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Antony Balch (1937 - 1980)

Related: British cinema - British erotica - British underground - nobrow - British exploitation - London Film-Makers' Co-operative

Antony Balch was one of the first British enterpreneurs to embrace art, horror and exploitation films with equal enthusiasm, a view that was hardly shared by many film critics of the time.

Antony Balch may not be a household name in the U.S., but he was a fascinating figure in the world of British exploitation films. In the 1960s, Balch distributed a number of European exploitation films in the U.K., convinced the British censors to finally allow Tod Browning’s Freaks to be screened, and made several short films with writer William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch). Balch finally made first full-length feature in 1969, a thing called Secrets of Sex, and it was the first of two collaborations with legendary producer Richard Gordon (the second being Horror Hospital). --[1]

Bizarre (1970) - Antony Balch [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

With Balch using his own money to fund half of the budget what emerged was the deceptively titled Secrets of Sex (1970). Balch’s feature debut is in fact a multi-genre anthology film which blends slapstick comedy, spy spoof, bloody horror movie and softcore sex film under the pretext of being a comment on the battle of the sexes. Secrets of Sex was a sensation, running for six months at the Piccadilly Jacey.


Antony Balch (1937-1980) was a British film director and distributor, best known for his screen collaborations with Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs in the 1960s and the 1970s horror film, Horror Hospital.

Balch’s fixation for horror and exploitation movies began early in life, culminating in a school-aged Balch meeting his idol Bela Lugosi in Brighton, England in the early 1950s. Lugosi was touring in a stage version of Dracula at the time.

Working his way into the British film industry, Balch directed adverts for Camay soap, and a 30-second commercial for Kit-E-Kat.

In the early part of the 1960s he lived briefly in France working as a location scout and subtitler of French films for their British releases. In Paris, Balch became friendly with radical artists such as William Burroughs and Kenneth Anger. Burroughs and Balch met at Madame Raschoo’s Beat Hotel, and the two quickly became collaborators.

Balch gets a "special thanks" credit in Burroughs’ novel The Ticket That Exploded and directed the Burroughs-influenced experimental film, Towers Open Fire among other short works. In 1963, Balch attended a showing of the 1930s horror film, Freaks and decided to become a distributor in order to open the film in London. Freaks had been banned in Britain since 1932, but, with the help of Anger, Balch bought the British rights to the film. He released Freaks and Towers Open Fire as part of a triple-bill.

Balch was next hired to run two movie theatres in London -- The Jacey in Piccadilly Circus and The Times in Baker Street. Balch did everything from choosing what films played, the front of house displays, to keeping an eye on projectionists and janitorial staff. Whereas The Times was more rep oriented, The Jacey specialized in playing exploitation films like Nudist Paradise and the Japanese horror/art-house hit Onibaba. Meanwhile, Balch carried on his career as a distributor, eventually releasing films such as The Corpse Grinders, Kenneth Anger’s Invocation of My Demon Brother, Paul Bowles in Morocco, and Russ Meyer’s Supervixens. Balch was one of the first people to embrace art, horror and exploitation films with equal enthusiasm, a view that was hardly shared by many film critics of the time.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s his special niche was releasing foreign sex films. Most of the sex films Balch released in the UK had been purchased at the Cannes or Venice film festivals; with no stars or name directors they cost next to nothing. Balch then added his own personal touch, giving the films tongue-in-cheek English titles and eye catching campaigns like "No photographs permitted of this controversial X Film" (from When Girls Undress). Balch worked out of an office in Golden Square, Soho and lived in Dalmeney Court on Duke Street. Dalmeney Court’s other occupants included Burroughs and artist Brion Gysin plus the occasional celebrity passing through such as The Animals’ Eric Burdon.

A second Balch/Burroughs collaboration film, The Cut-Ups opened in London in 1967. This was part of an abandoned project called Guerrilla Conditions meant as a documentary on Burroughs and filmed throughout 1961-1965. Inspired by Burroughs' and Gysin's technique of cutting up text and rearranging it in random order, Balch had an editor cut his footage for the documentary into little pieces and impose no control over its reassembly. The film opened at Oxford Street’s Cinephone cinema and had a disturbing reaction. Many audience members claimed the film made them ill, others demanded their money back, while some just stumbled out of the cinema ranting "it's disgusting".

