Come Play with Me (1977) Poster

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Come do an old vaudeville routine with me
jaibo4 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It is hard to defend this film against the criticisms aimed at it by other reviewers and most film critics. It is incoherent, it is poorly scripted (to say the least) and it is, emphatically, a repulsive spectacle. But it also has the virtue of being an extremely odd movie, a relic of a past age which not only offers some valuable social history but which also preserves on celluloid a long-dead era of British vaudeville and girlie shows. Far from being what it was promoted as at the time - a cutting edge 70s sex romp - Come Play with Me hearkens back to the age of the Windmill Theatre with its comics and nudes, the nudist films of the 1950s and 60s and the tawdry dance clubs and strip shows of old Soho. This is the film which John Osborne's character Archie Rice (in The Entertainer) would have made for the "inert, shoddy lot" in his audience.

The film mixes two impulses, as did the shows at the Windmill: there's comics doing second rate turns and sketches, and there's pretty girls with their clothes off. That the comics are well past their sell-by date only ads to the sense of an era dying which emanates from every foot of the film. Alfie Bass, once a popular pantomime, comedy and TV actor, plays one of the two lead characters, a forger called Kelly. Bass is made up to look like a grotesque cross between Charlie Chaplin and Oliver Hardy, and when not engaged in the laborious details of the plot (forgers on the run from gangsters and hiding out in a health club come knocking shop), he is let loose to go into some old time Jewish shtick and patter straight out of a music hall routine. Bass, a talented comic with a slightly repellent line in ingratiating self-pity, is teamed with the the film's director, former glamour photographer George Harrison Marks, as a classic but extremely clichéd double act, stumbling around in black suits and hats as the nudes cluster around them. At times, the film looks as if Beckett's Vladimir and Estragon has stopped waiting for Godot and gone off for a bit of saucy fun.

Irene Handl gets top billing, and her performance gives us the chance to once again study her extraordinary performance style: the high-falutin false airs at first make her delivery seem amateur, but one soon realises that she is not only taking the mickey out of people who put on airs and graces in reality, but also suggests subversively that all social dialogue is a put-on job, and that her characterisation is a typical example of a human social performance. Marks the director does at least give her and the rest of his down-at-heel comics the chance to give us their turns, unlike the Adventures films of Stanley Long, which hire good comics and then give them nothing whatsoever to do. Here, the grotesque likes of Talfryn Thomas, Queenie Watts, Rita Webb (brilliant as a gypsy fortune teller), Tommy Godfrey and Cardew Robinson (resplendent in bright red track suit and full highland regalia) are given some golden screen moments, and after this film the British entertainment scene never saw their like again: true clowns, with all of the horror and sadness the word "clown" invokes, and blessed with grotesque faces which would have thrilled the Dutch painter peasant Bruegel. That these bodies and faces are so clearly heading towards the grave only adds to the splendidly repellent quality of the film: it's a kind of striptease of death, with pretty young flesh surrounded by living Memento Mori.

Anecdotal evidence has it that Marks was inebriated on the set, and the film certainly seems like the ramblings of a drunkard. The plot veers from one wildly unbelievable scenario to another, flitting between the antics at the health farm, where a gaggle of pretty nurses seem inexplicably willing to have sex with some of the most decaying, ugly or obese old men ever to have existed, and the misadventures of an MI5 agent on the trail of the forgers - a monumentally inept comic turn by the wobbly and camp comic actor Ken Parry. The scenes with him in drag on Brighton pier give the scenes where Divine is parading through the streets in the early John Waters films a run for their money in terms of eye-popping drag weirdness. Parry corpses and struggles to remember his lines for much of the time; in other scenes, Henry McGee looks straight into the camera, and that wonderful British character actor Ronald Fraser is palpably half-cut.

Mary Millington, the supposed "star" of the film whose name was emblazoned all over the posters and publicity material, has a small supporting role as one of the nurses. She has a brief lesbian sex romp, and also does a comedy sex scene whereby she massages a muscular lump and them gives him some painful colonic irrigation. The sex elements of these scenes do look like shots from a hardcore stag movie, and you glimpse what Millington could have done if she'd have gone to America and hooked up with someone like Gerard Damiano or Radley Metzger - the woman was a superbly lubricious performer with some charisma. Fellow model Suzy Mandel is even more delightful, a real cheeky charmer, in her brief scene addressing her nurse-troops.

