THE PLAYBIRD MURDERS - Australian video cover
2 and a half stars   
"A murder thriller with thrilling bodies!"

directed by: Willy Roe
starring: Mary Millington, Alan Lake, Glynn Edwards, Gavin Campbell, Suzy Mandel, Windsor Davies, Kenny Lynch, Derren Nesbit, Dudley Sutton, Ballard Berkeley, Alec Mango, Sandra Dorne, Penny Spencer, Michael Gradwell, John M. East, Anthony Kenyon, Ron Flanagan, Susie Silvey, Derek Alyward

(back of video blurb):


A perverted killer is murdering the centrefold girls of Playbird magazine..

The girls are helpless, the police are baffled.

The killer strikes again and again.

An attractive policewoman goes undercover - she becomes a Playbird centrefold - and now she could very well be ... the next on the killer's list!"

choice dialogue:

"To a deranged mind it could be that there are three forces of evil at work: sex, witchcraft and horses. The unholy trinity!"

- quite some lead

Slash with panache?:

[review by Justin Kerswell]

Someone is strangling the glamour girls who've appeared on the front of 'Playbirds' magazine in this sexed up semi-updating of the earlier (much milder) British horror thriller THE COVER GIRL KILLER (1958).

The Playbird killer strikes!

In true giallo style the police - headed up by Chief Superintendent Jack Holbourne (Glynn Edwards) and Inspector Harry Morgan (Gavin Campbell) - are baffled by the mounting pile of busty dead starlets, each of whom has a number written in lipstick on her forehead. The fact that they are all linked to Playbirds magazine leads them into the steamy and star-spangled world of 70's pornography, where they home in on suspect numero uno - Harry Dougan (Alan Lake), the 'medallion man'-esque owner of the magazine, who seems more concerned about the fortunes of his racehorse than he does about the untimely demise of his starlets. To confuse matters further there's a whole assortment of possible red herrings: the corrupt and hypocritical Tory MP, who publicly condemns the permissive society, "Pornography is the heroin of the soul!", whilst indulging in a secret hedonistic lifestyle, which he deems only suitable for the elite; the bug-eyed photographer for the magazine, who seems to have a penchant for photo-sessions based around Satanic rituals (resulting in one remarkable sequence where one nude young lady, during a recreation of the Hellfire Club, gets so carried away she manages to ride a rocking horse upside down!); and a PO-faced, sandwich board wearing Christian who pounds the streets telling anyone who'll listen that they're all doomed unless they repent.

No.2 looks pretty happy all things considered!

To further confuse things the two coppers come to the conclusion that there may be an equestrian link connecting all the murders, which results in the legend: "To a deranged mind it could be that there are three forces of evil at work: sex, witchcraft and horses. The unholy trinity!"

Sensibly, the police decide to protect the latest model for Playbirds - a bubbly blonde who seems fairly unconcerned with the possible threat to her life, but is more than happy to receive around the clock attention from the better looking of the policemen. However, despite a heavy police presence around her flat the girl inadvertently lets the killer in (thinking him to be the Inspector), and ends up as another of his victims.

Naturally, after this latest murder there aren't many girls willing to pose for the magazine, but the police come up with the somewhat unlikely plan for a nubile policewoman to become the next cover girl, and set a honeytrap for the killer. "First we have to find a policewoman who looks good without her clothes on.", ponders the Chief Super Intendent before continuing, "... secondly, we have to find one who's willing to take 'em off!". This leads to a procession of policewomen seemingly eager to go undercover, resulting in several 'auditions' where they strip naked (whilst woozy burlesque music plays in the background) to prove they have what it takes, in front of the two policemen, who regularly quip things like "I fancy this filly's chances!", and - in the case of one young lady who has a fit of the giggles - the Super Intendent guffaws, "Who let that nut in the force?!". Eventually they plump for WPC Lucy Sheridan (Mary Millington) when she wows them with her wiggle.

Groundbreaking detective work!

The plan, it seems, is not to tell Dougan that Lucy is an undercover plant rather for her to go in the backway, as it were. She starts work in a slap'n'tickle backstreet Swedish massage parlour (where she goes quite beyond the call of duty during a rub down with one happy punter!); it's hoped that one of the girls there, Foxy (a peroxide blonde with a quite alarming flick and an an even more alarming lack of thespian finesse), will introduce her to Dougan - which she does, but not before briefly introducing Lucy to the pleasures of sapphic love first (only to go to become yet another victim of the killer's ire). Lucy - who thoroughly impresses her colleagues by the way she throws herself so enthusiastically into her under(the)cover(s) work, "Like a duck to water", remarks one, "Some duck!", quips the other - further proves her mettle by not only bedding Dougan but also, after a coy start, letting it all hang out in the photo-session for the Playbirds centre spread, which culminates in some quite eye-opening nude highkicks! But, will Lucy's selfless dedication in the name of law and order be enough to trap the mad killer?

If you hadn't guessed it already THE PLAYBIRD MURDERS isn't quite the straight-ahead British giallo type thriller it could have been. It's first and foremost a vehicle for Mary Millington, who at the time was Britain's biggest adult movie star, having starred in the phenomenally successful sex comedy COME PLAY WITH ME the year before - and who tragically took her own life in 1979. Millington, to be honest, isn't much of an actress and gives a rather laconically stilted performance, but seems much more content posing nude in front of the camera (where she was more at home, I guess).

All that hairspray *and* a naked flame - it was always going to be messy.

Made by Tigon (often considered Hammer's poorer relation) THE PLAYBIRD MURDERS, surprisingly, isn't an altogether threadbare production. Those familiar with British 70's TV will probably have a whale of a time spotting familiar faces, including IT AIN'T HALF HOT MUM's Windsor Davies (who's arched eyebrow is especially impressive); Kenny Lynch, who was a regular on CELEBRITY SQUARES; the bloke who plays the senile colonel in FAWLTY TOWERS - not to mention Campbell who went onto fame and fortune, of sorts, as Esther Rantzem's sidekick in THAT'S LIFE. Admittedly, the film only marginally works as a whodunit, and runs well out of steam before the confusing last half hour (culminating in a muddled and mean-spirited 'twist' ending). However, there's much fun to be had for fans of British horror and bad films in general, not least of all in the hilarious sequence where, during one of the many horror influenced photoshoots, a naked girl is posing as a witch, writhing at the stake in front of a flaming bonfire (kept at a sensibly safe distance), the killer, in a display of wild abandon, bounds on and bungs a tin of kerosene on the fire, before hightailing it off into the woods, burning the hapless playmate to a crisp and leaving the photographer with his jaw on the floor.

In every way imaginable it couldn't be further from the same year's HALLOWEEN, and it's certainly not a slasher movie, as such, but with its zippy killer (surely the only one in movie history to sport a deerstalker!) and mounting (in more ways than one) bodycount THE PLAYBIRD MURDERS more than qualifies as prime HYSTERIA material. And, it's recommended for viewers who need to refresh their memory that before the bonnets and the heartwarming tales of hard working ballet obsessed Northern lads the British could mix, sleaze, horror and thrills with the best of them.


BODYCOUNT 8  bodycount!   female:7 / male:1

       1) Female strangled
       2) Female found strangled
       3) Female found strangled
       4) Female strangled
       5) Female strangled
       6) Male drowned
       7) Female burnt to death
       8) Female strangled