Thursday, 1 December 2011

Retro review: Goodbye Gemini (1970)

Jacki and Julian are twins, who have been sent to live in London by their father in Mexico. Almost as soon as they get to the house they are to stay at they have playfully orchestrated the death of the house keeper to have full run of the house. This sinister act is treated as a game to the two, who are very insular and childish. Jacki (Judy Geeson) and Julian (Martin Potter) then set out to the London nightlife, along with their confidant and companion, a stuffed bear called Agamenmon. (the source novel was Ask Agamemnon by Jenni Hall).

At a seedy strip joint (where they have strippers with a certain something extra, shall we say) the giggling naive twins catch the attention of Clive (Alexis Kanner), a socialite who is more talk than substance. He takes the twins to a party organised by art dealer (Terry Scully), where they catch the attention of a politician James Harrington-Smith (the legendary Sir Michael Redgrave) and camp lounge lizard art collector, David (the no less legendary Freddie Jones). The party scene dialogue is straight out of Oscar Wilde "no holes barred in SW3" David tells James.

Everywhere the twins go, they turn heads and their close, borderline incestuous relationship makes an impression. When a rough bookie (Mike Pratt, from Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)) turns up looking for Clive, it becomes apparent their new friend is not the man he makes out to be. Clive and his friend, Denise (Marian Diamond) are becoming almost permanent residents at the twin's house, and Julian sees their constant company as a threat to the their little bubble.
When Jacki rejects Julian's amorous advances, and desire to be alone together, Clive takes Julian out, getting him drunk and to a hotel where he provides two 'women' for Julian, who, he soon finds out - like the strippers - have a little extra.
Clive uses photos of this shameful night to try and blackmail Julian into giving him the £400 he owes the bookie for his gambling debt. Horrified by Clive's plans, Denise tells Jacki so that Julian would not have to pay. Still shamed by his night of sodomy, Julian has other plans.
Together, the twins plot to do away with Clive. It's after this event, Jacki loses all grip on reality and disappears into the night, only to be picked up by the passing Smith. Her nightmare is only just beginning.

A strange and for a long time rarely seen, but incredibly well made film, Goodbye Gemini is not betrayed by it's dated swinging London setting, Largely due to the wonderful cinematography of Geoffrey Unsworth (2001, Zardoz, Superman The Movie), who sets up some amazing angles and gives it a very stylish look. The soundtrack stands out (by Christopher Gunning, who also did Hands Of The Ripper), despite being full of 60s psychedelic types songs, For once, they don't detract or date the film, but enhance it. The themes and settings are quite frank, even by today's standards, and you can imagine if this was done now there would be more shown and played out rather than left ambiguous and suggested. The seedy world in which Clive and his friends (and indeed, the 'hero' politician) hang out in are not the usual places, leaning more to the homosexual side rather than that more commonly seen in films of the time, which is a bold move, but feels perfectly right for the surreal world the twins have made for themselves and pitched perfectly, without resorting to pastiche.

It's also very well directed by Alan Gibson, who had just made Crescendo for Hammer, and would later make the last two Christopher Lee Dracula movies for them (as well as a couple of episodes of the House of Horror TV series). The producer, Peter Snell is the CEO of British Lion, who later produced The Wicker Man.
Keep an eye out for Brian Wilde (Night Of The Demon, and more famously, Porridge and Last Of The Summer Wine) as the taxi driver and an underused Peter Jeffrey once again playing a police inspector, which he would of course do wonderfully in the two Dr Phibes films. Star Martin Potter had been in Fellini's Satyricon (1969) and would later pop up in a couple of genre films, Norman J. Warren's Satan's Slaves (1976) and Cruel Passion (aka Justine - 1977).

The only niggle that can be found is that, on occasion, the image of the DVD release suffers from some colour 'fringing', giving it almost a look of watching a 3D film without glasses. These sections don't last too long and are not too off putting, but a shame as it's such a great release.
8 out of 10.

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