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.