Respectable – The Mary Millington Story – Review ***

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As films like Lovelace and The Notorious Bettie Page start being seen as commonplace, director and producer Simon Sheridan decides to turn his lens to the British porn and softcore industry in the 1970s, most particularly to glamour model/porn star and actress Mary Millington.

Taking a few hints from the documentary Inside Deep Throat, Sheridan uses interviews with Mary’s lovers, friends, family and neighbours. Together with archive and a voiceover by actor/director Dexter Fletcher, he guide us through Mary’s life, from her humble beginnings, her early marriage, start as a glamour model, her first steps in pornography, success as a softcore actress in Come Play with Me (the longest running British film of all time) and later downward spiral with the law and drugs, ending in her suicide when she was just 33 years old. In the meantime, the context of the times is briefly explained: Britain had the hardest hardcore pornography legislation in the western world, and it also had Mary Whitehouse, the infamous and zealous conservative that made her mission to chase everything that smelled of smut.

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Alas, while Inside Deep Throat manages to touch every single subject related to the film that it speaks about, Respectable – The Mary Millington Story, despite its overlong duration of 109 minutes, does not. The story feels disconnected, and fails to make an emotional connection. Millington, despite the claims in the beginning of the documentary, does not appear to have been a brave pioneer for the smut rights in Britain – she just happened to want to sell some smut and make some cash. She does not appear to have been an ostracized member of society, she was just an insecure woman afraid of getting old that ran in trouble with the law not because of her acting, but because of her illegal smut selling and tax dodging, finding refuge in drugs and shoplifting. And if trying to make her more than a sex star to justify making a documentary about her is already problematic, there are also moments during the film when one wonders if the goal was to make a film about a poor fallen porn star that fell into bad companies and drugs as all of them do all along.

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Far from being well-structured, with a soundtrack that tries to force feelings down our throat and doesn’t seem to have been informed about the power of silence and name tags that insist on repeating themselves ad nauseam, as if the person on the screen is more important than what they’re saying, Respectable – The Mary Millington Story is far from the perfect documentary, but as a taster of a theme (and a bait/excuse to watch Millington’s films) it may work just fine.

Respectable – The Mary Millington Story was released on 2nd May 2016 on DVD, courtesy of Simply Media

Sara is originally from Coimbra, Portugal, where she studied Film Studies before moving to London to enrol in film school. Having made her first short film about her neighbour's chickens when she was 9 (a dystopian sci-fi, still her favourite genre), she is now a London-based film director and editor, and also a writer for the Portuguese Take Magazine. She is a huge fan of Lars Von Trier, Krysztof Kiéslowski, and David Lean.