ByJames Wise, writer at

Does the name Cliff Twemlow ring a bell? No, I didn't think so. But your ignorance can be forgiven, for the man's name is as obscure in the film world as a decent production by M. Night Shymalan.

Born in Manchester, England, in 1937, Cliff Twemlow was a nightclub bouncer, pulp horror novelist, actor, script writer and composer. He penned over 2000 pieces of music for film and television in the 60's and 70's under the alias Peter Reno (his 1967 track 'Cause I'm a man' featured in no other than George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead).

Having previously worked as an extra on British soap opera Coronation Street in the 60s and 70s, Cliff's movie debut came with the boom in domestic VHS cassette and recorder ownership in the early 1980s. Twemlow quickly capitalized on the growing market by utilizing the cheap recording and distribution technologies available to launch a mini studio enterprise from Manchester. In all, Twemlow wrote, produced and starred in more than 15 films before his early death in 1993 at the age of 55.

His films exploited the Hollywood genre flicks of the time (and at 0.01% of their budget to). He starred in a thumping cannon of titles including Target Eve Island (1983), a James Bond-style rip-off set in the West Indies, and The Ibiza Connection (1984), a film within a film shot in, you guessed it, Ibiza. The final cut of The Ibiza Connection suffered heavily with sound recording problems (somebody forgot to turn the mic on), so much of the actors voices were over-dubbed by a comedian named Maxton G. Beesley who, quite clearly, was having a laugh all to himself!

  Cliff Twemlow
Cliff Twemlow

But it is Twemlow's 1983 anti-classic G.B.H (Grievous Bodily Harm), that is perhaps, in my opinion, his best film. Set in the rain-hardened streets of Manchester's dingy club world, Donovan (Played by Twemlow), has recently been released from jail (the opening scene shows Manchester's famous Strangeways prison). He is soon hired by his old boss, Murray, to protect his club, The Zoo, from ruthless London crime boss Keller who is determined to take it over. The film follows Donovan on his mission to protect The Zoo at all costs through a heady cocktail of jaw-breaking fight scenes, car chases, hilarious one-liners, superfluous titilation and acting so wooden you'd think you were watching a How it's made on MDF manufacturing.

One of my favourite scenes in the film is where Donovan 'advises' Big Nick Rafferty (played by Hollywood actor John Saint Ryan), that he has had too much to drink. Saint Ryan later went on to act alongside Dolph Lundgren in the film Cover up (1991) and Heath Ledger in the US TV series Roar (1997). G.B.H climaxes with a car chase which, quite frankly, makes standing by the road side watching traffic look like Fast and Furious. Donovan settles the score once and for all with Keller and acts out brutal revenge on two of his men after they leave his fellow doorman, Chris, in intensive care (but not without this immortal insult before hand!). In the final scene police arrive heavily armed at The Zoo to arrest Donovan. But In true Mancunian fashion, he doesn't go down without a fight (I won't give it away, but find the clip on YouTube and watch for yourself).

For all its shortcomings, G.B.H is a true gem in the pantheon of British exploitation cinema. Its low-budget editing, bad acting, dubious dialogue and dodgy locations set it apart from other productions of the time in that, terrible as it may be, the cast are clearly having too much fun to care. The follow-up to The Long Good Friday it may not be, but it certainly beats a 1000 other mainstream films for sheer laugh-out-loud entertainment and disbelief in equal measure.

The majority of Cliff Twemlow's films are very difficult to find in their entirety, but G.B.H can be found in full on YouTube.

James Wise.


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