, along with Fiona Richmond, was labelled ‘the two hottest sex stars of the seventies. Millington started her career as a glamour model and eventually graduated to sex films and reels. In her life she was contacted pursued by the police, which eventually resulted in her committing suicide at age 33.

(The is a review of Respectable: The Mary Millington Story elsewhere on this very site)

This film, Playbirds, tell of a serial killer who is targeting girls from the men’s magazine Playbirds. The police, Holbourne (Glynn Edwards from Get Carter) and Morgan (Gavin Campbell from On The Buses) investigate the murders, interviewing the magazines owner, Dougan (Alan Lake from Blake’s Seven) before deciding they need a ‘man’ on the inside… you know, putting a female officer in danger by posing as a stripper/ glamour model… standard police procedure.

Speaking of ‘standard police procedure’, the way they decided which WPC should be used in the undercover work is to get a bunch of them to volunteer to strip and show their bodies, the ‘winner’ being an officer named Lucy (Millington), new so she goes undercover to infiltrate the business and try to find the killer… but will she a victim herself?

It’s such a weird film as it really does appear to attempt to be telling some kind of giallo-ish thriller! It’s written by George Evans, who worked on Carry On films and several 70s tv series like Bless This House and the Dick Emery Show, and Willy Roe, also the director, who wrote mainly soft core porn films, including Millington’s Come Play With Me. The combination of TV comedy writer and a porno writer don’t make for a gripping story.

It being 70s soft core though, I expect the story isn’t was the viewer was supposed to be ‘gripping’ – nudge nudge wink wink.

The weird thing about this film is the attempts to be a ‘legitimate’ film, with actors like the aforementioned Edwards, Campbell and Lake, also joined by such well known actors as Dudley Sutton, Alex Mango and Windsor Davies!

It’s little more than a quaint and kitschy curio, but it’s an interesting look at the attempts to legitimise soft core porn as ‘proper’ entertainment. I warn you though, it’s not in the slightest but PC, so it’s not for the easily offended… but I guess the easily offended wouldn’t be watching this sort of thing anyway!

Score: **

Extras: Honestly, I was surprised by how many extra they are on this disc:

Mary Millington’s Striptease Extravaganza is a 45 minute featurette from 1981 celebrating Millington’s life via a striptease competition. It reminds me of Varietease and other strip reels. It’s a quaint, and occasionally awkward when you think these women would all be grans now, look at stripping.

Response (1974) is an 8mm ‘short’ of the type that were sold in sex shops in the 70s. Soundless (because it’s a reel) soft-porn shenanigans.

Still gallery featuring the artwork and media marketing for the film.

Lastly, 4 trailers for other ‘adult’ films: Cool It Carol, Intimate Games, Spaced Out and Secrets of Sex.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I don’t think I would watch it again, except to show someone else.

Emmanuelle (1974)

One from the to watch pile…

Emmanuelle (1974)

Film: There was once a time when soft core porn was cool. When a man and a woman could go out and enjoy a film with saxophone and oboe filled soundtracks, lithe sensual women, iron-jawed rugged men and more camera filters than you could shake a nubile titty at. Porn evolved fairly quickly as it became less something artistic that could be enjoyed by the general public and became a dirty societal secret, shunned by the mainstream because, you know, masturbation is dirty and only the scum of the earth do it.

Over the course of history the production value on porn films has been of varying degree, just like any other form of entertainment but this is a review about one film, not a reflection on an industry that even defines technological advances by what it uses to get its message across, like VHS and Bluray.

Emmanuelle was directed by soft-core legend Just Jaekin, who also directed The Story Of O and Gwendoline, a film I thoroughly enjoyed as it is a bizarre mix of a female Indiana Jones movie and a titty-flick. The film’s script was written by Jean-Louis Richard which was of course based upon the original novel by Emmanuelle Arsen, which was a series of erotic fantasies. This film launched an entire sub-genre of films which has Emmanuelle in the title, from the Black Emmanuelle flicks to the bizarre is-it-a-comedy-or-a-soft-core-porn-film Carry On Emmanuelle.

Emmanuelle (Sylvia Krystal) is the wife of a French ambassador, Jean (Daniel Sarky) assigned to Thailand. Emmanuelle and Mario have a very open relationship, as jealousy is out of fashion and apparently Emmanuelle is a spectacular lay and he doesn’t believe he should keep her gift all to himself.

So of course the story here shows Emmanuelle riding the beast with two backs across a foreign country, whilst her husband has his way with the various housemaids that litter their property, but is he honest with his lack of jealousy, or will the amount of people, male and female, who end up face down in her private parts start to piss him off? This is all without even taking into account her tryst with one of his work colleagues who just hands her around like a towel to all and sundry!

