Thursday, 3 January 2008

The University of Westminster, film history and the passing of Tony Tenser

Some of you may have heard on Radio 4’s Last word or elsewhere about the passing of Tony Tenser on 5 December 2007, see his obituary in the Independent, accessed by the link here.

Curiously, I have been working recently on a project that celebrates in part some of the film history of the University of Westminster including some of Tenser's role within this. Below is text from a memo I sent to all staff and students before Xmas, before I heard of Tenser’s passing, and I now hope to be able to show one of his films as part of this programme. Currently these sessions are only available to staff and students, but please contact me if you would like more details or like to be put on the mailing list. The Old Cinema at the University of Westminster has an important place in film history. Perhaps most famously the first presentation of the cinematograph by the Lumiere Brothers took place there on 20 February 1896. Preceding this, whilst still called the Royal Polytechnic Institution, it was world renowned for its pioneering 'Magic Lantern' shows and still maintains links with the Magic Lantern Society. Outside of this the Old Cinema, known at various times as the Cameo-Poly and Cameo News Theatre, was also host for a time to a private members club known as The Compton Cinema Club, run by Tony Tenser and Michael Klinger, and with John Trevelyan, Secretary of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) between 1958 and 1971, as its founding member. A number of notable UK and world premieres have been held at the Cinema including La Vie Commence Demain and the lost mod classic Bronco Bullfrog.

The newly founded Compton Club builds upon this film legacy. Drawing its name both from the club originally founded by Tenser and Klinger, and the superb refurbished Compton Organ, the ethos of the Compton would is one of dynamism and inclusivity, and to develop ideas and initiatives that show the creativity and dynamism that exists within the University as well as paying homage to its history.

The first initiative of the Compton Club is a short film series, entitled Banned! The Regulation of Film. The first X -Certificate rated film was shown at the Cinema in January 1951, and this series looks at a number of films that have proved contentious in the period since this landmark event. The series will be open to all students and staff and will take place in Learning Futures Room at Regent Street within popcorn throwing distance of the Old Cinema, on selected Wednesdays in Semester 2. Further details will be announced early in 2008 and a website will be launched detailing these and other initiatives - more details to follow but look out for posters and emails about this in the New Year. For more details, suggestions or input please contact Guy Osborn


John Flood said...

Witchfinder General was a great film and shown on British TV just last year. Tenser was one of the few directors who brought out Vincent Price's evil side without the campness that usually accompanied it, especially in his Edgar Allan Poe films.

Good luck with the historical work.

Guy Osborn said...

Thanks for the reply John, am reading Matthew Sweet's Shepperton Babylon at the moment and am certainly considering Witchfinder General for a possible showing. There is certainly a lot of historical material here and its pretty enjoyable to look into!

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