Lindsay Shonteff was a Canadian based in London who made a long series of low budget genre films from 1964 up until his death in 2006 (literally, he died on the last day of production of his final film). Fiercely independent, he was approached by major studios on at least two occasions but, ultimately, the deals fell through simply because he wasn’t prepared to work on their terms: Shonteff did what he wanted, how he wanted, even if the results were sometimes damaged by his refusal to compromise.
|Cool in a tight spot.|
|Dead Eye Dolly.|
Take ‘Clegg’ (1973), for instance. It’s a fast moving, sometimes surreal take on the private eye film. Harry Clegg is quick with his fists, deadly with a gun and cat nip to the ladies. Not bad for a little ginger haired man with a screwed up face. He starts the film by casually killing three men with a machine gun before popping back to his flat for a shag.
Despite his obvious talents, he’s has a hole in his Chelsea boot and a car that has to be started with a crank handle, so he eagerly accepts a job protecting a millionaire who has received a death threat. This leads him into a slightly swinging world of revenge, assassination, lollypop licking girls and a huge amount of killings, punctuated by fairy tame sex breaks. In the end, everybody but him is dead and he is reduced to picking corpse’s pockets for his fee. He’s a terrible bodyguard, but a hell of a guy.
|He thinks it's his lucky day. He's wrong.|
|Good Golly, Miss Lolly.|
|Dead Eye Dick.|
'Clegg’ (also known as 'Harry & The Hookers' and 'The Bullet Machine') is a frustrating film. With a bigger budget and a slightly more (or less) coherent script it could have been something quite special, i.e. the straight parts of the story aren’t straight enough and the odd bits are enjoyable but there just aren’t enough of them. Shonteff seems torn between whether Clegg should be Philip Marlowe or Jerry Cornelius and the uncertainty shows – with a bit more confidence it could have been an out and out classic, either as a hard-bitten detective film or a pop art romp. As it is, it’s a 'what could have been', like so many of Shonteff’s fascinating but flawed films.
Here's the opening credits. They rock. The excellent music is by Paul Ferris, who scored all of Michael Reeves' films.