Movie Collection: The Pemini Organization (Hunted, Assassins, Moments)

I can never figure which one is the parent company and which is the child, but Powerhouse and Indicator put out some amazing blu-ray releases.  Their sets are often in solid, chipboard boxes, with thick perfect-bound books full of essays.  The special features on the discs themselves are usually an embarrassment of riches.

All this is true of the two-disc set containing the complete output of short-lived UK independent production house The Pemini Organization.  Too bad the films themselves aren’t anything special.

The first on the set is Hunted, a 1972 “short” starring Edward Woodward and June Ritchie.  That’s the entire cast, in what is essentially a one-room play.  And it is debateable it is a short film when it is 42 minutes long.

Ritchie plays a real state agent who is showing Woodward a simple room available for rent.  He has been looking for an apartment overlooking High Street.  Things start getting creepy when he confesses he has arranged this viewing with the specific intention of meeting Ritchie. 

Then things escalate to a whole other level when he reveals he has a rifle with him.  He locks the door and threatens that, if she cries out, he will shoot through the door anybody who attempts to rescue her.  Basically, he is preparing to become what I always regarded as the most American of psychopaths, the sniper firing at random targets.  Guess he couldn’t find a clocktower.  He says Ritchie has seven minutes to convince him to not go through with it.

This is an interesting premise, and it was interesting to see Woodward play this type of character.  Unfortunately, there is barely enough material for even half of Hunted’s runtime.  And yet, in this age of daily mass shootings, it made me think seriously about what it would be like to try to talk a shooter out of an attack they’re planning.

1973’s Assassin is feature-length and even less successful.  This painfully slow feature stars Ian Hendry as, yes, an assassin.  If it wasn’t for the title, I would have thought he was portraying the living embodiment of smug self-satisfaction.

Alas, the majority of his time on screen is spent walking.  LOTS of walking.  Across empty city plazas.  Through empty warehouses.  Down subway platforms.  If he had a Fitbit, it would be nearly jizzing itself with excitement over how many steps he must be getting each day.  If the intent was to show how mundane the job of a hired killer can be, then well done, sir!

When we first see him, he’s walking around dark alleyways until he finds some hoodlums.  He pulls a gun on them and they disperse.  Well, we all need hobbies.

In what may be my most stinging critique of this movie, I couldn’t stop thinking about a deleted scene from This is Spinal Tap where Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) shows a clip of an Italian thriller he was (briefly) in called Roma ’79.  That fake movie within a fake documentary looked about as unappealing as Assassin is, though we only are subjected to a couple of minutes of it. And yet I would rather watch all of that fake movie in its entirety than watch Assassin again.

Hendry isn’t even well-regarded by his employers or his peers: “Ted, I think you’re the only man who started at the bottom and worked down.”  He’s also asked why he doesn’t just quit the life if he hates the job so much.  He doesn’t say, but I bet Columbia House has him by the balls.  They snagged so many of us in the 70’s.  Sure, you get your twelve LPs for a penny, but then those unwanted releases just…kept…coming.

As it the tedium wasn’t bad enough, the film also commits the sin of having some deeply annoying elements.  The jumps back and forth in time are grating.  Even worse is the occasional sound like morse code beeps, accompanied by an abstract visual of a blue light of some sort.  Is the film’s narration in morse code?  Is this mysterious blue light our narrator?

The big climax (to put it generously) takes place at a wedding where the assassin is finally supposed to make the hit.  I was impressed, as even the most seasoned wedding planner rarely remembers to hire an assassin.  “With this bullet, I thee DEAD!”

Which leaves 1974’s Moments as the final film in this set.  If Assassins was too fast-paced for you, then you’ll be happy to know this picture dials things back as we follow the only two occupants of a holiday resort in the off-season.

Like the previous movie, this one also ping-pongs back and forth in time.  Fortunately, those transitions are better done here, as a man returns to a resort hotel he hasn’t been to since he was a child roughly 35 years earlier.  Those flashbacks to his childhood days there make the present quite sad in contrast.  In those earlier days, he was happier and the hotel was obviously quite the destination.

This is illustrated through his first interaction with another character, the man working the front desk.  Our protagonist seems confused that employee could be so much older, even though the last time he visited was 35 years prior.

The visitor says he won’t be staying long.  That he is packed a pistol in his luggage only confirms what I suspected are his intentions.

The hotel’s only other guest is essentially a manic pixie dream girl, coming to his room to look for matches at the exact moment he was going to do himself in.  She insists he join her in eating takeout fish and chips she’s bought and that they consume these in the main dining room.  There, she lights the candles at each of a few dozen tables.  It’s a nice scene, even if it makes My Dinner with Andre look like an action film in comparison.

He reveals he was an accountant for 23 years at a company that makes ventilation systems.  She says she couldn’t stand such a job for 23 minutes, so how did he function in it for years?  “You become trapped in familiarity.  All the days merge into one another.  The become weeks, and then months, and then years.  People around you are always the same.  You don’t even notice they’re getting older.  You find you’ve become part of the office machinery.”

And so we follow these two significantly different people as they have conversations in different parts of the hotel and its grounds.  I’ll concede the interactions and dialogue are largely interesting, albeit a bit stodgy.  Still, there’s a fair amount of charm in a line like “Do you realize we will never have these moments together again?  How should we spend then?”

Although Moments is the slightest, and slowest, of the three pictures in this collection, I would say it is the best of the lot.  Unfortunately, I wouldn’t recommend acquiring this for only that movie, and I definitely would not suggest it be sought out for either of the other two films.  I am glad this set exists so these films would not potentially be lost forever—they almost were, as each is from its sole remaining print.  I just wish these films were as compelling as they are rare.

Dir: Peter Crane

Watched on the Powerhouse/Indicator blu-ray box set The Pemini Organization