History of the Compton Club

History of The Compton Club

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, while 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 linked to a private members club known as The Compton Cinema Club, run by Tony Tenser and Michael Klinger. Interestingly, John Trevelyan, Secretary of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) between 1958 and 1971, was allegedly a 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 first initiative of the Compton Club was 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 Compton Club Events and Screenings

  • This Film is Not Yet Rated (Kirby Dick, 2006) introduced by Hammad Khan, Film Examiner, British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and John Dyer, Head of Education at the BBFC.
  • Witchfinder General variously described in publicity for the film as 'The year's most violent film!’. Introduced by Matthew Sweet.
  • Undertow is a very assured and visually stunning piece of work by director NeilMcenery-West.
  • Straw Dogs - 16 February 2009 - Has been contentious ever since its initial release. Shot in Cornwall, it has been called Peckinpah's ‘Cornish Western'. Initially submitted to the BBFC in 1971, it was originally classified as X (now 18) after some cuts suggested by the then Secretary of the BBFC. Successful at the Box Office it nevertheless drew the opprobrium of Mary Whitehouse (Chair of the National Viewers and Listeners Association) and was banned by some local councils.
  • A Clockwork Orange - 23 February 2009 - was first screened in London in 1972, the BBFC had, in 1967, stated that an early screenplay version they had sight of ‘would be unlikely to be acceptable’. However, when the film was submitted in 1971 it was passed as an X, with no cuts.
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