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A faith healer who appears from nowhere suddenly cures the sick son of
a profound government senator, whom the politicians wife falls under
the mysterious healer's charm and the young boy grows attached to his
company. The senator can't shake the idea that there's something
strange about all of this, could it all be a hypnotic trick or is there
something really supernatural going on here. Then you got the chief
political adviser who's trying to rid the healer of power he holds over
the senator and his family, because he wants to be the one who's in
control of the senator.
Was it all an illusion? Who was playing whom? Did this go beyond reality, by making way for supernatural influences? Like you see there are so many question brought up here that are totally left unexplained, but this enigmatic factor of who, what and why makes for one curious, but oddly enchanting spectacle. The multi-layered story plays out like political fantasy where it throws around many different ideas and allegories into the blend, where nothing seems quite like what it is because of a real mystical edge that's given out by Powell's charismatic character Wolfe. As an exhilarating tale, it failed for me, but for a curiosity piece, it really did work. The plot's outline shares its similarities with the Rasputin account, but this film has gone with a contemporary take on the story. The story does become incredibly strange with certain circumstances and situations, in which you have to suspend your disbelief and plays around with psychological tension. The thick air of mystery that's planted in the film, you could say is like that of a jigsaw puzzle that's missing some important pieces to give it that truly satisfying feel. The complex script is heavy on its parallel theories and it very much comes across like a poetic riddle (that's most of Powell's lines anyway) with it parables and psychic jargon. It's a very talkative piece with little significant details and hints running throughout it very mischievous layout on who's really the manipulator and just what are everyone's true intentions.
The film, which was made in Australia, looks reasonably good, even though it had a modest budget to work with. By today's standards the appearance and even the context is somewhat dated. The special effects are reasonably modest, with the odd hokey effect, but I guess you just got to take it with a grain of salt. The mostly well devised FXs were well orchestrated in to the story, but it does go over-the-top in the third act were the uneven pacing makes way for some flamboyant magic tricks for the fight of control over the senator. At least they were spot on with it, but they do and as well as the costumes give it an underlining campy b-grade charm. The location setting was simply ravishing and the exterior of the senator's house (were it all mostly plays out) is given a grand feel. The glitzy cinematography was remarkably well handled with some showy moments and Brian May's tenderly spooky score had a stinging, but emotional rush too it. Director Simon Wincer manages to come up with some inspired, solid visuals and tiny pockets of heighten and exciting suspense. But some moments are half-baked and it has an climax that doesn't feel like it has paid off. You just feel like it's working up for something big. However it does fit in with its subtle moodiness.
The performances are very first-rate with an international cast on show. Robert Powell plays the healer, Wolfe and his piercing capabilities create such subtly mysterious imprint (good or evil?) that you can't help but be intrigued by. David Hemmings' underplayed performance as senator Nick Rast shows a real solidarity. Broderick Crawford superbly plays Doc Wheelan a greedy political leader who overlooks Senator Rast and when he's on screen his presence truly governs the film. Carmen Duncan as Sandra Rast simply shines in her feisty role and Mark Spain utterly fits the role of eerie young lad Alex Rast. I thought the chemistry of the relationships was well thought up and naturally suitable.
What is served up here is exceedingly ambiguous and different, but this creative project has more going for it then what actually meets the eye. It's far from flawless and it wasn't what I expecting that's for sure, but it does make for an interesting viewing.
Intriguing supernatural thriller which keeps -at least till its last
sequences -special effects to the minimum and mainly relies on Robert
Powell's fascinating presence -whatever you think of Zephirelli's
work,you cannot deny he was perhaps the best Jesus on the screen- and
the rest of the cast follows suit.Actually the little boy's and
Powell's relationship reminds me more of that of Damien and his
sinister nanny in "the omen" (see their power on animals) than Rasputin
and the czar's son.But Sandra 's behavior is Alexandra's under Grigori
the monk's spell.And their surname,"Rast" is "tsar" backwards!
