R.I.P. Tony Tenser

First Karlheinz Stockhausen, now THIS.

quoth the raven

As head of Compton Films and then Tigon Films, Tony Tenser at produced first cheap-and-cheerful skinflicks (NAKED AS NATURE INTENDED, with Pamela Green of PEEPING TOM fame), then horror movies that ranged from the semi-classy: WITCHFINDER GENERAL, BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW (both touched with genius), to the trashy: CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR, a stodgy country-house horror than features both Karloff and Lee, but finds nothing for either to do, but is enlivened by hilarious s&m dream sequences with a green-painted Barbara Steele with horns on.

Tenser did dabble in other genres too, distributing the very uneven but at-least-arguably brilliant THE GREAT MCGONAGALL with Spike Milligan (the only film I know that actually stops for lunch) and WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE, a downright bizarre and unwelcome sex comedy starring Norman Wisdom and a teenage Sally Geeson (“Makes NOT NOW DARLING look like the fuckin’ MAHABHARATA,” – Steven McNicoll), but his greatest contribution to cinema must be his launching of Roman Polanski’s U.K. directing career.

REPULSION was a risky project for anybody to undertake, with censorable sexual situations, a depressing ambience, and a stylistic journey from British social realism (sort of) to avant-garde expressionist terror. The result is still Polanski’s most extreme, strange and powerful film (which is not intended as a knock against his later works).

I think it’s a great shame Tenser retired from movies when he did, for with the disappearance of mini-moguls like him, British cinema stopped generating these rogue movies which are our artistic lifeblood, and we pretty much gave up on making commercial potboilers too. The dreaded middle ground was all that remained:

Run, fat boy, run!

“It’s OK if you like films about…students…running,” – Greg/Sylvia Edwards.

So goodbye, Tony Tenser, we were missing you already.

Buy REPULSION here ~

Repulsion [1965] [DVD]


6 Responses to “R.I.P. Tony Tenser”

  1. Maybe this would be a good time to watch the VHS Lucan sent me of WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE… or not.


  2. Definitely! It’s how he’d want to be remembered.
    I think that’s the tape I got from Stevie McNicoll and passed to Lucan…

  3. Miniweekend Says:

    Tony produced neither THE GREAT MCGONAGALL or CRY OF THE BANSHEE, though he did make NOT NOW DARLING. Pamela Green had already made PEEPING TOM prior to NAKED AS NATURE INTENDED.

    Apart from that you were spot on; films need more like him

  4. You’re quite right of course, and i’ve adjusted the article to reflect the difference between films produced by Tenser personally, distributed through Tigon, and AIP productions he had nothing to do with! It’s particularly wrong of me to connect him with CRY OF THE BANSHEE, which is inferior to his period horror films, although it does feel like the third in some kind of informal trilogy.
    Obligatory plug is due here for Benjamin Halligan’s MICHAEL REEVES, from Manchester Uinversity Press.

  5. “The Great McGonagall” is a masterpiece! Infinitely more radical that Dziga-Vertov Group period Godard and right up there with the best of Monty Python. Joseph McGrath is the Edgar G. Ulmer of comedy.

  6. Well, I said it was arguably brilliant, and you’ve proved me right.
    But I can never get over how unhappy Spike Milligan looks before the lunchbreak, and his director is unable to reassure him. Mind you, McGrath had probably had Spike grumbling in that manner all through the shoot, and there are only so many variations on “it’ll be fine” you can come up with.
    Brit comic Paul Merton values THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN highly, as “one of the few British films with an epic sensibility”, to which I could add that it does a good job of marrying that sensibility to comedy, since the two things rarely go well together. I’ve still to see DIGBY, which appeals.
    More on Brit comedy shortly.

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