Included in The Cut-Ups are shots of Burroughs acting out scenes from his book Naked Lunch. The idea of bringing Naked Lunch to the big-screen was Balch’s dream project. First developed in 1964, a script was completed in the early 1970s which would have adapted the book as a musical. Personal differences between Balch and the film’s would-be leading man Mick Jagger caused the project’s collapse.

Balch found a more committed investor for his plans to make feature films in producer Richard Gordon. Gordon had a long history in horror cinema, and had been partly responsible for the stage version of Dracula that had allowed Balch to meet Lugosi. Their first film together was shot from a script never fully completed. With Balch using his own money to fund half of the budget what emerged was the deceptively titled Secrets of Sex (1970). Balch’s feature debut is in fact a multi-genre anthology film which blends slapstick comedy, spy spoof, bloody horror movie and softcore sex film under the pretext of being a comment on the battle of the sexes. Secrets of Sex was a sensation, running for six months at the Piccadilly Jacey.

Encouraged by the film’s British success, Balch and Gordon set about a second collaboration called Horror Hospital (1973). In the classic exploitation film tradition, the title was invented before the plot. Balch then spent his time locked in a hotel room with co-writer Alan Watson until the script was complete. Horror Hospital featured Michael Gough as the very Lugosi-like Dr. Storm. When Gough asked Balch what he wanted bringing to the role Balch screened him The Devil Bat, a Lugosi classic about a mad scientist masquerading as a perfume inventor. Horror Hospital was the most successful of all of Balch’s films.

While other projects were discussed, including a horror film co-written by Chris Wicking and a comedy called The Sex Life of Adolf Hitler, Balch never made another feature film and in the years that followed concentrated more on his work as a cinema programmer and distributor. In 1978, Balch was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and died on April 6, 1980 aged 43. --[1]

Bizarre (1970) - Antony Balch

Journey into the mind of the undead, as a talking mummy guides us on a grand tour of the timeless "battle of the sexes" between man and woman. A cult classic from Executive Producer Richard Gordon (Fiend Without A Face, Island Of Terror), Bizarre is an offbeat anthology film that certanly defies description. An interesting mix of sex, horror and humor filmed in varied styles, this is certainly one of the strangest films you are ever likely to see. It is truly ....BIZARRE!

