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GBH was one of pornographer David Grant's acquisitions as he ventured into the video age having formed the World of Video 2000 label in the early Eighties. Typically audacious World of Video 2000 gave GBH an unforgettable blood splattered video sleeve, while the back cover carried the bold claim that 'The Long Good Friday set a new and exciting trend in British films. Following right on its heels is GBH' GBH is a zero-budget, crime opus that begins as it means to go on with London crime boss Keller and his two heavies beating up a nightclub bouncer, who for his troubles receives a thump in the face and a kick in the balls. Across town Murray a bald headed nightclub owner is afraid Keller will be paying him a visit next. "There is one man who'd stand up to him" Murray tells one of his staff, and that man is of course 'The Mancunian'. Cue the opening credits which appear alongside aerial views of Manchester concluding with shots of Strangeways Prison. From there local tough guy 'The Mancunian' emerges after a six month stretch. Known to his friends as Steve Donovan, The Mancunian is looking to leave his former existence as a bouncer behind him and start a new life with his girlfriend Sue. Unfortunately Donovan's fantasy of a peaceful life shatters when its revealed Sue has sold everything and moved to another town. "Bleeding women" seethes Donovan "no wonder there are so many queers". Easily pleased Donovan agrees to go to work as one of Murray's bouncers in exchange for a white tux and a house in Bury that could double as an old people's home. At Murray's place Donovan deals with confronting rich kids who scoff at paying the admission price, beating up men who sport mullets and breaking up randy teenagers. Naturally Donovan and Keller are destined to lock horns, resulting in car chases, punch ups and shootouts, leaving Manchester a black and bluer place as a result.
The GBH cast is a curious but enthusiastic bunch seemingly comprised of female dancers borrowed from the covers of Hallmark's Top of the Pops LPs, local gym enthusiasts and stuntmen, as well as semi-pro regional actors who tend to turn up in bit parts in Coronation Street. Anthony Shaeffer, a one time voice-over man for 3-2-1, gives value for money as jittery club owner Murray, but Jerry Harris -apparently a stand-up by trade -is nothing short of brilliant as crime boss Keller, a crooked, obscenity spewing windbag who can only look on as his empire comes crumbing down (giving the film its tentative link to The Long Good Friday).
Yet while cheeky Cockney Harris is the scene stealer here, GBH was an all round labour of love for a certain Mr. Cliff Twemlow who plays Donovan. Twemlow who was also a horror novelist (penner of paperbacks The Beast of Kane and The Pike) was in fact the films driving force and coordinated the stunts, produced, and wrote the script all under a variety of movie-buff pseudonyms. As 'John Agar' Twemlow proves a dab hand at composing GBH's soundtrack marrying soppy ballads to the 'sensitive' bits and having pulsating disco music act as a prelude to a punch-up or a car chase. Particularly catchy is his character's theme tune "hey woman don't go looking at him, he's got eyes full of lust and a heart full of sin . He's the man man...man Mancunian man". Twemlow's life experience credentials for playing such a rough and tumble character are beyond doubt. His autobiography published around the time of the films release was called 'Tuxedo Warrior: Tales of a Mancunian Bouncer' and in an actor/character identification the book's cover is illustrated by a shot of Donovan on the rampage from GBH. Twemlow's script offers some unique attempts at incorporating spaghetti Western themes into a Manchester setting- casting himself in the Eastwood/Man with No Name mode of 'The Mancunian' who walks into town and puts paid to the bad guys- as well displaying a good Ian Dury like ear for the vulgar ("when they put teeth in your mouth they ruined a good ar*e" Donovan tells Keller). A film not without a sense of humour about itself, there is an enjoyable self-mocking quality at the heart of GBH, with Twemlow gamely refusing to exclude himself from the jokes, taking jibes about his age and being an unlikely fifty something babe magnet on the chin, and then of course there is the revelation that his tough as nails character spends his nights snuggled up to an over-sized teddy bear named Yogi! Somehow Twemlow manages to poke fun at himself while at the same time proving his worth as a credible action hero and has a world weary charisma, believable as a fundamentally decent guy at heart who is what he is in order to survive in a tough world. Cliff Twemlow is highly likable.
GBH begat a whole number of David Kent-Watson directed Twemlow vehicles that continued up until Twemlow's death in 1993. Especially entertaining is The Eye of Satan, a 1988 horror/action hybrid that somehow incorporates a South African voodoo cult, Manchester duck hunters, the kidnapping of a gangster's daughter and an Arab arms dealer into the same plot and has Twemlow playing a devil worshipping mercenary in a performance that is equal parts Mike Raven and The Terminator. The early Nineties also produced a GBH sequel that saw the majority of the cast reprise their roles nearly ten years on.
GBH may be decisively Low-Fi, being alongside the likes of Sexy Secrets of the Kissogram Girls and Suffer Little Children one of the earliest British films to be shot on videotape, but always manages to win audiences over on the strength of the film's and Twemlow's personality. Fondly remember from the days of early video rentals its the cherry on the cake of the late, great Twemlow's two fisted legacy of action films and horror paperbacks.
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