“Bleeding women. No wonder there are so many queers.”
— Steve “the Mancunian” Donovan
I’ll forever program this British-made ’80s SOV’er (titled with and without the periods) alongside the American-made Spine as result their analogous porn roots. It’s even possible that the porn-backed production of G.B.H influenced the later, 1984-begun and 1986-released production of Spine. Produced, written, and directed by John Howard and Justin Simonds, the horror/slasher-based Spine came together with financing from porn purveyors 4-Play Video, Inc. and producers Xeon, Ltd., who created the SS “Sterling Silver” Video imprint for the sole purpose of distributing Spine — and other planned horror flicks that were, sadly, never made — without the nasty porn aftertaste.
Meanwhile, over in England, pornographer David Grant jumped on the stag film bandwagon along the yellow brick road to the “Golden Age of Porn” halcyon days initiated by Gerard Damiano’s box office bonanza known as Deep Throat (1972). Grant’s first film — Love Variations (1969) — masqueraded as a “sex education” film. So successful, Grant’s first film lead to his porn-pire expanding to include the incorporation of a chain of adult cinemas — the first being The Pigalle (named after the rue Pigalle section of Paris where Oscar Méténier’s famed horror-based Grand Guignol theatre was located) — and a film distribution company, Oppidan (read: Oedipus complex) — to distribute, not only foreign sex film acquisitions, but his own feature-length “sex comedies,” such as Girls Come First, The Office Party, and Under the Bed. He rose through the Golden Age-ranks to rake in the green with Snow White and the Seven Perverts (1973) and Pussy Talk (1975). Using a British taxation loophole, his films became wildly known for their inclusion as the undercard on numerous drive-in and grindhouse theater double bills. He also came to distribute the films of others — and break box office records — such as his 1977 reissue of Emmanuelle (1974).
Then the home video market exploded and grinded the grindhouse circuit into dust: it was time to break into the VHS-based marketplace. His new company, World Video 2000, started with the production and distribution of “soft sex” films in 1981. And it was a racket, to say the least. You may recall our Mill Creek “Pure Terror” box set review of Night Fright (1967) and its later home video title of E.T.N – The Extra Terrestrial Nastie (1983). Well, that’s was all Grant’s idea — to capitalize on the fact that Steven Spielberg’s E.T the Extra Terrestrial had not yet been released in the U.K. on home video.
As we say here often at B&S About Movies: the lawsuits from Universal, ensued.
Then — prior to GBH earning an entry on the U.K.’s Section 3 “video nasty” list, Grant’s World Video 2000 ended up on the Section 1 list with their “mainstream” follow up to their Spielberg boondoggle, Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, aka Nightmare. Again, more legal troubles, ensued (insert your “eye roll,” here). Only, this time, instead of just a pesky ol’ cease and desist lawsuit, he was imprisoned in the U.K. for distributing the film.
And, with that, Grant’s attempts to “go legit/mainstream” with the World of Video 2000 imprint was over: the company — and his parent company, April Electronics — were liquidated. Upon his release and those legal issues resolved, Grant issued one more film: Who Bears Sins (1987), which, if you know your Al Adamson schlock, was a piecemeal effort made from clips of Grant’s previous productions: Girls Come First, You’re Driving Me Crazy, Pink Orgasm, Miss Deep Fantasy, and A Woman’s Best Friend. Some of his other, 24 box office hits — which he either produced, wrote, or directed during the ’70s “porn chic” era — were the notable Au Pair Girls (1972), Secrets of a Door-to-Door Salesman (1973), The Over-Amorous Artist (1974), and The Great McGonagall (1974). Grant’s 50-plus distributed titles — in addition to the usual porn titles — included legit-mainstream films you’ve seen: Last House on the Left (1974), Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (1975), Cathy’s Curse (1977), John Water’s Desperate Living (1977), John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon’s Dark Star (1978), and the Peter Cushing-starring Nazi-Zom’er, Shock Waves (1978).
Retiring to the Turkish island of Cyprus — then being kicked out of that country for an array of alleged, questionable social and relationship issues — he returned to England, only to end up in a hot mess of (more) love triangles and violence, (unproven) drug-distribution accusations, as well as being suspected of — but never charged — with producing child pornography. So the fact that Grant was allegedly murdered — but never proven — as result of a “contract killing” in 1991, really doesn’t come as much of a shock.
If there was ever a life that deserves a hard cover biography or dramatic film, it’s the life of David Grant. (And yes, I have seen most of Grant’s notable adult titles listed this article. (More so than Twemlow’s!) That doesn’t make me weird. It just means I am SOV-VHS inquisitive.)
So, anyway . . . back to GBH . . . one and two.
“When they put teeth in your mouth they ruined a good arse.”
— Steve “the Mancunian” Donovan
So, you’ll notice Grant took it upon himself to name-drop The Long Good Friday, a critically acclaimed 1980 British gangster film starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren that appears at #19 on the BFI – British Film Institute’s “Top 100 British Films.”
Grant — no pun intended — had a set of them, and then some.
Shot-on-Video with amateur actors — and like Spine before it — GBH is shaky across all of its respective disciplines as it tells its definitely, more brutal story than its mainstream, runyonesque inspiration (but fails). The man issuing the Jason Vorhees-without-the-mask grievous bodily arm is Steve Donovan, aka “The Mancunian” (a native or resident of Manchester/played by writer/director Cliff Twemlow): a gangster released from prison hired as a bouncer-body guard to stand down the brutal Keller (Jerry Harris), nightclub-owning mobster hellbent on controlling the city’s criminal enterprises — local gangster Murray in particular, who becomes Donovan’s new boss.
GBH is everything you expect in an SOV: it’s scuzzy, it’s brutal, it’s sexually gratuitous and stupidly lurid. After watching, you’ll know where Jim Van Bebber found his inspiration for this Death Wish-inspired street violence in his overly brutal SOV’er, Deadbeat at Dawn (1988). Van Bebber’s film may be — slightly — better made, but GBH, for moi, is still the more gritty, brutal of the pair. And it has all of the car chases and beat downs, and heartless brutal kills, white Bond-ish sportcoats splattered in blood, and strippers. And Donovan, like a low-budget Schwarzenegger, simply will not stop until no one is left standing.
Played by Cliff Twemlow — in the only notable film of his eleven-film acting career — he wrote eight films, including GBH (which is co-directed with David Kent-Watson). Known primarily as a music composer, his mostly notable film scores are Deathdream (1974) and Dawn of the Dead (1978), along with the long-running British TV series, Crown Court. His other, hard-to-find written/directed films (with David Kent-Watson) are his debut, Tuxedo Warrior (1982), The Ibiza Connection (1984), Predator: The Queitus (1988), Firestar (1991), and The Eye of Satan (1992). If you Google around, you’ll find uploaded clips and beat-to-hell VHS tapes for most of them (I’ve seen Firestar and Eye of Satan, but not the others).
“The booze tastes almost as bad as you look, Keller.”
— Steve “the Mancunian” Donovan
In 1991 Cliff Twemlow and Jerry Harris returned as Donovan and Keller in a sequel: Lethal Impact, aka GBH 2: Lethal Impact, aka GBH 2: Beyond Vengeance, which was also written and directed by Twemlow. Sadly, Lethal Impact, as did the rest of his SOV resume of action and horror films, did not live up to the infamy of the original. But Lethal Impact is even more of everything than the first film, with Donovan cutting a swath across Manchester as a low-budget Paul Kersey to avenge the forced-into-porn death of his schoolgirl niece.