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  Secrets of a Windmill Girl Save The Last Dance
Year: 1966
Director: Arnold L. Miller
Stars: April Wilding, Pauline Collins, Renee Houston, Derek Bond, Harry Fowler, Howard Marion-Crawford, Peter Gordeno, Peter Swanick, Martin Jarvis, Dierdre O'Dea, Pat Patterson, Jill Millard, Linda Page, Dana Gillespie, George Rutland, Leon Cortez
Genre: Drama, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Linda Grey (April Wilding) works as a cabaret singer in a London nightclub, and after finishing her act tonight goes backstage to her dressing room where she is greeted by a police inspector. As he tells her, one of her good friends was out with a man this evening, they both got drunk and as they drove away from the bar at high speeds through the streets, the partner lost control of the vehicle and they crashed into a wall, killing them both instantly. Linda is understandably upset, and has to go along the next day to identify the body...

Where conveniently for the story she related her history with her friend, who happened to be Pat, played by Pauline Collins in her movie debut, which might not be saying much for an actress who became an enduring star on television, but lest we forget she was Oscar-nominated for Shirley Valentine in a far better performance than this early effort afforded her the chances to shine in. This was an example of a movie slipping some nudity past the sixties censor, although rest assured the only women you saw in that state of undress here were not anyone with a speaking role as the actresses left that to the professional dancers.

That would be the Windmill Girls of the title, then, who Linda and Pat are meant to be, and as the somewhat hilarious theme song laments, "The Windmill Girls they were so gay, It's over now they've gone away!" indicating that the famed theatre had been closed for some time by the stage the film was released. That establishment was best served in the movies by the later work Mrs Henderson Presents, as that depicted it in its heyday during the Second World War where there was something patriotic about cheering up the troops with naked ladies on stage - not exactly strippers, as they famously were not allowed to move.

Here, on the other hand, the audience had dwindled to dirty old men, and even they were deserting it in favour of actual strip clubs which offered more thrills and less showbiz. We do get a lot of the latter thanks to many scenes of the entertainers, and that included a magician/comedian and a singer of bawdy songs as well as the dancers, one of whom offers up the famed fan dance which was apparently beyond anyone else in the film who participated in the offstage sequences: really, you can't help but notice nobody in the dressing room actually appears in front of the audience for the show. Unless that was one of the secrets of the title, as there were precious few other revelations here.

Mostly this was designed to showcase the acts, and send Pat on the road to ruin as her big plans to turn West End star come to naught and she ends up as a stripper who refuses to take her clothes off and instead stands in front of leering and jeering middle aged men and harangues them. As we already know how she'll finish her life, this would appear to be the filmmakers' idea of either an awful warning to all the young gels out there hoping for the bright lights, or a punishment for a woman who got too big for her boots, both of which are not exactly cheerful viewing. Those filmmakers went on to pioneer the British sex comedy in the next few years, but there wasn't much to laugh at here other than the unintentional chuckles brought about by the thudding unsubtlety of the drama. And those hoping for titillation? As with so much of the sexually-themed cinema of this nation, they were offered it with a moralistic angle, as if telling the audience off for their prurience.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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