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  Playbirds, The Torn From The Pages
Year: 1978
Director: Willy Roe
Stars: Mary Millington, Glynn Edwards, Gavin Campbell, Alan Lake, Windsor Davies, Derren Nesbitt, Kenny Lynch, Suzy Mandel, Ballard Berkeley, Sandra Dorne, Alec Mango, Penny Spencer, Tony Kenyon, Dudley Sutton, John M. East, Pat Astley
Genre: Sex, Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: The publisher of Playbirds magazine, Harry Dougan (Alan Lake) is very pleased about the way his business is thriving, so much so that he is able to buy his own racehorse and call it Mr Playbird, reflecting his passion for gambling at the racetrack. However, there is something interrupting his bliss, and that is the fact that some maniac is targetting his nude models, as there has already been one found dead in her flat, strangled, with the number 2 written on her forehead in lipstick. The police, led by Inspectors Holbourne (Glynn Edwards) and Morgan (Gavin Campbell) can't see any sign of a sexual motive, so who can the killer be - and how many more times will he strike?

Although tragic star Mary Millington appeared in quite a few movies, all aimed at sex cinemas of the seventies, she didn't often get a chance to star in a lead role, as her simple presence in these things, mainly in a scene or two, was enough to guarantee that the producers would get their money's worth. In The Playbirds, though, she won something closer to a lead role, which may have awarded her more screen time, but also highlighted the fact that as an actress, she was a fine model. Giving the furniture a challenge to see who could be more wooden, Mary was not so impressive when speaking her lines, which makes it so odd that she didn't disrobe in this until the film was two-thirds over.

In a sad example of irony, Millington played a policewoman, and in light of how she blamed the cops for much of the misery she endured in her final years before her suicide, it's not too clear how she felt about essaying the role of one of London's finest. But let's not forget that the producer of this, British porn baron David Sullivan, had his own troubles with the law as well, so it is undoubtedly curious that he should bankroll a movie that took the police so seriously, except that perhaps he got his own back by showing them to be verging on the incompetent when it came to tracking down a murderer of glamour models. Holbourne, for example, takes every opportunity to place bets on the horses.

And this at the scenes of crimes! As his second in command, Morgan is supposed to be the more compassionate of the two, but that's not surprising with the man filling out that role being That's Life! stalwart Campbell, here doing his best sincere act as if in training for reading out aggrieved viewers' letters on the consumer affairs 'n' amusingly shaped vegetables hit television show. He even gets set up with Suzy Mandel, playing one of the potential victims, ostensibly to guard her but she takes a liking to him and they're all geared to go out for dinner when the murderer strikes, not that Morgan seems massively bothered, as nobody in this film does.

In fact, the idea that the typical sex film consumer wouldn't be in the least bit disturbed by having the objects of their affections (or lust, for that matter), pretend to be throttled, with those actresses playing the kind of glamour girls they were in real life, is more than a little offputting. Sure, they'd like to see them take their clothes off, but you can understand why the sex comedy was a more acceptable vehicle for this type of entertainment, as there's a downright callousness, as if all the females depicted in such a profession were essentially disposable, in The Playbirds. It's not all doom and gloom, as there are bits which are very strange, such as where Holbourne and Morgan audition policewomen to go undercover at Dougan's establishments by inviting them into their office to whip off their garments! One for the Police Complaints Commission, there. But aside from the unintended laughter - this one's meant to be serious - the final twist is depressingly exploitative, and a mark of how low the regard these filmmakers felt for their audience was. Music by David Whitaker.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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