Given that patrons of Britain’s Smut Cinema of the 70′s were at the mercy of their own wrist-assisted stamina, it is something of a testament to the “staying power” of George Harrison Marks’ Come Play With Me that the film managed to do the rounds on London’s theatrical circuit, non-stop, for something stupid like FOUR years.
Maybe it had something to do with the fact that in it’s edited form (the version under review here), Come Play With Me is actually more Vaudeville ( or maybe BAWDYVILLE eh? eh?) than Sex Comedy – just a dirtier version of the kind of stuff being broadcast on television during the same time.
The proliferate nature of porn during the 70′s meant that a standard sex picture was usually subject to a rather limited “shelf life”, but Come Play With Me proves to be so much more than just a “standard” sex picture. The humour in Marks’ film attempts to go beyond the traditional “Slap and Tickle” framework of innuendo-ridden cliche, so typical in Britain’s bloated Sexploitation cycle. Even outside of this, and notwithstanding the inserts of frottage or the bountiful bouts of breast fondling which ultimately place the film within that particular wave of dubious Brit cinema, we still end up with a picture fully deserving of the “cult classic” badge.
There’s no question that Tigon and their director were making a Sex film. UK Porn Mogul (now part time Football Club Chairman) David Sullivan‘s investment and heavy handed promotion within the pages of his own Jazz Mags (essentially serving to highlight his stable starlet, Mary Millington), ensured that coining off of some “tits and arse” was always going to be high up on the agenda, but Come Play With Me‘s defiant dedication to characterisation, intelligent direction and emphasis on counterfeiters-on-the-run, Cornelius Clapworthy (played by the director himself) and side kick Kelly (Til Death Us Do Part‘s Alfie Bass) indicate a level of nihilism, ambition and sophistication often forsaken elsewhere in the greasy genre.
Clapworthy and Kelly seek refuge from a bunch of dodgy burlesque club owners as well as that pesky Government, in a down-on-its-luck health spa at Bovington Manor, where they intend to continue their business of flooding the British economy with high quality forged banknotes. Lady Bovington’s nephew arrives from Paris with a bus load of nymphette beauties and promptly sets to work in improving the ailing resort by providing a differentiated service…
Come Play With Me is a Jeckyll and Hyde of a movie. The narrative portions of it are so incongruent to the “how’s your father?” scenes elsewhere, they highlight an overwhelming sense of juxtaposition better compared to, say, the Carry On series than anything Sullivan could have dreamed up in the offices of his wank mag empire. Clapworthy and Kelly are pivotal. They are especially old and ugly characters, so far removed from the saucy world of their would be masseurs, that Come Play With Me becomes a de facto “cut and paste” affair with light hearted generational concern and class consciousness as thematic baggage. The director’s character, in particular, rejects the advances of the sexy staff, choosing instead to focus on producing enough filthy lucre to ensure the pair can escape the clutches of their would be captors. George Harrison Marks plays his part with all the subversive wit of Britain’s best comedians.
Much is made of Mary Millington’s involvement (mainly because her own story is just so fucking tragic), but her woes, off screen, grate against the upbeat innocence that fundamentally colours Come Play With Me. And it’s a shame, because although Millington does very little, her presence has cast a shadow over the undeniable cheeriness of the film.
Whilst I’m no expert on the flesh filled excesses of Brit-Brand Sexploitation, I would defy anyone who can’t see the fun in this. Look beyond the bimbo nurses and their overgrown pubes, and you’ll find a thoroughly charming, Morecambe and Wise-esque example of us Filthy Brits having a bit of mucky fun in film.
Put the man-sized Kleenex tissues away. Enjoy this smart little sex film for what it really is…