Who is Cliff Twemlow, I hear you asking.
He is the man.
The man who did it all, from bouncing at clubs to writing novels, composing music, and even making indie films on a shoestring budget.
In the tumultuous stretch between the early 1980s and his untimely death at the age of 55 in 1993, Cliff Twemlow, once a formidable nightclub bouncer, left a huge mark on the film industry.
Undeterred by nonexistent budgets, he unleashed a series of half a dozen straight-to-video exploitation movies, enlisting a close-knit circle of friends and die-hard supporters to bring his wild visions to life.
Now, director Jake West unveils the mesmerizing and unexpectedly poignant journey of Twemlow’s gonzo career in the documentary “Mancunian Man.”
The Legend of Cliff Twemlow
Twemlow, a true all-rounder whose illustrious career spanned roles from bouncer to novelist, composer to screenwriter, producer to stuntman, and star, was hailed as Britain’s most prolific indie filmmaker for over a decade in the 1980s.
The premiere showcased Jake West’s fascinating documentary, offering an affectionate portrait of this unique character through contemporary interviews, archive footage, and clips from Cliff’s remarkable back catalogue.
For more than ten years, Twemlow was the go-to indie filmmaker in Britain.
In Manchester, he’s a genuine legend.
Putting Together the A Team
Between 1982 and 1993, he gathered a devoted team, including local doormen, martial artists, variety performers, club DJs, models, girlfriends, gym friends, family members and B-listers and created his own cut-rate Hollywood empire.
Perhaps best known for the ultra-violent G.B.H. (Grievous Bodily Harm) – which was banned as one of the notorious Video Nasties – Twemlow was a true trailblazer.
Shooting with pioneering video technology, composing the music himself and working to almost non-existent budgets – he crafted movies of all genres, from gangster flicks to horror films, spy thrillers to sci-fi epics and beyond, with the help of his unlikely ensemble of misfits.
Twemlow’s crazy career
West stumbled upon Twemlow’s eccentric world during documentaries on video nasties, with GBH, one of Twemlow’s early films, being featured.
Intrigued, he delved into the hidden universe of Twemlow’s films, captivated by the filmmaker’s charm and unorthodox career.
Twemlow’s story begins with an unlikely start as a nightclub doorman and amateur bodybuilder. His audacious leap into the music scene, using his ‘dum-de-dum’ method to compose over 2,000 pieces of library music, including the theme for ITV’s 80s drama Crown Court, showcased his unconventional yet successful approach.
However, a setback came when he penned a title song for the Bond movie Live and Let Die, leading to a legal battle with 007 producer Cubby Broccoli and a loss of most of his earnings.
Undeterred, Twemlow’s autobiography, “The Tuxedo Warrior,” inspired a low-budget film in 1984. Despite its unrelated plot about diamond smugglers in Zimbabwe, it hinted at Twemlow’s resilience in the face of adversity.
Fueled by the availability of affordable video cameras and the burgeoning video rental market, Twemlow ventured into filmmaking. His early productions, like “The Pike,” showcased his ambitious vision, although they often faced challenges, becoming a recurring theme in Twemlow’s filmmaking journey.
Despite chaotic productions, including a giant animatronic fish demonstration on the BBC’s “Tomorrow’s World” and facing police intervention during the shooting of “Target Eve Island” in Grenada, Twemlow persisted in his DIY filmmaking approach.
As his career saw setbacks and incomplete projects, Twemlow battled depression and anxiety about his age and appearance, turning to steroids. In the end, he passed away from heart failure, a consequence of his steroid use, in a friend’s flat.
While Twemlow’s story is marked by failures and misadventures, it stands as a beacon for independent filmmakers, showcasing the spirit of resilience and creativity in the face of challenges.
Jake West’s Documentary
Now his unbelievable, but true story has been brought to life by director Jake West (Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape, Razor Blade Smile and Doghouse) and Severin Films through exclusive new interviews, insane film clips and rare behind-the-scenes footage.
The premiere was a reunion of sorts, with Twemlow’s friends, collaborators, and stars from his movies all turning up.
Dressed to impress, they walked the red carpet and shared stories in a Q&A session after the documentary.
Among the guests were Brian Sterling-Vete, John Barry, Annie Jones, and Emmerdale’s Dominic Brunt.
The documentary itself, praised by critics, sheds light on Twemlow’s journey with interviews, old footage, and clips from his wild range of films.
Starburst gave it a perfect five stars, calling Twemlow an underrated northern artist with a story that should inspire today’s indie filmmakers.
Inspiring Manchester Filmmakers
The film, initially a hit at FrightFest, has now circled back to where it all started for Twemlow – Manchester.
The documentary captures Twemlow’s magic during a pivotal time in British filmmaking, using inventive techniques and passion, despite tight budgets.
You can check out the trailer below.
Severin Films, dedicated to the world’s most provocative cinema, celebrates the works of iconic filmmakers and fringe auteurs alike.
Since its founding in 2006, Severin Films has curated a distribution catalogue that includes projects by Alejandro Jodorowsky, Dario Argento, and comedy legends The Comic Strip.
The film production house has also produced award-winning documentaries and original feature films, establishing itself as a key player in the world of cinematic storytelling
Do you remember Cliff Twemelow? Let us know! [email protected]