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Goodbye Gemini

Goodbye Gemini
Scorpion Releasing
1970 / Color / 1:78 anamorphic widescreen / 89 min. / Street Date January 26, 2010 / 24.95
Starring Judy Geeson, Martin Potter, Michael Redgrave, Alexis Kanner, Marion Diamond, Mike Pratt, Freddie Jones, Peter Jeffrey.
Geoffrey Unsworth
Production Design Wilfrid Shingleton
Film Editor Ernest Hosler
Original Music Christopher Gunning
Written by Edmund Ward from a book by Jenni Hall
Produced by Peter Snell
Directed by Alan Gibson

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

English moviemakers were apparently the last ones to find out that the "Swingin', Mod London" years had come to a halt. Look back on the really great English films of the time and you'll find that few are actually set among Carnaby Street hipsters living the high life. Yet film designers were compelled to keep selling The Look.

1970's Goodbye Gemini lies pretty much at the center of the then-imploding English film industry, when really big U.K. shows became scarce and the decade of creativity seemed to peter out. It's as if the breakup of The Beatles signaled that the party was indeed over. The mainstream thriller was produced by Peter Snell, a top man at British Lion who got his career going late in the 1960s with interesting films that didn't sell: Shakespeare adaptations, the marvelous The Wicker Man. Executive producer Joseph Shaftel had been working for twenty years and apparently got Gemini green-lit at Cinerama Releasing along with a Stanley Baker action film, The Last Grenade. Director Alan Gibson was a Brit TV veteran whose theatrical break unfortunately arrived just as the best opportunities dried up. He's best known for three Hammer films, none of which carry much of a reputation: Crescendo, Dracula A.D. 1972 and The Satanic Rites of Dracula. The 1972 Dracula picture has one of the most painful depictions of "swingin'" London youth ever.

Goodbye Gemini must have struck its makers as a hip, happening tale made feasible by the new freedom of the screen. The screenplay assays a thin blackmail story, with the intended interest in the depiction of the decadent high life enjoyed by a select group of London libertines, art gallery crawlers and well-heeled swingers. Jacki and Julian (Judy Geeson & Martin Potter), the wealthy offspring of an absent millionaire, return from South America to their family's swank town house. The blonde fraternal twins dress alike and behave like a blissed-out Hansel & Gretel. Jacki clings to her stuffed animal toy; Julian sometimes talks to it. Their private, infantile relationship is obviously unhealthy; Julian soon fakes an accident to murder the stuffy housekeeper. Now that they have the house all to themselves, Julian pulls some incestuous moves on Jackie. She fends him off, but their dealings continue to be ambiguous.

Our first stop is a crowded alternative bar where both siblings are entertained by a cross-dressing dancer. They're befriended almost immediately by Clive and Denise (Alexis Kanner & Marion Diamond), who would seem to be like-minded affluent young partygoers. Jacki and Julian are quickly drawn into Clive's shady world. At the party of a gay art dealer, elder art enthusiast David Curry (Freddie Jones) and television personality James Harrington-Smith (Michael Redgrave) are stunned by Jackie and Julian's youthful, innocent appearance. Both men seem to have had a previous relationship with Clive, who is busy doing his best to seduce Jackie. Julian becomes madly jealous, slapping his date Denise for speaking out. But Clive defuses the situation by taking Julian to a late-night party in his rooms -- where he has arranged for the clueless twin to be raped by a pair of gays in drag. It seems that Clive owes a rough gambler £400; and to pay up has decided to blackmail Julian. Little does he know that the unbalanced Julian and his confused sister are capable of a violent retaliation.

The attractively photographed Goodbye Gemini was filmed by major names like cameraman Geoffrey Unsworth and production designer Wilfrid Shingleton. Alan Gibson's direction uses the trendy style of the time -- focus pulls, long lenses -- but is more than adequate. The heavily gay-themed atmosphere gets a little thick with forced angles that foreground Alexis Kanner's tight pants. One or two even less subtle compositions suggest more homoerotic poses. The movie has a couple of flashes of female nudity but male desire seems to be its main theme.

