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.