Rasputin's motives were mysterious ,and he moved in a political world where his influence was huge when it came to ruling the country .Wolf's reasons why constantly elude the viewer's perception,and it justifies the hints at comedia della arte and Harlequin :like Rasputin ,he tried to open his master's eyes.
Rasputin's death has remained even today wrapped in mystery :poison (but documents were found which would tend to prove poison was not efficient and that the killers -Iusupov and Dimitri- were amateurs.) then the gun (four shots in the back),but when they found the dead body in the frozen river,they had to admit he did not die of his wounds.Hence the conclusion of the movie which would pass for another "Friday the 13th" rip-off ,if history were not here.
But connections with "the omen" remain:Powell trying to enlighten the senator is not unlike the priest trying to persuade Peck his son was evil;both movies take place in the political world.And the last pictures of the two movies are very similar.
Watch it:although by no means a masterpiece,it's above average and would deserve a better rating.
I saw this film in my youth and after years of searching for it, finally taped it off the telly. Robert Powel is exceptional as the title character as is David Hemmings as the senator. There are a few films out there that can just bewitch you as you're watching them, The Wickerman being the best example, but this one comes very close. If you see this little gem airing on your TV in the wee small hours I urge you to tape it.
Fascinating, dark study of a political family seduced by the powers of a
traveling magician who befriends their ill son. The story works well on
that level, and the acting is certainly passable enough to be
Even more fascinating when one realizes that this is a retelling of the historical plot of the fall of the Czar of Russia! In history, Nicholas (Nicky in this film) and Alexandra (Sandy) had and extremely ill son, Alexander (Alex) and allowed the "Mad Monk" Gregory Rasputin (Gregory Wolfe) into the family with his promises of a cure for the the boy. Viewed on this level, this interesting enough B-movie become a fascinating study in parallels. Well worth a rental and some time to enjoy!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Harlequin is set in Australia where deputy governor Eli Steele (Jack
Ferrari) disappears while snorkeling in the sea, a rescue team is
dispatched within minutes but no trace of the governor is found. 4 year
old Alex (Mark Spain) is the son of Senator Nick Rast (David Hemmings)
who is next in line for Eli's high powered job, Alex has leukaemia & is
no longer responding to treatment. One night the Rast's family home is
visited by Gregory Wolfe (Robert Powell) who claims he can cure Alex,
after just a few minutes with him Alex seems so much better. As Wolfe
manages to work his way into Senator Rast's life & sleeps with his wife
Sandra (Carmen Duncan) it becomes clear he has more on his agenda than
just curing his son...
This Australian production was directed by Simon Wincer & is an odd film which is sort of hard to categorize, I thought it was watchable but nothing particularly special. The script by Everett De Roche takes itself extremely seriously & is a uneasy mix of mild horror, fantasy, thriller, drama & political satire. There are two basic stories here, one concerning the mysterious Wolfe & one revolving around the back stabbing world of politics where it seems sinister unseen people other than those who stand in front of the cameras & give speeches run things. I think Harlequin is a film where the filmmakers want to leave entirely up to the audiences own interpretation as to whether you believe the supernatural angle or whether it's all a magic con trick although there are scenes which seem to suggest there are magical forces at work because there is no other explanation for them. I think the magic vs science plot here doesn't sit together that well & they don't compliment each other, in fact I think they take something away from each other. Just my opinion but overall I don't think Harlequin works that well & ends up being confusing.
Director Wincer does OK but it has little style, the special effects won't impress anyone these days & it's just a bit on the dull side. Nothing that exciting happens, it's not scary, it has no tension & lacks any atmosphere. I don't know maybe I'm missing something here but Harlequin just didn't really do anything for me, it's watchable I suppose but I'll have totally forgotten about it by the end of the week. This film has helped me in one sense though, it has taught me not to keep acid in the bathroom, not to keep acid in the bathroom next to the shampoo & definitely not to keep acid in the bathroom next to the shampoo in exactly the same style bottle as the shampoo because that would just be silly wouldn't it?
Technically the film is OK, some of the special effects look dated but it's reasonably well made for what it is. The acting isn't the best, Powell does alright but no ones going to win any awards.
