Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Pemini Organisation

I hadn’t heard about the Pemini Organisation until I came across Powerhouse Films/Indicator Series Box-set of these 3 movies:

HUNTED (1972, Peter Crane)
ASSASSIN (1973, Peter Crane)
MOMENTS (1974, Peter Crane)

The name Pemini comes from the first 2 letters of the three friends: Peter Crane, Michael Sloan and Nigel Hodgson. Peter Crane directed all 3 films written by Michael Sloan. Incredibly, all 3 were very young when the organisation started making the films as Peter was 21 years, Nigel 22 and
Michael 24 years old.

Lone Wolf, Gun for hire

Assassin movies are now part of the global film landscape and every year we get a new harvest of films which depict solitary male or female characters going about killing their enemies. Majority of such contemporary assassin films focus on body count and gruesome manner characters are killed in. However, Pemini Organisation’s first 2 films get at the core of who an assassin is and what makes them tick.

At the start of Hunted, we don’t know the main character John Drummond (Edward Woodward) is looking to kill. Instead, he is looking to rent out an apartment. During the course of a conversation between Edward and the realtor Margaret (June Ritchie), it dawns on Margaret that he is looking to commit a crime. When she confronts him with this, John admits his intentions and make it sound like he randomly intends to shoot people down on the street. But as the two continue to talk, she realises that his killing act may not be as random as he made it out to be. The engaging and taut Hunted is powered by a very smart screenplay and lively performances of
Edward Woodward and June Ritchie.

While no killing is shown in the Hunted, Assassin takes that lone gun character and brings him to life in the form of a character (played perfectly by Ian Hendry) hired by organisations to kill select targets. The film shows the daily mechanics, preparation and process an assassin goes through to stalk and hunt their victim for money. Yet, the film isn’t confined to the solitary character but shows the people who pull the strings behind the killing. The film shows how a target is selected, a killer or a team is hired and how loose ends are tied up. Assassin lays out the template that so many films have used over the decades most notably Anton Corbijn’s The American (2010).

Ghosts in the hotel halls

Moments is a change of topic and pace from the previous two Pemini films. Peter Samuelson (Keith Michell) goes to a hotel in Eastbourne (South Coast of England) and reminiscences of his childhood when he spent time in the hotel. Peter visits during the offseason when majority of the hotel is empty. However, he is isn’t there for any fun trip but instead plans to end his life by turning his gun inwards. In this regard, the film is still tied to Hunted, albeit in a different manner of gun usage. But a knock on the door by a young woman Chrissy (Angharad Rees) gives him pause.

The depiction of the vast empty hotel with its empty halls bring to mind Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. However, Moments was released 6 years before The Shining (1980). Given the difference in tone of the films, it is hard to know if the hotel and its hallway shots inspired Kubrick’s film. The last shots in Moments show the Grand hotel in
Eastbourne from an aerial distance with the hotel getting further away as the credits roll. This finale and many other moments end up making the hotel a character in itself, something echoed by The Shining as well.

The Pemini Organisation (1972-74)

In an essay accompanying the boxset, Peter Crane mentions the financial difficulties of making and distributing these films. The organisation ended in 1974 and didn’t make any more films. That is a pity given the impressive quality of these films. Assassin is the brilliant standout film from the trio but all 3 films are far superior than majority of the Hollywood studio films that take over cinemas on a weekly basis.