Mancunian polymath Cliff Twemlow is probably best known for the series of low-budget, barely released films that he made over a ten-year period in Manchester, beginning with the legendary gangland movie G.B.H. in 1983 and only ending with his untimely death in 1993. But before that film saw him launching “the Hollywood of the North”, he came close to the big time with The Pike.
The Pike originated as a screenplay in the middle of the 1970s, which Twemlow had optioned by Hammer Films – possibly as a lower budget replacement for their other doomed giant monster film, Nessie. But as Hammer slowly imploded and went into administration, Twemlow instead adapted the story into a novel – followed by another horror project, The Beast of Kane. Set in Lake Windermere, the story about a giant pike that moves from gobbling down swans to eating swimmers was very much in the tradition of the pulp horror novels of the era, from James Herbert’s The Rats to Guy N. Smith’s Night of the Crabs and beyond, where nature revolted against humanity.
Plans to film The Pike continued, as Twemlow – inspired by the sale of the film rights to his autobiography Tuxedo Warrior – began to raise the finance to shoot the film independently. He managed to sign up both Joan Collins – then having a career revival with The Stud and The Bitch, but also making giant monster movies like Empire of the Ants – and Jack Hedley, fresh from Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper. He also had a mechanical pike made by Ulvertech, the people who created unmanned subs for North Sea oil rigs, and managed to get this creation a fair amount of press, even to the point of being featured on the BBC’s pop science programme Tomorrow’s World.
Unfortunately, as is all too often the case, the financing for The Pike suddenly fell through. Twemlow would make later attempts to get the project up and running, but the project was always unfortunately beyond him. The pike itself was left to rot in a shed, and the book slipped out of print, generally forgotten by all but the most ardent pulp fans – for whom it has always held a rather special place in their hearts. But, let’s never say never… The Pike might yet swim onto the screen, terrorising the unsuspecting holiday makers of the Lake District.