Harlequin is an odd film & one I'm not entirely sure who it's meant to appeal to, it's perfectly watchable & tells a story but it's forgettable & nothing special. Not really my cup of tea to be honest.
As a long-time fan of Robert Powell, I have to say he was fantastic in
little known film, which I saw under the title "Dark Forces." The actor's
ability is far under rated -why, I'll never know. This tale of a
being entering the lives of a family was curiously spiritual as well as
supernatural. I even found Powell quoting a line from his masterpiece
of Nazareth." There were some unanswered questions in the film, but I
bothered by this. After all, the supernatural leaves a lot of gaps for us
dwell on and come up with our own conclusions.
I gotta give a big thumbs up to Rasputin. I mainly watched it because Everett De Roche did the screenplay and hes a reliable genre scribe who puts a good deal of thought and attention to characters into his work, which has included such fine outings as Lomg Weekend, Fortress, Razorback and Storm Warning. Generally I'm not such a big fan of the more fantasy oriented ambiguous genre movies, preferring a more straight ahead approach, although this may be because there seem to be a lot more satisfying straight forward schlockers out there than there are films like this. Anyhow, I watched this late on Halloween night, a wee bit soused and it kept my attention throughout like few films have been able too. The plot sees an Australian politician, whose child has leukaemia getting involved with a mysterious faith healer cum magician and general charismatic oddball. Sound familiar. Well the similarity is made clear by the names of the principal characters, which line up with the names of the main players in the Rasputin story. Senator Nick Rast is of course Tsar Nicholas, his son Alex equal Alexeis, though Alexeis in reality was a haemophiliac, wife Sandra stands for Alexandra, and Gregory Wolfe is analogous to Grigori Rasputin. The film steers clear of the more lurid aspects of the Rasputin legend though, in favor of intriguing ambiguity. Wolfe is never quite pinned down as good or evil, and his agenda is up for interpretation, as is his true nature, though the film definitely gives the impression that something out of the ordinary is going on. Behind all the weirdness of the film there seems to be an interesting look into politics. Wolfe is a kind of mirror for the political world in the film, exposing its chicanery as a sort of magic in itself, or at the very least a manipulative and somewhat warping, unnatural force. His opposite number in the film is a political king maker played by veteran Broderick Crawford, a slimy guy who objects to Wolfe having more influence than him. This conflict drives the film through to its conclusion and provides a tense backbone behind the arresting imagery and crazy tricks (with fun old school special effects). Senator Rast portrayed well by David Hemmings as a committed if slightly staid man, and Carmen Duncan is excellent, and attractive as his wife, who is somewhat enchanted by Wolfe. Mark Spain is suitably creepy as the son, but the film is pretty much owned by Robert Powell's portrayal of Wolfe, an immensely charismatic and persuasive, yet subtle and ambiguous performance that really makes us believe that Wolfe is capable of the acts he performs. As well as what goes on in the film he effectively casts a spell over the audience drawing them deep into the film. The only issue that I had with the film is that though it makes interesting comments about the nature of politics, magic and persuasion and has a number of great scenes, with all sorts of odd stuff going down and a genuinely off kilter ambiance at times that contrasts very nicely with the political setting, its lack of definitive answers or concrete villainry means that from a dramatic point of view it is more interesting than truly thrilling and it doesn't quite reach the kind of climax or revelation that would seem to be appropriate. Though its a heady experience, being taken into the weird hinterland where fantasy and reality interweave a bit of good honest catharsis would have been great, and though the ending is pretty darn cool anyway it does not fully satisfy in this respect. Nonetheless, to fans of offbeat oddball cinema I heartily recommend this lesser known gem.