Brian Clemens – screenwriter and producer

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Brian Clemens (1931 – 2015) was a noted British screenwriter and producer.

Clemens is best known for his TV work, often in fantasy-based action series. His most famous creation is TV series The Avengers, which ran from 1961 to 1969, and was relaunched as The New Avengers in 1976.

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He also produced action series The Professionals between 1977 and 1983 (with The New Professionals appearing in 1999) and Bugs between 1995 and 1999. As a writer, he contributed to the likes of popular TV productions Adam Adamant Lives, The Baron, The Champions, The Persuaders, Remington Steele and many more.

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Yet, running throughout his career, was an involvement in the horror genre. In 1960, he wrote his first horror film, The Tell Tale Heart, based (very) loosely on the Poe story, and in 1965 he co-wrote Lindsay Shonteff’s Curse of the Voodoo.

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In the early Seventies, he took a break from TV to concentrate on screenplay writing. His impressively low-key psycho thriller And Soon the Darkness (remade in 2010) was directed by Avengers alumni Robert Fuest, and he followed it with another psycho movie, Blind Terror, a year later.

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These two films would ultimately form the template for his hit TV series Thriller, which ran from 1973 to 1976 and tended to specialise in ‘woman in peril’ stories, often treading the fine line between psychological thriller and horror, and occasionally crossing the line into outright supernatural stories.

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For Hammer, he wrote Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde, a film that belied its gimmicky title and somewhat subverted the Hammer gothic style, mixing Stevenson’s story with Burke and Hare and Jack the Ripper in a genre mash-up that was decades ahead of its time.

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He followed this with Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter in 1972, which would be his only directorial credit. The film attempted to breathe new life into Hammer’s vampire cycle – by now flogged to death – by combining it with swashbuckling action courtesy of superhero-like Kronos. The movie blended humour, horror and action, and aside from a rather stiff central performance by Horst Jansen, proved to be tremendous fun.

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It could’ve been a fresh start for Hammer, but they had no idea what to do with it and considered the film too weird. It was eventually slipped out as the bottom half of a double bill with last-gasp Frankenstein film Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. Plans for further Kronos adventures were dropped, though the character did briefly live on, appropriately enough, as a comic strip in early issues of House of Hammer.

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Between the Hammer films, Clemens wrote the Ray Harryhausen fantasy The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and in 1980 he was the screenwriter for Disney’s family-oriented horror / science fiction crossover The Watcher in the Woods, which mixed haunted house spookiness with alien invasion. John Hough’s film was badly edited (with a new ending) in initial release, but has since built a strong reputation.

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In the 1980s, Clemens once again concentrated on TV, writing one episode of horror anthology The Dark Room (1981) and two instalments of Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (1984).

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He wrote science fiction TV movie Timestalkers in 1987 and three episodes of supernatural anthology Worlds Beyond and one episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents around the same time. His final cinematic writing credit was for the story for Highlander II: The Quickening in 1991.

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