It would be wrong to pretend that Come Play with Me is anything like a good film; it's not even a film, really - more a forgery of one, to coin in cash and document the last gasps of a vaudevillian tradition. I couldn't help quite enjoying the film, and think that it does have a dollop of genuine madness and weirdness in it which is missing from so many of the other British sex comedies of its era.
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I wanted Mary!
Years ago, I saw SEX & FAME: THE MARY MILLINGTON STORY and learned about this tragically doomed (and victimized!) British pseudo Marilyn Monroe, and while researching this on the Internet decades later, I opted to purchase COME PLAY WITH ME. Only to learn ominously from the helpful included booklet that Mary scantly (!) appears in the movie. And what a mess this movie is! I concur with Mr Riley's 2001 review word for word. Why they had to have caricatures as main characters, is, well, not actually beyond me. It's how the infantile repressed mind works when finally given an opportunity to express itself.

False advertising to the highest degree. Does an injustice to sex comedies. Avoid all these trashy films from that era like the plague.

By way of constructive criticism, the movie needed a much younger male cast, somewhat dashing, in the lead parts. As it is, all they had going in the right direction, were the girls themselves. A total script rewrite, a total plot rethink. In short, a colonic irrigation for the feeble minds behind this atrocity. Starting with George Harrison Marks. Who is deceased, so I shall attempt to retain a modicum of class by not speaking ill of the dead. But really, a much better movie could have been made just from their starting point of a dozen or so stocking-clad dolly birds. Anything less risible would have been a marvelous improvement. And doubtlessly no-one would refute that previous sentence.

On the plus side is that night-club performer in the semi-contorted pose early on in the movie when that fat little guy goes to Burlesque. The one with the black lingerie Valentine designs to cover her, uhm, modesty. Wow. That ribcage, and those 1977 natural breasts. Nowadays we don't see sculpted waists like that (AnnaLynne McCord of 90210 excluded of course) and breasts are all too often surgically enhanced. Another nice one in this flick is that girl in the gymnasium who walks away across the screen on tip-toe. Another wow.

However, nothing can move me from giving this one the lowest score possible, and you know what? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, it didn't even deserve a 1, but dear ol' IMDb is too kind- hearted a soul to have included 0/zero/zilch/big fat nothing as an option.
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A typical British sex comedy - no laughs and hardly any sex!
Big S-29 September 2001
This movie - which amazingly was a box office smash in the UK in the late 70s and early 80s (it ran non-stop between 1977 and 1981 in London's West End) - embodies everything that was bad about British so-called `sex films' of the era - namely a lame and tedious plot, a second-rate cast of comedy has-beens and never-were's, poor acting and very little actual sex and nudity. A version of the film containing very steamy and explicit sex scenes was actually shot, but in the puritanical climate of late-70s Britain with its notoriously restrictive anti-porn legislation sometimes known as the `Limp Dick Laws' (and sadly things haven't really changed much in the intervening 20-odd years), this was deemed unacceptable for screening to UK cinema audiences and never saw the light of day (no sex please – we're British!!). Instead, the only version of this movie that has ever been released is this sorry excuse for a film, which concentrates more on the pathetic, supposedly `funny' antics of a group of elderly crooks and the septugenarian matron at a health spa, being brightened up only occasionally by stocking-clad beauties portraying nurses. These girls are the film's only redeeming feature and indeed they should have been what the movie was all about. Instead, the few (I think there are about 4) short `sex' scenes have been so brutally edited that they come to a sudden, grinding halt just as things are getting warmed up, and we're back to the silly goings-on involving the `comedy' characters. And silly they truly are. It's almost painful to watch sometimes, encapsulting stupid, slapstick `mucky postcard'-style antics in the very worst traditions of the equally lamentable `Confessions' and `Carry On' movie series of the same era. The publicity blurb surrounding the movie at the time of its release claimed that it was `entertainingly funny and blushingly saucy', `fantastically erotic', `the sexiest sex comedy screened' and `of a highly explicit nature'. The makers should have been hauled before the courts on charges of multiple violations of the Trade Descriptions Act, because it is nothing of the sort. According to a recently published book about one of the film's more glamorous stars, the late and sadly missed Mary Millington, only one print of the uncut and unseen version is known to still exist, which is a pity. It's perhaps being a little optimistic to hope that this will one day appear on DVD as a more fitting testimony to the Mary Millington legacy.
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Not the worst film ever made, but close.
paulwinnett2 February 2007
As a child of the seventies I grew up with the Myth that this movie was a great porn classic. I first managed to see "Behing the Green door" first and was both as excited and impressed as a young teen could be. I then soon saw this steaming pile of dog excrement and I think it almost put me off sex for a decade. There is nothing that isn't terrible about this movie, (except for Mary Millington who was lovely to look at but was to acting what Dom Deluise is to gymnastics.) I once met the Great Alfie Bass and after enquiring about "The Fearless Vampire Killer" and working with The Goodies I bravely mentioned this. He shook his head in shame and told stories of George Harrison Marks being so drunk he directed most of the movie asleep or vomiting.It shows. The songs are so awful I think I would chose a slow death than ever hear them again. A movie to avoid at all costs.
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An invitation best avoided
tommyrosscomix25 March 2017
A diminutive, baby-faced pornographer by the name of David Sullivan had become one of Britain's youngest millionaires by the mid-seventies as the publisher of a handful of top-shelf magazines which were as strong as the censorious values of the day would allow (one of which was called Whitehouse, simply to annoy the self-appointed media watchdog Mary Whitehouse, which should give you some idea of where Sullivan was shooting from) and the owner of a nationwide chain of sex shops. One of his star discoveries was Mary Millington, a bisexual blonde butcher's wife from Dorking whose enthusiastic performances in underground hardcore porn loops made her the closest thing Britain had to its very own Linda Lovelace, who had become an unlikely global star after the success of the notorious Deep Throat. Understandably, Sullivan was casting around for fresh arenas to conquer, and cinema seemed the next logical step - after all, even though they were uniformly dire, the Confessions... and Adventures... series of modest low-budget sex comedies had all turned a healthy profit. With the right vehicle for his protégé, Sullivan could make a fortune.