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Harlequin" a.k.a. "Dark Forces" offers up an interesting, provocative story that is essentially a 1980's updating of the real-life Rasputin legend, in which a mysterious stranger, here named Gregory Wolfe (Robert Powell) works his way into the lives of a powerful senator, Nick Rast (David Hemmings), his wife Sandra (Carmen Duncan), and their leukemia stricken son Alex (Mark Spain). He does this by seeming to cure the boy of his disease, and before long Sandra, whose marriage to Nick was an arranged one in the first place, develops a substantial attachment to the man. For much of the time, as this story plays out, screenwriter Everett De Roche (whose other cool credits include "Roadgames", "Razorback", and "Patrick") and director Simon Wincer (who went on to have a career in Hollywood with movies such as "D.A.R.Y.L.", "Free Willy", and "The Phantom") keeps things nicely ambiguous: What really are the intentions of Mr. Wolfe? Is he angel or devil? Did he in fact cure the boy? And are there genuine supernatural forces to be reckoned with here? The political angle also adds to the intrigue as we are eventually made to think about who is truly manipulating whom. A solid cast - also prominently featuring the legendary Broderick Crawford in one of his final film roles, as well as Gus Mercurio, a busy actor in Australian cinema, makes the most of the material, especially Powell, who definitely seems to be quite enjoying himself. Hemmings is effectively low key while Duncan has a warm and alluring presence and young Spain is rather good as the weird kid. All in all, the movie is good enough that some awfully cheesy special effects can be tolerated. In any event, the movie never becomes ABOUT the special effects, so it's not that important anyway. Excellent widescreen photography and a wonderful music score by the always reliable Brian May are heavy assets. The ending, which may not be terribly satisfying to some, is admittedly more subtle than one might expect. And De Roche, Wincer, and company know how to keep the element of mystery going the entire time and leaving an intriguing concept of "what next" as it wraps up. Overall, "Harlequin" is intelligent enough, and too ambitious to be easily dismissed, and is worth a look for film fans looking for something a little different. Seven out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Robert Powell, fresh from what is arguably his most famous role (Jesus Christ), plays here another character who can perform miracles, although this time he is more ambiguous and enigmatic. Is he an angel or a demon? What does he want? Just how powerful are his powers, and how did he get them? Can he die? Some of these questions are answered, some are not, but the film certainly keeps you guessing, and Powell's performance is mesmerizing: you never know what he is going to do next. As films about telekinetic and/or magic powers go, "Harlequin" is not quite in the same league as "The Medusa Touch' or "The Fury", but it's not bad at all. **1/2 out of 4.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Harlequin" plays like, and for most of its run time actually is, a
kid's movie about a magic man who comes through the TV screen to heal a
sickly child and work other miracles. You fully expect a tear jerker
ending in which the magic man has to go back to his home planet, or
where ever he comes from, but the kid will never forget him and neither
will his parents.
Then it abruptly changes gear and expects us to be scared of the magic man. Does the movie think that we are as ignorant and stupid and corrupt as the movie's real bad guys, the politicians the child's dad knows?
The plot: A sickly child of an up and coming senator is apparently healed by a mysterious stranger who performs as a clown at his birthday party. The stranger returns, "coming through the TV", and the child continues to get better. The senator doesn't trust him, but his wife, more interested in the kid's health, is prepared to let the mystery of this stranger be.
People start asking questions, and the stranger performs more tricks, first as a magician, then a faith healer for an old lady at a party. The crooked politician's friends want to see him disappear however, and will clearly stop at nothing.
It's like the story of Rasputin crossed with "Being There".
"Harlequin" is a trite little horror-fantasy with little horror and little fantasy. For almost all of the runtime there is nothing surprising in the movie at all. You can see every plot point coming, until the movie's sudden insistence that I would be scared by a character it does nothing to make seem a force of evil. The twist ending doesn't work because from what we have seen, the main character is the LEAST evil of all the characters in the movie! Hence the moment when we realise he - of course - isn't really dead is not scary, it's reassuring. I don't know how they stuffed that up so badly; it's shown like something you are supposed to be truly shocked by, but the feeling it brings is, if anything, the exact opposite, coupled with that feeling of annoyance you get when a movie misses what it's aiming at completely.
The actor who plays the kid is also singularly uncharismatic, and an awful actor. And why did they go out of their way to disguise the movie's Australian origin?
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