Just the Two of Us is the second (of two) new releases from Wolfe video spotlighting gay-themed exploitation films of the 1960s and 70s (the other one, That Tender Touch, is reviewed elsewhere on this site.)
Denise (Elizabeth Plumb) and Adria (Alisa Courtney) are two bored California housewives; both of them are married to men whose work - "for the government" - takes them out of town for long stretches of time. Out for lunch at a vaguely hippie-ish cafe, they spy a lesbian couple at the next table, cuddling and holding hands. Overcoming their initial feelings of discomfort, they come to admire the women for their lack of inhibition; Denise in particular sees in them a kind of affection that she feels is missing from her own life. One night, Denise confesses that she feels an attraction to her friend, which leads to a night of (softcore, fairly restrained) passion. While Denise thinks this is the beginnings of a beautiful relationship, it soon becomes clear that Adria feels otherwise; she pursues an affair with a marginally employed (male) actor instead. This drives a wedge between the two, nearly wrecking their friendship and driving Denise to seek comfort in the hedonistic gay party scene. Everything ends somewhat disastrously for everyone, but the stage is set at the end for possible reconciliation.
Just the Two of Us is notable mainly as an early feature from director Barbara Peeters (co-credited here with cinematographer Jaque Beerson). Peeters would go on to some notoriety after making Humanoids From the Deep for Roger Corman a few years later (legend has it that the set of Humanoids was where a young effects technician by the name of James Cameron met Gale Anne Hurd, then a lowly production assistant). Peeters wrote the script from a story by David Novik and it hits most of the usual notes required of tales of sapphic love: two women turn toward each other after dissatisfaction with the square and frustrating straight world; one of them - usually the butchier of the two - feels the attraction more intensely than the other, who ultimately decides to seek solace in he arms of some man; the larger gay scene is a haven for weird, sleazy predators; in the end, nobody winds up happy. Despite the misery that plagues everyone, I suppose this was a reasonably progressive vision of homosexuality for the time; after all, it's the world at large, and not necessarily the love that dare not speak its name, that makes life difficult for the characters. Still this film makes it plainly obvious that there was some distance to be travelled before someone could dare imagine same-sex love leading to anything resembling contentment.
Just the Two Of Us is certainly no worse than the average Harry Novak exploitation flick. It doesn't have the visual ambition of That Tender Touch, going for a more low-key, workmanlike approach (the only stylistically significant feature is some choppy editing that looks like it was meant to cover mistakes). The actors seem weirdly out-of-sync, with some of them sounding as though they're reading off a cue card and others giving overcooked, mannered performances, although the two leads are fine.
As you might expect, the redeeming quality here is the goofiness factor. An obvious highlight is a decadent party that Denise attends, featuring multiracial hippies, lecherous Hollywood producers, copious amounts of marijuana, an attempted tryst on a pool table, colored lights flashing on and off in a psychedelic manner and three of the fruitiest dancers to ever don unitards, all of it set to Big Brother and the Holding Company's "Combination of the Two". This is near the end though, and you've got to wade through an awful lot of fairly conventional 'women's-weepy' fare before you get there. There are a couple of fantastic psychedelic songs along the way, as well as some hilariously stilted dialogue and a tender scene of budding romance on horseback from which only a heart of stone could hold back laughter.
Just the Two of Us is presented full-frame (1.33:1). The source print has significant scratches in many places; the parts that do not look fine - hardly demonstration quality, but certainly adequate.
The film's mono soundtrack has been preserved, as has the rather flat tone of the sound, which was no doubt recorded and mastered on the cheap back in 1975. Various pops and crackles are along for the ride, but this is an unavoidable side effect of the print's lousy shape. Although the audio presentation is hardly perfect, I must say that the defects actually enhance the experience somewhat. By showing - almost showing off - the age of the film, this disc feels more like an artifact from another era which, honestly, is its only real reason for existing in the first place.
There is a nice-looking mini-reproduction of the film's pressbook included in the package. While this is a nice touch, there are unfortunately no extras whatsoever on the disc. This is a shame since the primary value of this film for 21st century viewers is historical; some well-thought-out, thorough documentaries would have added some value to this package.
Just the Two of Us will always be of interest thanks to its early treatment of lesbianism, but viewers looking for much more than a history lesson will find only a bit left over to hold their interest. Neither screwy or sleazy enough to be very memorable, this is very much in the middle of all exploitation movies. Harry Novak completes and historians of gay culture will want to pick this up; others probably don't need to see this more than once.