This week’s focus is films from down under. Dark Forces (aka Harlequin) is currently available on instant Netflix.
PASS: Dark Forces (1980) – Rated PG
“Nick and Sandra Rast (David Hemmings and Carmen Duncan) will do anything to help their seriously ill son in this fantasy thriller. So, when faith healer Gregory Wolfe (Robert Powell) arrives and starts treating the boy with his impressive powers, Sandra fully embraces him and his techniques. But complications soon arise: Nick’s Senate career may be in jeopardy because his powerful mentor, Doc Wheelan (Broderick Crawford), can’t abide Wolfe.”
The film begins with the accidental drowning/disappearance of an Australian deputy governor. This is a reference to the real life disappearance of Australia’s 17th Prime Minister, Harold Holt in 1967. After only 22 months in office, Prime Minister Holt went swimming near Portsea, Victoria and is assumed to have drowned in the rough surf.
If you haven’t picked up on it from the brief description, this is a creative retelling of the Rasputin legend. Nick, Sandra, and their sickly child Alex Rast stand in for Tsar Nicholas, Alexandria, and their hemophiliac son, Alexei. Faith healer and magician Gregory Wolfe is our Grigori Rasputin figure. Historically, Alexandria often referred to Rasputin as “our friend” and Sandra refers to Gregory as “our Gregory”. There are plenty of other Rasputin parallels as well.
The plot and ideas are fascinating. The acting is generally good though Broderick Crawford doesn’t seem to do much more than show up. Robert Powell is a bit overly flamboyant but it does seem to be what the director is going for. David Hemmings and Carmen Duncan are fine as the Rasts. Outside of the main characters the acting takes a turn for the worse though not dreadfully so.
Unfortunately the movie never seems to gel properly. The movie is more interested in showing Wolfe’s hocus-pocus than the political machinations. Many things are mentioned that should be shown and vice versa. In spite of the promise shown in the film’s plot, I have to rate this a pass.
People Watch: Mel Gibson, hot off his roles as Mad Max and Tim, auditioned unsuccessfully for the part of Gregory Wolfe.