Friday, 21 January 2011

Twemlow!


Cliff Twemlow would probably not have described himself as a renaissance man but, nevertheless, as a bouncer / composer / writer / actor he certainly earned the epithet.

Cliff was born in Manchester in 1937. He grew up big, strong and fearless and soon found work on the door of nightclubs, having a fight a night, a self-styled ‘Tuxedo Warrior’.

Cliff’s talents went beyond a heavy right hook and a bow tie, however, and, despite having no formal musical training, he adopted the pseudonym ‘Peter Reno’ and became a highly successful composer of library music, writing over two thousand pieces between 1967 and 1974. Here’s ‘Silver Thrust’, from 1972, a great, funky, flutey piece of music which is all the better when you realise that Twemlow composed it by singing the parts onto tape and then having someone else transcribe it.



A divorce and legal problems bankrupted Twemlow in 1974, and he went back to what he knew, working the door at Peter Stringfellow's 'Millionaire' club, although he soon became keenly aware that he was getting older and finding it harder to recover from the regular rough and tumble of Mancunian night life. Undaunted, he decided to become a writer, starting with his autobiography ‘Tuxedo Warrior’ and following it up with two potboiler novels ‘The Beast Of Kane’ (Satan as a dog) and ‘The Pike’ (a freshwater version of ‘Jaws’), which sold well but were unlikely to win any awards.

Buoyed by the fact that ‘Tuxedo Warrior’ was made into a (rubbish) film in 1982, and his appearance in the same as a supporting actor, Twemlow decided that his future lay on the big screen and put his considerable energy into making it happen. His first project, a proposed film adaptation of ‘The Pike’ turned out to be abortive, despite the presence of Joan Collins and the creation of a quite sophisticated 12 foot long robotic pike which attracted the attention of ‘Nationwide’ and ‘Tomorrows World’.

Twemlow had more luck with ‘G.B.H’, a mix of ‘The Long Good Friday’ and his own ‘Tuxedo Warrior’ which was shot entirely on video tape. The finished result is cheap, amateurish and extremely entertaining, and made money and Cliff (who wrote, produced, choreographed and starred in the film, as well as providing songs and stunt work) spent the rest of his life making low budget films (or parts of films, not all were finished) with titles like ‘The Eye Of Satan’ and ‘The Assassinator’.

Difficult to see these days, they're not by any stretch of the imagination good films, but it’s a credit to Cliff’s indefatigable nature that, in effect, he was able to set up a totally independent film production company in Manchester and release a production a year onto the lucrative home video market (whilst also appearing in special interest videos like ‘The Ultimate Self Defence’ and ‘Fitness After Forty’).

Tragically, Cliff died of a heart attack in 1993 at the relatively early age of 55, perhaps as a result of his tireless work ethic. A remarkable man, his fascinating life and work was recently commemorated in a biography ‘The Lost World Of Cliff Twemlow’ which is recommended (and available from the normal online outlets) and, hopefully, may provoke enough interest in Cliff’s work to trigger a revival, perhaps a DVD box set. I think Cliff would have liked that.

Here’s a great clip from ‘G.B.H.’ which sums up the archetypal Cliff Twemlow character: matter of fact, hard as nails, vicious when provoked, occasionally vulnerable, catnip to the ladies. If I'm honest, Cliff was never much of an actor but he’s no worse than, say, Keanu Reeves, and he’s far more charismatic.



I think my favourite bit is 'cut you...cut you'. More Cliff tomorrow.

12 comments:

Toxteth O'Grady said...

I'm getting a heavy Chris Quentin vibe from this post.

He had a bit of a film career as well didn't he?

mythicalbeast777 said...

Excellent music! Must investigate...

Between Channels said...

Fascinating - a renaissance man. Would make a good BBC4 documentary / drama.

Unmann-Wittering said...

Glad you all like. Toxteth, Chris Quentin's film career amounted to a bit part in 'Robocop 2' and lots of panto.

Toxteth O'Grady said...

Ah, OK. I thought he did some of those "erotic" films as well when he lived in the USA.

I think there's a bit of an archetype here though, isn't there? John Binden springs to mind, although he was pretty much an out-and-out thug. David Prowse as well maybe.

Not as ambitious as Twemlow, but hard-men-drifting-into-the-movies all the same.

Anonymous said...

top feature fella...

Never heard of this guy or the records before...

MP Flapp

Fearlono said...

Sadly, this reminds me that I once loaned a 'friend' my ex-rental VHS of G.B.H. and didn't get it back.
The fiend in question was last seen leaving the country with a canvas sack full of plundered tapes and a new identity.
Fortunately, Silver Thrust has cheered me up no end.

SpeckledWood said...

Silver Thrust does sound awfully like a slowed down version of Johnny Harris' Stepping Stones (Fragment of Fear). It's got added guitars I suppose.

Toxteth O'Grady said...

just a quick request for you guys and gals (copyright J. Saville):

Can you tell me what the early 80's song is that starts with a hesitant bassline, and a girl chorus singing "Moneymoneymoney..."

It's used on documentaries all the time, but I can't figure out what it is.

T O'G said...

Is this really such a massively difficult request?

Surely this was a Top Tem hit that someone would remember?

Retrospective documentaries almost dare not go without it.

Unmann-Wittering said...

I can't think what it is, I'm afraid. If you had a clip I'd give an ID a go, though.

Toxteth O'Grady said...

Ah no, sorry.

The only thing I can say for sure is that it wasn't Hollywood Beyond.