Sybil Londonderry (Susan George) is a freewheeling sixteen-year-old who goes by the nickname 'Twinky'. Flighty and mischievous, she wears her school skirt at mini-length, hides an erotic novel inside a schoolbook, so she can read it at breakfast in her parents' presence, and carries her bicycle up to the flat of her thirty-nine year old lover Scott (Charles Bronson) - the author of the very same novel. Twinky's parents discover the affair through reading her diary, but far from being put off, she elopes to Scotland and marries Scott, then the couple decamp to New York. Over there Twinky organises a protest march, gets her husband arrested, then rents a flat and fills it with party people, living out a Holly Golightly existence. She even has a cat called 'Mouse'. With such a live-wire of a girl in his life, Scott is having trouble concentrating on his writing, and articulates this in several Woody Allenesque walking-talking scenes with his agent, Hal (Orson Bean). The couple seem really in love, but can their love survive the generation gap between them?
Though it's sometimes compared to Stanley Kubrick's Lolita, Twinky is really just a swinging sixties rom-com that doesn't enter dangerous ground at all. At sixteen, Twinky is above the age of consent - a situation made abundantly clear when she phones the family lawyer (Lionel Jeffries) and asks him to spell it out! Sex is talked about but not shown, and often comedy is invoked to deal with the subject, such as when a long, lingering reconciliation kiss between Twinky and Scott is witnessed by a group of outraged nuns. It is doubtful that anyone could have found this film offensive or dubious, even back in 1971, when it was first released.
If Twinky doesn't offer sleaze, what does it offer? The answer is a certain old-fashioned charm and two fantastic central performances from Charles Bronson and Susan George. They seem an unlikely couple at first (their real ages were forty-seven and nineteen), but they grow together as events progress. Bronson shows great versatility and subtlety as a romantic lead, hardly his usual kind of role, and well succeeds in conveying the spectrum of joys and difficulties in being a much older boyfriend. And Susan George is delightful as the dippy schoolgirl with bushbaby eyes, a honeyed voice and a butter-wouldn't melt smile… all the time teetering on the cusp between girlhood and womanhood, constantly taking refuge in the former before her next assault on the latter. With this role and others of the period - notably Hilda in Spring and Port Wine - she shows herself to be a precocious teen actress, and a natural to advance into the role of Amy in Straw Dogs.
Directed by Richard Donner, Twinky is very much a product of its day. There are sudden bursts of fast-cutting and lapses into slo-mo and freeze frame, as it grasps for a pop art feel. Easy-listening-type music is liberally slapped around without much care for its appropriateness. There is even a Twinky theme song, which draws a parallel to the 1966 Georgy Girl. Overall the film has the sense of a sixties teen girl magazine come to life, and with a foot on each side of the Atlantic, it is an intriguing hybrid of kitchen-sink British and mean-streets East Coast American. Unlikely to have great general appeal, Twinky is nonetheless a must for Susan George fans, and will no doubt be sought after by connoisseurs of offbeat sixties British cinema of a certain kind.
Appearing to be taken from a well-worn print, the transfer is soft in places - particularly noticeable in close-ups of faces and hair. The grading is indifferent, with a high variance of colour balance between scenes and the occasional tramline. One thing that does stand out is the New York scenes have superior photographic quality to the London ones. The mono soundtrack is mostly adequate, though the mix sometimes has background noise pushed rather high.
The only extra apart from a stills gallery is a 1975 interview between Susan George and Russell Harty. George was then at the height of her fame, with Dirty Mary Crazy Larry on release, Mandingo waiting in the wings and Straw Dogs already a legend. These films are discussed, and of course the controversial rape scenes in Straw Dogs are analysed, but unfortunately, due to contractual difficulties, all the film clips have been excised. Harty is characteristically waspish at times, and is sometimes too personal in his comments, but George stands her ground well. Overall an intriguing piece of archive material.
Last updated: 08/07/2018 00:04:38