Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Goodbye Gemini (1970)

Alan Gibson is probably best known for two films he directed for Hammer: that masterpiece of kitsch Dracula A.D. 1972 and its much more sober sequel The Satanic Rites of Dracula.  Goodbye Gemini is an earlier Gibson effort that shares A.D. 1972’s setting of a swinging London past its best, but not its cartoonish feel.  The revellers in A.D. 1972 are crazy kids led astray by their craving for new kinds of fun; the denizens of Goodbye Gemini’s London are jaded deviants for whom fun is probably a distant memory.  It’s hard to imagine a character like Freddie Jones’s laconically malicious queen in Gemini reacting to the suggestion of a black mass with more than a stifled yawn.
Infantile but strangely endearing twins Jacki and Julian (Judy Geeson and Martin Potter) are innocents abroad in this decadent metropolis, but there’s a very dark side to their love of childish games.  Moving in to a palatial flat owned by their distant father, they’ve no compunction in removing the grim housekeeper when she threatens to limit their fun.  An accident on the stairs involving the twins’ ever-present teddy bear Agamemnon is arranged shortly after they move in: we don’t find out if the poor woman survives it but she and her spoilsport rules aren’t seen again.
The twins are disturbingly close, but while Julian’s attempts at molesting Jacki show he loves her in a more than brotherly way, she’s becoming more interested in their new acquaintance Clive.  He’s a debonair bisexual hustler who runs “queer boy circuses”, he’s played by The Prisoner’s Alexis Kanner and despite his ridiculous sideburns and even more absurd accent he’s probably the sexiest character called Clive in film history.  In a fascinating scene for anyone familiar with London’s gay scene the twins first meet Clive at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern,  where popular drag act of the time (and a quick Google reveals he’s still going) Ricky Renee is stripping on the bar: a clear sign of the queer world they’re being dragged into.  It’s a world Vito Russo, author of the influential study of gay characters in cinema The Celluloid Closet, would have been unimpressed by, but which from this distance seems more bizarre than offensive.
It’s a world of non-stop partying, where the twins become a sort of sideshow attraction to onlookers including Freddie Jones and Terry Scully giving it their all as a bitchy gay couple and Michael Redgrave lending a touch of class as a furtive MP who becomes quietly obsessed with them.  Clive quickly gets fed up with Julian’s possessiveness of his sister, so he decides to seduce the brother as well.  In the film’s most startling scene Clive brings Julian to a hotel room where he’s raped by two drag queens (including the above mentioned Mr Renee) as Clive gleefully photographs the whole thing.  His plan to use the photos to blackmail Julian so he can pay charmingly world-weary gangster Mike Pratt goes a bit wrong, however, and he soon falls victim to one of the twins’ little games.
Appropriately enough, Goodbye Gemini is a film of two halves: the first half, climaxing in the twins’ terrifying ritual murder of Clive, fizzes with energy and interesting characters, and is thoroughly absorbing.  Sadly after that it all comes unstuck.  Somewhat implausibly, considering her cheerful connivance in offing the housekeeper, Jacki’s role in Clive’s death causes her a mental breakdown: she loses her memory and spends most of the rest of the film wandering around London in a balaclava looking for her brother while Michael Redgrave behaves terribly concerned.  Alexis Kanner’s such a weirdly charismatic presence that once he’s gone nobody really seems to know what to do.  The film meanders to a talky conclusion and it’s all just horribly disappointing.
One thing that doesn’t disappoint is the film’s frankly incredible soundtrack.  The film kicks off with the Peddlers performing the thrillingly funky “Tell the World We’re Not In” over the credits and Christopher Gunning’s score bears comparison with Roy Budd’s music from the same year’s Get Carter.  The music played at the parties in the film is music that would still sound bloody amazing at parties now.  A re-release is more than overdue.


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