Be careful what you wish for, Jean!

There is no doubt Just Jaekin knows his way around a camera. The whole production is filmed softly, but not so softly that it takes away from the content. It does, however, spend most of the time looking like a Stevie Nicks music video but with boobs and gentle lovemaking.

I am well aware of the importance of this film but I was as bored as bored can be through the film… except for a sequence with a naked girl and a cigarette: here I was intrigued!! This is one of those films that I am glad I can tick off my list of films that should be seen. But it will definitely only ever get one tick.

Score: *

Format: The review of this film was done with the Umbrella region 4 DVD release which runs for approximately 94 minutes. It’s is presented in a decent 1.66:1 image with a 2.0 audio soundtrack.

Score: ***

Extras: None.

Score: 0


Countess Perverse (1974) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Countess Perverse aka La Comtesse Perverse(1974)

The Mondo Macabro cover of Countess Perverse

Film: I love films about humans hunting humans: Turkey Shoot, The Most Dangerous Game, The Hunger Games… you name it, I love it! Add to that the themes from cannibal films like Cannibal Holocaust, or Cannibal Ferox and I’m even more attentive. Throw in a handful of 70s nudity in a European environment and I am 100% sold.

Mention Jess Franco though, and I’ll temper all that excitement, just in case: I’ve been stung more than once before! 

Now I am no expert of Franco though I know that he loves his nudity and on occasion, the movies can be overlong due to a lavish amount of attention spent on scenery shots.

… and Countess Perverse is no exception.

Countess Perverse tells of a young woman, Silvia (Lena Romay) who escapes an island where Count Rabor Zaroff (Howard Vernon) and his wife Countess Ivana Zaroff (Alice Arno) has been sexually abusing her and feeding her strange raw meat. She washes up on another island’s beach where she receives assistance from Tom (Robert Woods) and Moira (Tania Busselier), but she finds their relationship to be an open one and very soon she has moved in as a guest/ in house concubine.

Countess Perverse: Lina Romay

What she doesn’t realise though is that Tom and Moira are pawns in the Count and Countess cruel games, and very soon Silvia is once again trapped on their island, but this time, she is issued a challenge’ survive a hunt where she is the prey, and she is free to go…

Will she survive? Does this film contain nudity from some stunning 70s actresses? Am I sexist to mention it?

This film had a troubled release, with additional porn scenes added in various countries, and the suggestion of cannibalism left a nasty taste in some people’s mouths, making it a difficult sell when it was presented at Cannes. This edition is labeled the ‘original director’s cut’ in which the hardcore additions have been excised, and considering those scenes were performed by different actors, it’s for the best. Thriller: A Grim Film suffers for its added porn scenes, in my opinion, and I imagine the same would have been here.

European and Franco film fans should take note of the appearance of Alice Arno and Lina Romay here, for me it’s always nice to see them appear in these films. Fans of 70s bush will be pleased to know that there is an abundance of it in this film, actually, more bush than an episode of Russell Coight… speaking of which, there’s a bit of coight too!

Countess Perverse: Alice Arno eats some meat

Essentially this is a sexy redo of The Most Dangerous Game, which also had problems when being sold due it’s themes. The soft core sex in this film isn’t particularly sexy, to the point there are a couple of lingering lesbian kissing scenes which looks like the actresses are really forcing themselves to perform. The last ten minutes of this film (the actual hunt) are interesting though. 

The are a few lingering low points in the film where Franco, as I mentioned above, does seem to spend a long time looking at the scenery of where this is filmed. It’s not the scenery is awful, is just could have done with a minute or three worth of editing to speed the proceeds of the film up. The houses used in the film are dizzyingly fantastic and must be seen to be believed!

Score: **1/2

Format: The edition of this film reviewed was the Mondo Macabro Region-free DVD with runs for about 79 minutes. It is presented in an OK 1.33:1 video with a similar stereo audio. Nothing special, but clear enough to see the beautiful European locations and their regularly nude denizens.

Score: **1/2

The Mondo Macabro menu screen of Countess Perverse

Extras: There is a few interesting extras on this disc, including a text ‘About the Film’ piece which tells of the film’s production and difficulty finding a distributor, some more text Cast and Crew Profiles, an interview with actor Robert Woods, and one with film historian Stephen Thrower.

There is also a Mondo Macabro release roll which shows a bunch of other releases from the label. For me, it’s become somewhat of a shopping list!

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I can honestly say I’ve never been so bored whilst watching beautiful naked women but when the action gets started towards the end, it gets interesting, unfortunately just quickly enough for the film to end with its ‘moral’ resolve. If I do watch this film again, I’ll probably just go to the final chapter!

The Count’s house in Countess Perverse