* *


Cliff Twemlow (1937-1993) was a body builder, bouncer, film music composer and the author of three books. In the last decade of his life Twemlow starred in a fistful of ground and jaw breaking no-budget exploitation films - and a few truly awful ones as well. G.B.H., Moonstalker, Eye of Satan and Firestar: First Contact, are flawed and ridiculous but kick ass: anyone who thinks Hollywood sucks will want to see them at least once. Likewise, for the world's worst ever movie The Ibiza Connection – written by and staring Twemlow - is right up there with Wild Women of Wongo (1958, James L. Wolcott), Plan 9 From Outer Space (1958, Edward D. Wood Jr) and Robot Monster (1953, Phil Tucker). Indeed, as a golden turkey The Ibiza Connection beats the competition hands down. The Lost World Of Cliff Twemlow: The King of Manchester Exploitation Movies by C. P. Lee and Andy Willis (Hotun Press, Manchester 2009) provides a detailed breakdown of all Twem's flicks. What I'm trying to lay on here is a quick and appreciative overview of pretty much everything he finished. The films themselves are currently (October 2010) very hard to find, but there are clips and trailers online. I'll run through the material in the order it was produced, kicking off with what is undoubtedly the least interesting of these movies because Cliff was not in control of the project.

Tuxedo Warrior (1982, directed by Andrew Sinclair) is a run-of-the-mill Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz) rip-off that takes its title from Cliff Twemlow's unreliable account of his life as a Manchester bouncer, but has nothing else to do with his book. Bar owner Cliff (John Wyman) has turned into a sad alcoholic after losing the great love of his life Lisa. In a piece of plot symmetry, losing Cliff has transformed Lisa into a gambling addict. Lisa and her husband wash up in Cliff's bar in Zimbabwe at the same time as some diamond smugglers. Triangular relationships, bent and straight cops, everyone wanting the diamonds, and a lot of shots of the local wildlife fail to engage the viewer. Fortunately there are some onscreen sparks from Cliff Twemlow and martial arts expert Steve Powell in bit parts as heavies. Powell is a repellently charismatic Mancunian fighter who went on to feature in most of Twem's subsequent movies. Tuxedo Warrior was later reissued on video as The Africa Run and The Omega Connection bookended with extra scenes featuring Twemlow and GMTV weather girl Ginette Gray.

G.B.H. (1983) is Twemlow's first anti-classic. In it he transforms the experiences recounted in his book The Tuxedo Warrior (City Major, Manchester 1980) into a gritty and repulsive celluloid rush. G.B.H. was written by and stars Twem, and has David Kent-Watson at the directorial helm. Imagine a Joan Collins flick such as The Bitch (1979, Gerry O'Hara) shot like ultra-low budget television but with lashings of onscreen ultra-violence and a really repulsive cast and you'll have a handle on G.B.H. A vicious gang led by Keller (Jerry Harris) is extorting club after club around Manchester, and Steve Donovan (Twemlow) is called in to sort it out. This gives us heavies (including Steve Powell in a bit part) beating the crap out of each other and everyone else in sight, club trendies strutting their funky stuff in leg warmers and other iconic eighties fashion items, and some classic dialogue. Donovan to Keller: "When they put teeth in your mouth they ruined a good arse." It is a film that knows it is ridiculous and stupid, which is part of what makes it an all-time exploitation classic! The G.B.H. dancers were apparently hauled in from a local fitness class, which no doubt explains their tight shorts and open leotards! The sheer ugliness of virtually everyone in G.B.H. is an integral part of what makes it such a funky sensation. The actors and actresses do get better looking as the Twemlow flicks progress, the cast around Cliff that is, not the man himself! In G.B.H. Cliff already looks too old for the babe magnet part he is playing, and the humour and absurdity of this situation escalate with each subsequent Twem movie.

Target Eve Island (1983, directed by David Kent-Watson) sees Twem in a supporting role but a big wheel on the production. Super-fit future GMTV girl Ginette Gray makes her feature film debut as a teenage starlet. What more could you want except for a final edit (sound is missing from odd scenes in the version I watched) and a release? But despite not being quite finished the film is a total retro-eighties action-spy groove sensation! Shot entirely on location in the West Indies and exotic Manchester (England), this is a James Bond rip-off that shows up its inspiration for being a conservative cinematic institution unable to embrace the true excesses of the eighties and ultra-low budget movie-making in the ways that came naturally to Twem as both the writer of this flick and its producer. The plot involves a kidnapped scientist and secret weapons, but this is just an excuse for action set pieces and babes in swimsuits.

