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Thursday 20 December 2007

Tony Tenser

I'm late catching up with the news, but British film producer and distributor Tony Tenser died on December 5th.

I interviewed Tenser onstage twice at Manchester's Festival of Fantastic Films, and considered it a privilege to be given the opportunity.

Some obits that I've seen are characterising him as a producer of nudie exploitation pix with a couple of redeeming titles to his credit. But to my mind the producer of Repulsion, Cul de Sac, The Sorcerers, and Witchfinder General has nothing to apologise for.

Here's a thought for you; our contemporary art of the most lasting value is made when low culture reaches up. Never when high culture condescends to reach down.

My favourite story from those interviews came from the set of Repulsion. Polanski was shooting the scene in which Catherine Deneuve is menaced by disembodied arms that erupt from the walls of a narrow corridor. He'd stipulated a certain number of extras to provide the arms, and had been supplied with less. Tenser asked him to justify the number he'd asked for, and Polanski walked off the set.

A runner was sent after him with the message:

"If Mr Polanski does not return and shoot the scene with the available extras, Mr Tenser will be obliged to bring in his associate Mr Harrison Marks to complete the film."

and Polanski was back on the runner's heels.

That's how Tenser told it. And if anyone was there and knows different, I don't want to hear.

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