David McGillivray remembers Britain’s king of the nudies and scourge of the cinemagoer, Arnold Louis Miller.
Another pioneer of British sexploitation has died without an obituary. I learned by chance last week of the death of Arnold Louis Miller, who was 92 when he bowed out more than five years ago on 26th April, 2014.
I lambasted Miller in my book Doing Rude Things for directing some of the worst films in screen history. But there was little room in a book about smut to fully discuss his involvement in British horror, notably Michael Reeves’ The Sorcerers and Witchfinder General (both feature prominently in an upcoming Reeves documentary). After Miller’s proto ‘Mondo‘ movie, West End Jungle, followed by London in the Raw and Primitive London, were re-released on DVD in the 2000s, Miller enjoyed a new lease of life making personal appearances.
Born in 1922, the nephew of Nat Mills, one half of music-hall act Nat Mills and Bobbie, Miller worked for his father’s firm, which imported Marvel comics from the US and also published a girlie mag Photo Studio through which he met glamour photographer Stanley Long. Miller and Long formed Stag Films, the earliest mass-producer in the UK of striptease shorts (Harrison Marks, Pete Walker and others came later). The Miller-Long team then made Britain’s first nudie film, Nudist Memories, followed by two more nudies, Nudes of the World and Take Off Your Clothes and Live, whose titles have endured.
In 1964 Miller and Long made the first and last British travelogue in Circlorama. This was followed in 1965 by their first sex film, Secrets of a Windmill Girl, revived earlier this month for a screening in which I participated at the Regent Street Cinema. After he split with Long, Miller formed Global-Queensway Films to make sponsored documentaries. The company also produced the notorious sex education short Growing Up (1971), which horrified Mary Whitehouse. It was included for a laugh earlier this year in the Channel 4 series Let’s Talk About Sex. In 1974 Miller produced Sex Farm aka Frustrated Wives, his last feature film.
In 1982 Miller was one of several sex film pioneers I interviewed for the magazine articles that became Doing Rude Things. Coincidentally the magazine was published by Marvel. Miller took exception to my criticism of his sponsored documentaries, “regularly booed off the screen”, and tried to sue. Marvel’s solicitor saw him off. After his last short, The English Riviera (1984), Miller reputedly taught at a London film school. But as British sex films became more prominent on TV, he was persuaded to talk about them. He was in Sex in the 70s in 2005 and appeared at BFI Southbank in 2009 and London’s Cinema Museum in 2013. By the time he appeared in Respectable (2016), a Mary Millington documentary, Miller had been dead for two years. A year later I wrote about him in the new edition of Doing Rude Things as if he were still alive.
It’s unaccountable that a film-maker with so many firsts could die without a single tribute. But the stigma attached to soft porn lingers. Last Wednesday Miller’s daughter called me from the US because her father had been in touch with her through a medium to complain about unpaid residuals. Unfortunately the messages from the grave were somewhat garbled. Either that or the medium had made errors when she researched Miller online.