Films distributed in the UK by Antony Balch

Date passed by censor~ 03 May 1963 ~ Freaks Cert X 12 June 1963 ~Towers Open Fire Cert X 23 April 1964 ~ Do You Like Women? Cert X (real title: Aimez-Vous Les Femmes ) 10 December 1964 ~ The Curse and the Coffin Cert A 10 December 1964 ~The Burning Court Cert A 25 June 1965 ~ Noite Vayia rejected (passed X with cuts 4 Nov 1965) 20 August 1965 ~ Secret Paris Cert X (sex travelogue, Balch’s advert for the film makes a cameo in The Cut-Ups) 25 August 1965 ~ Mr Lewis Cert U 04 November 1965 ~ Men and Women Cert X (‘the screen’s first serious study of sexual experience’) 20 December 1965 ~ Flora Cert A (an ‘astonishing’ short, played as a support feature to Men and Women) 26 May 1966 ~ The Kinky Darlings Cert X (real title: Per Una Valigia Piene Di Donne) 31 May 1966 ~ X-Ray of a Killer Cert X (Euro crime thriller featuring espionage plot and a hunt for a strangler) 31 May 1966 ~ The Horrible Profession Cert X 03 June 1966 ~ The Decadent Influence Cert A 03 June 1966 ~ Une Fille Et Des Fusils Cert A 10 June 1966 ~ The Suitcase Cert X 26 July 1966 ~ Les Fetes Galantes Cert U 23 August 1966 ~ Gift Cert X 20 October 1966 ~ The Pornographer rejected 01 December 1966 ~ Lu Cert X 13 January 1967 ~ Massacre For an Orgy Cert X (French, a.k.a Massacre of Pleasure, about gangsters and prostitution possible Bob Cresse/Dick Randall involvement) 22 March 1967 ~ The Shape of the Light Cert X 10 April 1967 ~ Where Once Kings Rode Cert U 14 July 1967 ~ The Pussycats Cert X 26 September 1967 ~ The Comic Strip Hero Cert X (French directed by Alain Jessua) 22 December 1967 ~ The Cut-Ups Cert U 16 January 1968 ~ Mondo Bizarre Cert X 27 February 1968 ~ Skin Skin Cert X (real title: Kapy Selan Alla) 27 March 1968 ~ The Brutes Cert X 01 October 1968 ~ Hercules against the Barbarians Cert U 15 October 1968 ~ Requiem For A Gunfighter Cert U (‘super-Western’) 24 October 1968 ~ Witchcraft Through the Ages Cert X (1922 silent ‘Haxan’ reissued by Balch with Burroughs narration and Jean-Luc Ponty soundtrack) 03 December 1968 ~ Thoughts of Chairman Mao Cert A 23 December 1968 ~ Adventures of Robinson Crusoe Cert U 24 April 1969 ~ Lot in Sodom Cert X 05 August 1969 ~ Run Angel Run Cert X (US biker actioner with William Smith) 05 August 1969 ~ Invocation of My Demon Brother Cert X (Kenneth Anger, soundtrack by Mick Jagger) 05 August 1969 ~ The Dream Girl Cert X (Swedish short) 15 August 1969 ~ The Gay Deceivers Cert X (US comedy, two men camp it up to avoid the draft to Vietnam) 03 April 1970 ~ Freaky Rider rejected 06 April 1970 ~ The Weird Weirdo (Le Grand Ceremonal) Cert X (from a play by Fernando Arrabal. Cavanosa, a man-child plays with blow-up dolls but finds real love in the form of model Syl. His mother tries to break them up by accusing him of being a serial killer.) 27 May 1970 ~ Love 65 Cert X 08 June 1970 ~ The Curious Female Cert X (US softcore, set in 2177 where promiscuity is encouraged but relationships are banned) 03 July 1970 ~ Hetrosexual Cert X (following her expulsion from a convent Juliette (Maria Pia Conte) lives La Dolce Vita in Rome.) 07 August 1970 ~ Secrets of Sex Cert X 24 August 1970 ~ Dementia- Daughter of Horror Cert X 3 March 1971 ~ War Between the Planets Cert U (Italian sci-fi) 11 March 1971 ~ Paul Bowles in Morocco Cert AA 13 July 1971 ~ A Matter of Fat Cert U 28 July 1971 ~ Justine and Juliet Cert X (De Sade adaptation by Jess Franco featuring Romina Power and Jack Palance.) 01 December 1971 ~ Don’t Deliver Us From Evil Cert X (‘the French film banned in France’) 20 December 1971 ~ La Fete A Jo Jo Cert X 17 Feb 1972 ~ The Hippie Girls Cert X 17 Feb 1972 ~ Loving and Laughing Cert X 17 February 1972 ~ The Importance of Being Sexy Cert X 23 August 1972 ~ Moral Love Cert X 8 March 1973 ~ The Corpse Grinders Cert X (all the corpse grinding scenes were cut by the UK censor) 16 April 1973 ~ Horror Hospital Cert X 14 August 1973 ~ Sexy Darlings Cert X (real title: Robinson une seine wilden sklavinnen- Jess Franco comedy about a man whose day dreams come true.) 16 August 1974 ~ Doctor in the Nude Cert X (really ‘traitment de choc’ a highly regarded equation of capitalism and vampirism) 30 September 1974 ~ Bill and Tony –Who’s Who Cert U 29 October 1974 ~ When Girls Undress Cert X (West German sex comedy originally ‘Matratzen-Tango’ about a dustman trying to give up sex so he can enter a bike race) 28 November 1974 ~ Mama’s Dirty Girls Cert X (US drive-in movie, scheming mama has her daughters use their sex appeal to shakedown dumb men ) 03 Feb 1975 ~ Truck Stop Women Cert X (‘double clutchin, gear-jammin’ mamas who like a lot of hijackin by day and a lot of heavy truckin’ by night’.) 21 Feb 1975 ~ The Love Hate Cert X 27 Jan 1975 ~ Machismo Cert X (Californian western financed by softcore entrepreneur Harry Novak) 13 April 1976 ~ L’Aggression Cert X 25 August 1976 ~ Bisexual Cert X (French, ‘the erotic fantasies of a young computer operator’) 12 February 1977 ~ Supervixens Cert X (Russ Meyer, the dynamite between the legs climax was cut by the UK censors) 24 March 1977 ~ Secrets of Sex: Short Version Cert X (edited down version of Balch’s feature debut designed to play as a half hour co-feature) 31 March 1977 ~ Blacksnake/Slaves Cert X (another heavily cut Meyer) 29 September 1977 ~ 18 Year Old Schoolgirls Cert X --http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Films_distributed_by_Antony_Balch&oldid=22782717 [Oct 2005]

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