10,000 Bullets   Exploring the world of Cinema from the Arthouse to the Grindhouse™

Playbirds, The 
Written by: on August 6th, 2010

Theatrical Release Date:
UK, July 6th, 1978
Director: Willy Roe
Writer: Willy Roe, Bud Tobin and Robin O’Connor
Cast: Mary Millington, Glynn Edwards, Gavin Campbell, Alan Lake, Windsor Davies, Derren Nesbitt, Kenny Lynch.

DVD released:
August 9th, 2010
Approximate running time: 90 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: N/A
DVD Release: Odeon Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £14.99

Millionaire publisher and playboy Harry Dougan (Alan Lake) is the man behind Playgirl magazine. Buying racehorses, driving fast cars, guzzling champagne and giving his own special casting couch sessions to a variety of 70’s chicks that want to make the cover of his magazine he’s living the life. That is until his centerfold models start turning up strangled to death and Dougan finds he doesn’t have quite as many eager women to exploit anymore. Never fear however as Chief Superintendent Holbourne (Glynn Edwards) and Inspector Harry Morgan (Gavin Campbell) are on the case and they have a cunning plan to send an undercover policewoman into the seedy world of Sohos massage parlors, from whence Dougan recruits his Playgirl cover girls, as bait for the killer; enter slutty-as-hell and thick-as-two-short-planks WPC Lucy Sheridan (Mary Millington). But is the killer smarter than the the police? Will he strike again? And will WPC Sheridan give her clients a happy ending?

In the late 70’s millionaire glamor magazine publisher David Sullivan had created the UK’s most surprisingly bankable movie star in ex-pornstar Mary Millington. After her starring role in 1977’s ridiculously successful, box-office record breaking sex comedy Come Play With Me, Sullivan attempted to repeat that success with this 1978 venture. This time he would use his own magazine, Playbirds, to hype the feature to full effect and even name the film itself after his popular skin-mag. Blurring the lines between fiction and reality even more the story would feature actual models from Playbirds being slaughtered by a psycho killer. Alan Lake is pretty much playing David Sullivan here; a medallion wearing, womanizing, magazine publisher with an interest in horse-racing. Competently directed by Willy Roe, who had been an associate producer on the troubled shoot for Come Play With Me. The script is credited to Bud Tobin and Robin O’Connor but these were pseudonyms for a trio of writers made up of Willy Roe and a couple of others that wished to remain anonymous (the duo were apparently high profile names in the music industry and reportedly, to this day, one remains the manager of, arguably, the biggest rock band in the world).

The acting is surprisingly good given the nature of the production with UK TV character actor Glynn Edwards lending the sophomoric story a bit of much needed authenticity alongside That’s Life’s Gavin Campbell and even one-man British comedy institution Windsor Davies popping up as the Police Commissioner. Millington as always couldn’t act her way out of a wet paper bag and there is a bucket load of awkwardness as she tries to act alongside Edwards and Davies but there is some comedy inherent in seeing the 4’11” tall pornstar dressed up as a supposedly tough-as-nails WPC. Apparently the real police didn’t see the funny side. Oddly enough the movie itself isn’t nearly as awful as it really should be given it’s a comedy-sex-thriller-horror-film somehow it manages to stay just this side of tedious, with Alan Lake’s apparently inconsequential antics dragging the pace down here and there. It’s essentially a cross between 70’s sex-comedies and The Sweeney – or Confessions Of Juliet Bravo if you like. Making for a few somewhat uneasy laughs, for example as the killer breaks into a model’s bedroom she awakens, sees the man coming for her and jauntily states; “Oh goody I’m going to be raped! I’ve never been raped before!”. She is in fact promptly strangled to death which just goes to show; you can’t always get what you wish for. The Playbirds did indeed prove to be another box office smash for Sullivan; it opened at London’s Eros cinema on 6th July 1978 where it played for 34 weeks solid before transferring elsewhere for a further 10 weeks.

The DVD:

‘Digitally Remastered’ 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen picture looks excellent given it’s age. Very good detail, colors are strong and vivid, excellent contrast levels. The ‘Restored Original’ mono audio track is clean and clear. An excellent presentation overall and the best you’re ever likely to see this film look.

Extras include –

Mary Millington’s World Striptease Extravaganza – After Millington’s death and the success of 1980’s ‘tribute’ movie Mary Millington’s True Blue Confessions this grim little 45 minute cash-in was released in 1981. It’s a few re-edited clips of Millington gyrating from 1979’s Queen Of The Blues (available as an extra on Confessions From The David Galaxy Affair also available from Odeon DVD) before a parade of 17 strippers line up to dance two at a time in the hopes of bagging a non-existent £1000 prize. The performers include Julie Lee and Angie Quick (stars of 1981’s Emmanuelle In Soho also available from Odeon DVD) and, ironically, Millington’s real-life lesbian lover Brighton-born Kathy Green. Presented full screen in a dodgy VHS transfer.

Response – A 1974 silent 8mm short featuring Millington under her married name Mary Maxted getting it on with some other woman in an office setting. These hardcore and softcore 9 minute shorts were sold via mail order and at sex shops throughout the 70’s retailing at £23 for the silent version and £33 for the sound version; you learn something new new every day don’t ya! Presented full screen, in a poor quality fuzzy transfer.

A stills gallery and trailers for Cool It Carol, Intimate Games, Spaced Out and Secrets Of Sex.

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