Enter George Harrison Marks, a nude photographer and purveyor of 8mm pornographic reels with a beatnik beard, a lively imagination and a taste for booze that would eventually cost him his life. Marks was no stranger to the cinema, either, having scored an unlikely hit with 1970's Nine Ages of Nakedness, and had written Come Play With Me as a prospective sequel - but his fondness for the bottle, an obscenity trial and bankruptcy meant it had to be abandoned. Meantime, Marks found steady work providing photo sets for Sullivan's magazines, and he took the opportunity to pitch his screenplay to his new employer. Never one to let the grass grow under his feet, Sullivan rushed the film into production and cooked up a series of extravagantly dishonest advertising campaigns which hoodwinked the public into thinking Come Play With Me would make Deep Throat look like kids' stuff.

As it turned out, however, Come Play With Me was a simple musical comedy with its roots in music hall, end-of-the-pier farce, seedy strip club revue and naughty seaside postcards, an over-extended Benny Hill sketch bereft of Hill's trademark inventive wordplay, visual flourishes and any last remnant of comic timing. With a few judicious trims here and there, there's no reason why it shouldn't be shown on BBC1 on a Sunday afternoon - unless, of course, being absolutely terrible counts as a reason. Don't allow the number of familiar faces and old favourites in the cast to lead you to think you'll be able to salvage anything worthwhile from this paltry shambles - as director and co- star, Marks repeatedly failed to get the best out of his motley crew of old troupers (witness former Dad's Army and Survivors star Talfryn Thomas visibly laughing in the middle of a take, for example) and Irene Handl was left to idly improvise most of her lines. Dear old Alfie Bass later told horror stories about Marks being drunk most of the time, and fans of Mary Millington were left disappointed by her skimpy amount of screen time, most of which finds her indulging in a hammy approximation of intercourse with a middle-aged client and a brief lesbian tryst with Penny Chisholm. (Millington's army of admirers would be much better served by Sullivan's next film, 1978's the Playbirds.) Still, Come Play With Me - surely one of the most unsavoury contributions to Royal Jubilee year - was an enormous hit, running constantly in one West End cinema for a whopping four years and spawning a stage revue which featured Bob Grant from TV's On the Buses as well as several unofficial sequels. Seen today, one wonders what all the fuss was about, of course, but then we'll probably be saying the same thing about Mrs Brown's Boys forty years from now.
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Socks on
Ali_John_Catterall19 November 2009
It seems like an aeon ago that the likes of Mary Millington and Fiona Richmond were able to cause such uproar with their brand of dingy, don't-scare-the-donkeys soft-porn. Pre-MTV, this was sex the English way: socks on, lights out and trying not to burn holes in the nylon sheets during a giggly post-coital fag.

It all makes you feel tremendously sorry for Britain's dirty mac brigade, shuffling into their sticky-backed cinema seats in Soho in the early 1970s to watch the likes of Millington's Come Play With Me - a god-awful sex-comedy less funny than the average Carry On (who'd set a bawdy precedent) and about as saucy as a bag of ready salted crisps.

John Landis homages such stuff very well for An American Werewolf In London's film-within-a-film 'See You Next Wednesday', in which a pendulous-bosomed fishwife interrupts a spot of rufty to answer the phone.
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Little more than a curiosity
lazarillo20 September 2008
British sex comedies are kind of like "Lake Woebegone" in-reverse--they're all below average. And then some of them are downright awful. This was one of the most famous films of the genre since it featured sex star legend Mary Millington. But she has about as big of role here as she did with her brief cameo in "The Great Rock and Roll Swindle", and that movie is a lot more fun to sit through than this one.