As a drama Goodbye Gemini is a real puzzle. Jackie and Julian are difficult to accept as a viable pair, as their quasi-incestuous behavior is played far too much on the surface. It's rather disturbing to note that in both England and America, the new freedom from censorship resulted in the reinforcement of the old notion that alternative sexual lifestyles always lead to crime and violence. Thrillers need villains and killers, I suppose, but it's refreshing to find an occasional movie about an odd relationship that isn't perverse. Harold and Maude, perhaps.

The film's details aren't any more convincing. We don't see how Julian gets beyond the housekeeper-down-the-stairs episode without becoming a person of interest to Scotland Yard. The fraternal twins always appear in clean, bright designer clothing and look as if a hairstylist is always in attendance. The house is forever immaculate without being tended to even though neither twin as much as hangs up a coat. The parties also look designed, as if the costumers went on a wild shopping spree; everything is color coordinated. Everybody seems carefree, with plenty of money to spend. Except for Clive, whose villainy seems to stem from actually having to connive to make ends meet.

One of the sweeter young actresses of the period, Judy Geeson almost holds her impossible character together. The sincere Jackie would be sympathetic if she wasn't so brainless. Anybody responsible would have put both twins into serious psychological counseling. Fresh from Fellini's Satyricon, Martin Potter gives a good imitation of a spoiled brat but the character has too many contradictions. He's a gentle, brutal, innocent psycho. Even less convincing is the special aura that the twins are supposed to project. They turn heads in the decadent party crowd, and even the reasonably stable Harrington-Smith is struck by their hypnotic beauty. As the twins aren't that impressive, it's not likely that any directorial trick short of a special-effect glow could properly represent such an appeal.

Alexis Kanner has the best role in a film devoid of good payoff scenes; his sleazy attitude never rings false. The always-good Freddie Jones gives his one-note gay art dealer a respectable bearing, without exaggeration. Michael Redgrave's TV celebrity is something of a disappointment. We believe Harrington-Smith when he says he hangs around the parties only to stay current with what "the kids" are doing. But he's also estranged from his family and eager to avoid a career-ending scandal. His failure to fulfill his promise in the final scenes is insufficiently prepared, leaving us with little in the way of an emotional response. Just the same, Goodbye Gemini remains an interesting psycho thriller that aims far higher than exploitation films of its day.

The new DVD distributor Scorpion Releasing has done a good job with Goodbye Gemini, delivering a bright enhanced transfer of a cult movie on many want-to-see lists. Geoffrey Unsworth's crisp images show off many London street locations along the embankment and mostly avoiding touristy locales. A flaw shows up in two or so minutes' worth of scenes scattered through the show: the color registers are out of alignment, causing some distracting color fringing. Accounting for this is not easy, unless these film sections were restored from color separations that had shrunk disproportionately. The sections pass very quickly.

The audio tracks are clean. Christopher Gunning's interesting music score and the pop songs are much better than usual for a film from this period ... for the norm, listen to the disco scenes in Scream and Scream Again sometime.

Besides an original trailer, Scorpion presents a commentary with producer Peter Snell and actress Judy Geeson, hosted by Nathaniel Thompson of the superior web page Mondo Digital. Thompson prompts his guests into the nuts & bolts of the cult film right from the very start. Mr. Snell points out a notable piece of art direction that seems to predict his The Wicker Man from three years later. Ms. Geeson observes that the film is about debauched London life, and seems to think that viewers will be surprised to see it take a turn toward horror.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Goodbye Gemini rates:
Movie: Good
Video: Good
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Trailer, commentary with Peter Snell & Judy Geeson, hosted by Nathaniel Thompson
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: January 14, 2010

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2010 Glenn Erickson

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