Thursday, 11 December 2008

Harlequin (1980)

Harlequin (also released under the title Dark Forces) is another off-beat Australian movie from the late 70s, produced by Antony I. Ginnane whose company was responsible for so many interesting Australian genre films of that period, including Thirst and Patrick. This one scores points for sheer oddness. It’s a supernatural political thriller, combining conspiracy theories with magic, and based loosely on the career of Rasputin.

Senator Nick Rast is a rising politician, being groomed for leadership by a mysterious cabal of rather sinister power-brokers. His son is dying of leukemia, or at least he is until the arrival of an eccentric, colourful and generally extremely weird stranger. The son undergoes what seems like a miraculous cure, but the ambiguous and enigmatic faith healer, Gregory Wolfe, soon turns out to be taking a rather excessive interest in the senator’s wife, and to be aiming at establishing himself in the senator’s household as an all-purpose political, ethical and spiritual adviser. Is he a figure of good or evil? And what exactly is it that he wants?

For this film Ginnane imported no less than three international stars. Robert Powell as Wolfe provides the kind of charismatic yet disturbing performance that he did so well, while David Hemmings is superb as the ambitious but essentially weak Senator Rast. Broderick Crawford is the chief power broker backing Senator Rast. Australian actress Carmen Duncan is extremely good as the senator’s strong-willed but slightly unstable wife. It’s an entertaining and unusual movie, and well worth a look.

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