Saturday, 26 March 2011

Manchester's Answer To Chuck Norris - Ladies And Gentlemen, I Give You Mr. Cliff Twemlow!

What's that? You've never heard of him? Well, There's no reason why you should have. Unfortunately, most of his films are lost and copies are incredibly hard to find. I know for sure that the original master tape (most of his movies were shot on video) of his most famous production, GBH, has been destroyed (unless someone has another dupe, somewhere). I did, however, come into possession of the U-Matic master of a promo for a possibly never completed film called Mason's War. Indeed, most of what is left of his legacy are promo reels for never realised projects or, if you are really, really, lucky, surviving VHS copies of some of his completed movies. Currently, only one of his films is available on DVD, a science fiction epic called Firestar: First Contact (1992). Want to know an interesting bit of trivia? Well, aside from the fact that after a career as a nightclub bouncer, he was an actor, novelist, screenplay writer, producer and composer. "So What?" I hear you cry. Well, he wrote this;

That's right. His music is on the fucking Dawn of the Dead soundtrack! That's the classic 1978 version as well. Not the it-starts-off-well-then-goes-downhill remake. His work has been used on numerous TV shows as well.
The quality of his films are not so much in the so-bad-it's-good-territory as so much in the Naff-in-the-most-awesome-way-possible genre. Imagine Garth Merenghi's Darkplace meets Coronation Street (in which Mr. Twemlow had his first role, as an extra). He was a sort of Northern James Bond combined with Chuck Norris. In his first film, Tuxedo Warrior (1981) he played a heavy. The film was named after his autobiography of the same name but only used a few character names and had a different actor playing the character based on him. Weirdly, instead of being set in the Manchester club land, the movie was a spy thriller set in Africa.
GBH (1982) was his first staring role. He also wrote the screenplay. The film was his first collaboration with director David Kent-Watson, who went on to helm most of Twemlow's movies. Twemlow played a nightclub enforcer named Donovan. And for those of you who always skip the clips... yes, you... I know who you are... I'd watch this, because it contains possible one of the greatest lines in movie history;

By the way, this was one of the first British films shot on video tape expressly for the DTV market. Here's the theme tune he composed for the film. It's like a Shaft-On Her Majesty's Secret Service mash-up (Fuck yeah!). Be warned, there are wha-wha guitars and insane saxophones involved.

Next up, was another Bond rip-o... homage. I mean homage. Target Eve Island was made probably in 1983 though sources differ upon its release date or whether it was finished at all (it appears it was and there is a trailer for it here);

And if you didn't watch that it serves you right because there's a lovely bottom shot in it, an amazing collection of 80s hairdos and a villain named Harry Filipino. Did you also notice that every single punch and gunshot sounds like a dubbed in video game sound effect? The same gunshot and the same punch every single time. Genius. Twemlow played a character named Chaser who was the right hand man to the Bond substitute hero William Grant (regular Twemlow collaborator Brett Sinclair, aka Brett Paul). Indeed, a lot of the same faces crop up in these films, mainly because they were Twemlow's friends, rather than actors. Now all this may seem rather cheesy, but it should be noted that he never took himself too seriously, and he always played up the "I'm to old for this shit" trope.
Possibly his biggest disappointment was the fact that he never managed to get his big-budget giant fish movie The Pike of the runway. It was to star Joan Collins. I actually came into possession of the original screenplay, quite by chance. This short documentary features not only the titular animatronic beastie, developed by a ROV manufacturer but also Ms. Collins herself;

I would love to have seen it.
Cliff Twemlow spent the rest of his life writing and starring in yet more movies based on his novels such as the Death Wish style Blind Side of God (1987)...

Or the Predator/Werewolf mash-up Moonstalker (1988), which was shot in a boyscout camp;

The Hammer Horror-style Eye of Satan (either 1988, 1987 or 1991, sources vary);

And the seemingly never completed Tokyo Sunrise for which a promo reel was shot in 1988;

He went on to make a sequel to GBH called Lethal Impact in 1991. Sadly, Firestar: First Contact, shot in and around Jodrell Bank and a Laser Quest (apparently) was his last completed film (the IMDB release dates don't seem to tally up with the dates of production). Cliff Twemlow died of a heart attack in 1993. He was just 55. Fortunately, a book detailing his legend is available called "The Lost World of Cliff Twemlow: The King of Manchester Exploitation Movies" by C.P. Lee and Andy Willis is available, and copies of his novels such as "The Pike" occasionally surface on Amazon from time-to-time. If you want a copy of Firestar: First Contact (which co-stars Oliver Tobias and Charles Grey, no less) you may need to import it from Germany.

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