Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Frightfest review – Mancunian Man: The Legendary Life of Cliff Twemlow

Frightfest review – Mancunian Man: The Legendary Life of Cliff Twemlow

British grindhouse fans remember Manchester-based writer-star Cliff Twemlow for GBH, a crime/vigilante thickearfest which was among the first UK direct-to-video features and for a brief while a unbiquitous cassette.  If they don’t remember his other credits, it may well be because so many of them are on unfinished or barely-even-started films … his ‘Beast of Exmoor’ werewolf epic (which might owe a lot to Scream of the Wolf, from David Case’s Dartmoor-set novella ‘The Hunter’) is floating around the grey market in several not-finished versions (as Moon Stalker or Predator: The Quietus) but was never actually released … few have seen his science fiction quickie Firestar: First Contact, which would have co-starred Oliver Reed only they got Oliver Tobias instead … while run-for-the-sun productions Target Eve Island, shot in Grenada during an invasion, and The Ibiza Connection, shot in Ibiza during a long party, more or less collapsed before being stitched together and put on shelves.

As Jake West’s entertaining, surprisingly melancholy documentary shows, Twemlow’s ten-year stint as a star-writer sort-of-producer never-a-director was a kind of madness, akin to his obsessive and eventually fatal bodybuilding regimen (he died from steroid side effects).  He had a source of income from years of anonymous toil writing stock music for the De Wolfe library – among his works are the theme for afternoon TV staple Crown Court and ‘I’m a Man’ as heard in Dawn of the Dead – and also worked as a bouncer on the Manchester club scene in the 1970s.  He wrote paperback quickies – the sort of autobiographical Tuxedo Warrior and the beastie nasty The Pike (which would have been filmed with Joan Collins if the mechanical killer fish hadn’t humiliated the investors by failing to work on Tomorrow’s World).

Like the longer-lasting Michael J. Murphy, Twemlow had a devoted circle of friends and collaborators who can now be interviewed and laugh about some of the shambles of his film adventures – and repeated failures to see any money from their efforts – and add a lot of fascinating context to what is, between the lines, the story of a larger-than-life guy who kept barreling on in his fifties long after it was obvious to everyone else that the party was over.  Twemlow was the sort of eternal optimist who’d re-hire a director who stole most of the budget of an earlier film to cover his own debts simply because he didn’t think he had any other options.  Like many sweet dreamers, he also had a well of anger which seems mostly to be channelled into his movies – the various prospectus clips he shot for projects that didn’t happen all involve shooting, punching and stabbing vile rotters (‘the pedeophile’) but most of the candid footage West includes shows a big man in evident pain.

Here’s the FrightFest listing.



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