There's no shortage of naked dollybirds, of course--like "The Playbirds" this was produced by British porn magnate David Sullivan and features a lot of the same "actresses" pulled from the pages of his nudie magazines (Millington, Suzie Mandel, etc.). Unfortunately though, it also has a plot: two counterfeiters (Alfie Bass and George Harrison Marks, who also directed)go on the lam from the law and hide out at a Scottish health spa run by a septuagenarian (Irene Handl). Then a bunch of strippers also start working at the spa for some reason (OK, so it's not much of a plot). What we have here is the same old problem--the Brits can't seem to make a straight-out sex film, so they have to try to "class" it up by throwing in a bunch second-rate, over-the-hill comedians. Bass, Marks, and Handl have an unfortunate amount of screen time and they're all painfully unfunny.

Like all sex films this movie is horribly cheap, and the incompetent film-making makes it seem even cheaper. I have no idea why it was so popular in Britain. At the time, I guess, they were such a sex starved country (due to stringent censorship laws) that their movie audiences would apparently just watch anything. This was a popular film in a certain time and place, but now it's little more than a curiosity
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Dishiblle bodies in sex farce romp
Here's another of these bawdy, saucy, naughty, eye candy flicks, that the English do so well. Set on a sex health farm, with hotties and open nudity, a plus, we have two money forgers hiding out. They're quiet and demure amongst the much other younger guests, and with good reason, but really these two aren't the sociable type. With an intrusion of half clad hotties waking them up, they hardly even react. This verging cult hit has some great songs, one music choreographed number, done by some of the actors I couldn't get, out of my head. As in other sex farces too, some recognizable faces, you wouldn't expect to see in this, pop up. This movie too, gives a whole new meaning to irrigation, I don't want to go into. Come Play With Me is actually a saucy little entertainer with way enough nudity, to get your hormones rising, humor, and some likable forgers. A very naughty, raunchy comedy, London Style.
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So bad it's good!
manchester_england200422 August 2017
This is one of those films that I describe as "so bad it's good". This is an often-used term by people to describe films that are usually ineptly produced and fail at delivering what they intend yet end up being incredibly funny, albeit for all the wrong reasons. I remember reading in a review for another film elsewhere on IMDb that this term can never be applied to a comedy, since a bad comedy is, according to that review, one that isn't funny. In theory I should agree with that since it makes sense. But then I watch COME PLAY WITH ME once more and realise that I don't.

For reasons totally unknown to me and to everyone else who has reviewed this film, it was a massive box office hit in the UK, breaking records to become the longest running film to ever grace a UK cinema screen. It ran in cinemas for an incredible four years.

The plot is as follows - two forgers go on the run from a bunch of crooks and hide out in a health farm. From there the plot expands to include a government official on their trail, along with the crooks, a health farm where there are virtually no staff, and a bunch of young women turning up on a coach to run said health farm.

Lots of familiar faces from the period show up in this film, including Alfie Bass, Ronald Fraser, Henry McGee, Bob Todd, Ken Parry and many others. For none of these people is COME PLAY WITH ME their finest hour. But they are all fun to watch and the film is kept moving along nicely. The lovely Sue Longhurst, a veteran of the 1970s sex comedies, is present too and that was a wise decision on the part of the producers. She's always great to watch.

George Harrison Marks is unintentionally funny playing one of the forgers. It's well-documented that he was drunk during the making of the film and it's evident in most of his scenes. But it is funny to see him dressed up in a Victorian-era outfit (complete with horrible wig and false teeth), looking like he stepped right out of a 1930s music hall production, and into the 1970s. There's one scene where he's lifting a trunk out of the back of a car. I don't know why but I laugh every time I see it, even though there are no intentional "sight gags" involved.

The editing is very sloppy in places, with Henry McGee looking at the camera at the end of one scene for example. This provides some of the amusement to be found in the film. The dialogue comes across as being improvised on the spot at times, the absolutely awful song called Pretty Girl plays out over quite a few scenes and Ken Parry's character is just written out halfway through the film as though his part in the plot was left unfinished. I think you're getting the idea now what I was getting at when I suggested the film was inept.

There are a few sex scenes but they are all very softcore (made more so by censorship edits). People watching the film in this day and age won't be surprised to find that the marketing of the film as some kind of hardcore pornography effort was just a con trick on the part of the producer. The sex scenes aren't particularly erotic or funny and serve only to slow the film down a bit while adding the obligatory "T&A" to ensure this qualifies as a sex film rather than a straight comedy like the CARRY ON films for example.

COME PLAY WITH ME is funny mainly for all the wrong reasons but it does provide a lot of entertainment and seems to get funnier with each viewing. There isn't more one could really ask for when watching a very low-budget film from the 1970s.
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Awfully Bad
filmbuff197024 May 2002
this makes the worst Carry ON movie look like Classic Billy Wilder.George Harrison Marks is the most awful actor ive seen though his performance does make you laugh at him.the script is rotten and the song is one of the worst in movie history.1 out of 10
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