The Ibiza Connection is a 1984 Twemlow vehicle directed by Howard Arundel. This seems to be Arundel's only directorial credit but when I checked (10 October 2010) he isn't listed as director at the Internet Movie Data Base, which wrongly attributes the film to the superior talents of David Kent-Watson. The IMDB does list Arundel as an assistant director on a load of puke inducing middle-brow tosh ranging from the crap film of Thomas Hardy's pathetic novel Jude (The Obscure) to the ultra-boring TV series Anna Karenina. Apparently Arundel didn't cut it as a fully-fledged director and what he shot had serious sound problems, so many of the voices were redubbed by comedian Maxton G. Beesley - who was obviously having a bubble bath. This is one jaw-droppingly bad film that makes Plan 9 From Outer Space look like Ben Hur (1959, William Wyler). And it even has its own name actor in the shape of soon to be Bond girl Fiona Fullerton; although personally I go more for Ginette Gray whose presence will give any film a lift. The Ibiza Connection is possibly the worst film ever made, hard to find but has to be seen to be believed. You'll laugh out loud for the first 20 minutes, then go beyond hilarity into a kind of zen-like state of total disbelief. The movie is stuffed to the gills with eighties trimmings too, making it an instant anti-classic. It is a story within a story about the disastrous shoot for a film called 'Thunderflash'. The Spanish producers apparently managed to flog it to one of the TV networks in their home territory but it remains otherwise largely unseen beyond a handful of tenth generation bootlegs circulating in the UK. If someone could find a decent print of this it would surely find an audience as the greatest golden turkey of all time.

Cliff Twemlow's first horror epic Moonstalker was directed by Leslie McCarthy and mostly shot at a boy-scout camp in Worsley, Manchester, in 1988. There is a murderous beast in the forest. Big game hunter Daniel Kane (Twemlow) is called in to solve the mystery and free the local population from this terror. Since Twem wrote the script there is the inevitable police procedural to slow the action in places. Far more alluring is the hero Kane beating the crap out of a biker gang. And to make the proceedings as absurd as possible, Kane spends much of the film driving around in a tiny Fiat Panda and sleeping in a cheap tent. You'd expect a big game hunter to have a flasher motor and better accommodation! The cast aren't as ugly as that featured in G.B.H. but Moonstalker has a magic all its own - because it was shot on film rather than video tape like Twem's other flicks.

Also in the horror genre and dating from 1988 is Twemlow's 'beyond rare' straight to video release Eye Of Satan. Cliff is great as evil incarnate and has for no good reason a pathological dislike of duck hunters. Still, it is great to see the blood sport scumbags getting their heads twisted till they die. Once again Ginette Gray is fabulous as nubile eye candy with genuine presence and acting talent! After a great opening with Cliff cuffing a priest and shooting up a coffin, the early part of the film suffers from too much focus on the also-ran supporting cast doing police procedural budget TV style. But once the action and Satanic voodoo kicks back in this flick is a trip to the furthest shores of exploitation heaven (or should that be hell?). So if you're into no-budget movies featuring a heady mix of gangsters, satanism, voodoo, sex and duck hunters having their necks snapped, this is a must see! After viewing this Manchester will never look the same again!

In Firestar: First Contact (1989) Twemlow heads into ultra-low budget sci-fi territory. Alien (1979, Ridley Scott) meets Phantasm (1979, Don Coscarelli) at a Manchester space age theme park! You know you want it! It is good for a laugh, as the following example of a space-age chat-up line from the dialogue illustrates: "If you're passing my quarters tonight there's a new docking procedure I'd like to try out with you." Another ultra-generic Cliff script with some snappy dialogue. Twem understood that as far as genre movies are concerned, the less unique they are the better: hopefully it isn't necessary to explain genre and generic come from the same root word. Director David Kent-Watson jams in one of his trade-mark super-cheesy - i.e. aimed at male viewers who might also enjoy a one-handed read - nightclub scenes when the crew return briefly to earth. Naturally this being a sci-fi flick it features robot dancing. Insanely, the alien creature that invades the spacecraft can only be battled with twentieth-century weapons: something that no doubt had the added advantage of keeping the props budget lower than a snake crawling through the grass.

