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The Career of Michael Klinger - an Overview

Rotund, cigar-chomping and ebullient -
Sheridan Morley described him in 1975 as resembling “nothing so much as a flamboyant character actor doing impressions of Louis B. Meyer” - Michael Klinger might seem a caricature of the producer, but this image belied a quicksilver intelligence, photographic memory and a cultivated mind.

Born in 1920, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants who had settled in London’s Soho, Klinger’s entry into the film industry came via his ownership of two Soho strip clubs, the
Nell Gwynne and the Gargoyle - that were used for promotional events such as the Miss Cinema competition and by film impresarios such as James Carreras - and through an alliance with a fellow Jewish entrepreneur Tony Tenser, who worked for a film distribution company, Miracle Films. In October 1960, they set up Compton Films which owned the Compton Cinema Club (that showed, to anyone over twenty-one, nudist and other uncertificated, often foreign, films) and Compton Film Distributors which started out with a modest slate of salacious imported films (e.g. Tower of Lust) and a series of imaginative publicity stunts. However, finding it difficult to obtain sufficient films, Klinger and Tenser started making their own low-budget films, beginning with Naked as Nature Intended (November 1961) directed by George Harrison Marks and starring his girlfriend Pamela Green.

Michael Klinger, English movie mogul: (left to right) with Susannah York in South Africa (Gold), Getting a haircut from RogerMoore (Gold)
in typical repose with cigar, at a black tie event with Sir Peter Ustinov, sharing a laugh with Michael Caine and Mickey Rooney in Malta (Pulp)

On the strength of a modest success, Tenser and Klinger formed a new company, Tekli, to make several films - including
The Yellow Teddybears (1963) and The Pleasure Girls (1965) - that combined salaciousness with an attempt at examining serious sexual issues, an assortment of different genres - comedy horror and sci-fi - and two ‘shockumentaries’ - London in the Raw (1964) and Primitive London (1965).

Klinger and Tenser were both highly ambitious, but culturally divergent. Characteristically, when
Roman Polanski arrived in London and approached the pair to obtain finance having failed elsewhere, it was Klinger who had seen Knife in the Water (1962) and therefore gave him the opportunity, and the creative freedom, to make Repulsion (1965) and the even more outré Cul-de-sac (1966). Although Repulsion in particular had been financially successful, and both films won awards at the Berlin Film Festival that conferred welcome prestige on Tekli, Tenser, always happier to stay with proven box-office material, sex films and period horror, saw Polanski as at best a distraction and at worse a liability. These differences led to the break-up of the partnership in October 1966.

Klinger set up a new company, Avton Films and continued to promote young, talented but unproven directors who were capable of making fresh and challenging features:
Peter Collinson’s absurdist/surrealist thriller The Penthouse (1967); Alastair Reid’s Baby Love (1968), another film that focused on a sexually precocious young female, but with an ambitious narrative style that included flashbacks and nightmare sequences; and Mike Hodges’s ambitious and brutal thriller Get Carter (1971). Although Get Carter is now routinely discussed as Hodges’ directorial triumph, it was Klinger who had bought the rights to Ted Lewis’s novel Jack’s Return Home because he sensed its potential to imbue the British crime thriller with the realism and violence of its American counterparts and who had succeeded in raising the finance through MGM-British all before Hodges became involved.

Part of Klinger’s success was his ability to tap into various markets. In the 1970s he continued to make low-budget sexploitation films with the
“Confessions” series (Window Cleaner/Pop Performer/Driving Instructor/Holiday Camp, 1974-78) for which he acted as executive producer and whose modest costs could be recouped (in fact they made substantial profits) even from a rapidly shrinking domestic market and partly compensate for an industry that now lacked a stable production base, was almost completely casualised, and where there was a chronic lack of continuous production. Klinger continued to produce more recherché and challenging films, including Reid’s neglected Something to Hide (1972), and Rachel’s Man (1975), a Biblical love story directed by the young Israeli director, Moshé Mizrahi.

Klinger’s main energies went into the production of high budget action-adventure films - Gold (1974) and
Shout at the Devil (1976) - aimed at the international market and based on best-sellers by Wilbur Smith. They were filmed in South Africa using South African money which caused considerable controversy. Shout at the Devil, astonishingly for an independent production, was the most expensive film made in 1976, costing around $9,000,000. Both films star Roger Moore (the then James Bond); in Shout at the Devil he was paired with Lee Marvin.

Klinger suffered a major disappointment when he failed to negotiate a four-picture deal with Rank in 1976 and he was less successful after this point. He produced
Tomorrow Never Comes (d. Collinson,1978) and Les liens de sang (Blood Relatives, Chabrol, 1978) as Anglo-Canadian co-productions. He made Riding High in 1980, starring the stunt rider Eddie Kidd, but this performed poorly at the box-office and was really Klinger’s last film.

Michael Klinger - Filmography

Naked as Nature Intended (1961) pc. Markten/Compass, dis. Compton
My Bare Lady (1962; d. Arthur Knight) - Compton-Cameo distributors
That Kind of Girl (1963) pc. Tekli, dis. Compton
The Yellow Teddybears (1963) pc. Tekli, dis. Compton
London in the Raw (1964) pc. Trotwood Productions, dis. Compton
Saturday Night Out (1964) pc. Compton-Tekli, dis. Compton
The Black Torment (1964) pc. Compton-Tekli, dis. Compton
Repulsion (1965) pc. Tekli, dis. Compton
Primitive London (1965) pc. Trotwood Productions, dis. Cinépix Film Properties (Canada)
A Study in Terror (1965) pc. Compton-Tekli, dis. Compton
The Pleasure Girls (1965) pc. Tekli, dis. Compton
Cul-de-Sac (1966) pc. Compton-Tekli, dis. Compton
Secrets of a Windmill Girl (1966) pc. Searchlight-Markten, dis. Compton
The London Nobody Knows (1967) pc. Norcon, dist. London Films
The Projected Man (1966) pc. MLC, dis. Compton
The Penthouse (1967) pc. Tahiti, dis. Paramount
La Mujer de mi padre/Muhair (The Woman of my Father, 1968) pc. Compton Films International, dis. Haven International Pictures (USA)
Baby Love (1968) pc. Avton, dis. Avco Embassy
Barcelona Kill (1971) pc. Avton, dis. Scotia (West Germany)
Get Carter (1971) pc. MGM-British, dis. MGM-EMI
Pulp (1972) pc. Three Michaels, dis. United Artists
Something to Hide (1972) pc. Avton, dis. Avco Embassy
Rachel’s Man (1974) pc. Longlade, dis. Allied Artists
Gold (1974) pc. Avton, dis. Hemdale
Confessions of a Window Cleaner (1974) pc. Swiftdown, dis. Columbia
Confessions of a Pop Performer (1975) pc. Swiftdown, dis. Columbia
Confessions of a Driving Instructor (1976) pc. Swiftdown, dis. Columbia
Shout at the Devil (1976) pc. Tonay Productions, dis. Hemdale
Confessions from a Holiday Camp (1977) pc. Swiftdown, dis. Columbia
Les liens de sang/Blood Relatives (1978) pc. Classic Film Industries/ Cinevideo-Filmel, dis. Filmcorp Productions
Tomorrow Never Comes (1978) pc. Classic Film Industries/Montreal Trust/Neffbourne, dis. Rank
Riding High (1981) pc. Klinger Productions, dis. Enterprise Pictures
The Assassinator (1988), pc. Ice International, dis. Cameo Classics

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