G.B.H. 2: Lethal Impact (1991) is another gangster movie, the follow-up to G.B.H. Basically this is an ultra-cheap Death Wish (1974, Michael Winner) knock-off set in Manchester. Super-bouncer Donvan (Cliff Twemlow) is lured back to his home town by his gangster nemesis to sort out a particularly vicious mob who use drugs and lesbian avengers from hell to force schoolgirls into participating in their hardcore porn racket. It is personal for Donovan because his niece is dead as a result of the filth running these scams, so he's determined to wipe out the scum polluting his beloved Manchester. I think I'd prefer the original edit but could only get my hands on the 'special edition' put together by director David Kent-Watson after Twemlow died. I'm sure Cliff would have cut to the quick and sorted Kent-Watson out over this coz at 1 hour and 47 minutes it was way too long. I could have done without the flashbacks since I've seen G.B.H. 1. Cliff looks particularly rough in this one and seems to have lost some of his onscreen charisma, but you can still enjoy those classic Kent-Watson nightclub scenes. Any male readers out there who go to aerobics classes to look at the girls can save themselves the effort by replaying Kent-Watson material of this type – it's that good, or bad, depending on your perspective. Indeed, it makes the dance school scenes in Lucio Fulci's Murder Rock (1984) look tasteful by way of comparison.

With Bad Weekend (1993), Twemlow ended his career on something of a low. This is 35 minute short and a bit of an I Spit On Your Grave (1978, Meir Zarchi) knock-off; that said it makes I Spit On Your Grave look like Cleopatra (1963, Joseph L. Mankiewicz) in terms of the production values. It was shot in some woods outside Manchester over one weekend and with a total budget of £1000. In Bad Weekend it is the father of the rape victim, and not the girl herself, who does the killings and here it is with a bow and arrow. Unlike I Spit On Your Grave this is not a rape revenge narrative and unfortunately there are no bath time castration scenes. Scripted by Twemlow and directed by David Kent-Watson it features a minimal cast running around in the woods and knocking each other off. Steve Powell gets a bigger role than usual, and like Twemlow he's looking a bit haggard and past his prime. When Twemlow died on 5 May 1993 there was only a rough-cut of Bad Weekend, and it seems director Kent-Watson made the final edit after it was announced the 2008 Salford Film Festival would salute Cliff Twemlow and premier this short.

Which leaves only Twemlow oddities such as the trailers for unmade films such as Blindside of God (1987) and Tokyo Sunrise (1988) unexamined here. These were shot in an unsuccessful effort to raise finance that was not forthcoming, so the complete productions were never made. Twemlow's celluloid career also encompasses work as an extra on Coronation Street (in the 1960s) and a supporting role in The Assassinator AKA The Hit Man (1988, David Kent-Watson). Twem died of a heart attack at the age of 55, something to which his steroid abuse (part of his body building programme) appears to have contributed.

Although there has been a small swell of interest in Twemlow's movie output in recent years, the near impossibility of seeing his films unless you can get to Manchester for a rare screening, or have the connections to lay your hands on incredibly rare flicks (as I do luckily), has meant that Cliff's cult status and growth in popularity is still on a slow burn. Without print-on-demand there would be no book about him – and until his movies are reissued on disk and/or for download, he isn't going to become the talk of the town. If you haven't encountered the Twemlow magic at full length, imagine Andy Sidaris relocated to Manchester with a lower budget, less technical skill but more than enough enthusiasm to overcome these hurdles. Twemlow shows the eighties as they really were, not the way Hollywood remade the decade. Catch these movies if you can… I, for one, don't want them to remain great but largely unseen anti-classics of exploitation cinema!

BFI Flipside Reissues of That Kind of Girl, Privilege and Permissive

Sleaze Cinema

Iain Sinclair and Chris Petit's TV films

Peter Whitehead and The 60s (mostly Wholly Communion)

Trocchi's State Of Revolt (Arts Lab continuation of Wholly Communion)

Julia Callan-Thompson & The Swinging London Film Scene

London In The Raw


Eye Of Satan video cover

Tuxedo Warrior VHS cover
Tuxedo Warrior video cover.

Africa Run VHS cover
Africa Run video cover.

GBH VHS cover
G.B.H. video cover.

Firestar poster
Firestar poster.

Firestar German DVD cover
Firestar German DVD cover.

Firestar Japanese video cover
Firestar Japanese video cover.

GBH 2 poster
G.B.H. 2: Lethal Impact poster.

Cliff Twemlow
Cliff Twemlow.

Cliff Twemlow in The Africa Run
Cliff Twemlow in The Africa Run.

Cliff Twemlow autobiography Tuxedo Warrior cover
Cover of Cliff Twemlow autobiography The Tuxedo Warrior.

Cover of Cliff Twemlow novel The Pike
Cover of Cliff Twemlow novel The Pike.

Cover of Cliff Twemlow novel The Beast Of Kane
Cover of Cliff Twemlow novel The Beast Of Kane.

Cover of The Lost World Of Cliff Twemlow by C. P. Lee and Andy Willis
Cover of The Lost World Of Cliff Twemlow: King of Manchester Exploitation Movies by C. P. Lee and Andy Willis.