Harlequin (known as Dark Forces in US) is a 1980 Australian thriller film directed by Simon Wincer and starring Robert Powell, Carmen Duncan, David Hemmings and Broderick Crawford. The film is a modern-day version of Rasputin's story: the major characters have the same first names as Rasputin and the Romanov royal family; and their family name, 'Rast', is simply the word 'Tsar' backwards.
Theatrical film poster under alternate title
|Directed by||Simon Wincer|
|Produced by||Antony I. Ginnane|
|Written by||Everett De Roche|
|Music by||Brian May|
|Edited by||Adrian Carr|
|Distributed by||Greater Union Organisation|
|20 March 1980|
|Box office||A$364,000 (Australia)|
A$1.2 million (international)
An up-and-coming senator, Nick Rast, has a young son who is terminally ill with leukaemia. A mysterious faith healer, Gregory Wolfe, appears and seems to cure the boy. Rast's wife Sandy falls in love with Wolfe, but the powerful interests behind Rast's career, represented by geriatric monster, Doc Wheelan are less happy with events.
Simon Wincer and Everett De Roche had previously collaborated on Snapshot but were not happy with the film since it was made so hurriedly. They decided to make another film, came up with six ideas and eventually chose The Minister's Musician, a modern-day version of the Rasputin story. They did a treatment and Antony I. Ginnane became involved as producer.
Everett de Roche originally did a 400-page first draft in which the central character, Gregory Wolfe, was a priest. When the producers sent the script to the US, they were worried that this would make the film hard to market in Catholic countries so it was changed. The script was given to some American writers to work on but Wincer was not happy with the changes. As de Roche was not available, Wincer went over the script with Russell Hagg although he later said he would have preferred it if de Roche had done the job.
The script was written with David Bowie in mind for the lead role and conversations were had with Bowie but the filmmakers got "cold feet" at the last minute and cast Robert Powell . The original choice for the role of the senator was Orson Welles but he wanted $80,000 a week for two weeks so Broderick Crawford was cast instead.
It was the first film funded by the newly formed West Australian Film Council. Funding also came from the Australian Film Commission, Greater Union, Ace Theatres of Western Australia and Pact Productions, with the final $50,000 coming from Hemdale. It was the first of several films Ginnane would make with Hemdale.
The movie was shot in late 1979 over six weeks, using Panavision. It was filmed in Western Australia because of the involvement of the West Australian Film Council, which was estimated to save the production $100,000.
The film makes a great effort to disguise the fact it is set in Australia, including dubbing Alan Cassel's voice into an American accent and referring to the American political system. This was controversial at the time because it was made with money from Australian taxpayers.
The film performed poorly at the Australian box office but was very successful overseas. Simon Wincer says it was particularly successful in South America, due in part to Robert Powell's popularity there.
(1980 AFI Awards)
|Best Direction||Simon Wincer||Nominated|
|Best Actress||Carmen Duncan||Nominated|
|Best Editing||Adrian Carr||Nominated|
|Best Production Design||Bernard Hides||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Terry Ryan||Nominated|
|Saturn Award||Best International Film||Nominated|
|Sitges Film Festival||Medalla Sitges for Best Screenplay||Everett De Roche||Won|
|Medalla Sitges for Best Cinematography||Gary Hansen||Won|
|Prize of the International Critics' Jury||Simon Wincer||Won|
In Australia, Harlequin was released on an All Region DVD by Umbrella Entertainment on Wednesday, 27 October 2004. It was presented in a remastered 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, and Special Features were an Audio Commentary by director Simon Wincer and producer Antony I. Ginnane, a theatrical trailer and a photo gallery.
In the US, Harlequin was released as Dark Forces by Image Ent. on 8 June 2004. It was presented in 2.35:1 Widescreen, with Behind The Scenes Photo Gallery, Filmographies, Isolated Music Score and an Audio Commentary by director Simon Wincer and producer Antony I. Ginnane. It is set for release on Blu-ray in the US by Scorpion Releasing on 29 October 2013 under its original title.
- Peter Beilby & Scott Murray, 'Simon Wincer', Cinema Papers Dec-Jan 1979-80
- Anna Dzenis, "Harelquin", Australian Film 1978-1992, Oxford Uni Press, 1993 p61
- "Australian Films at the Australian Box Office", Film Victoria accessed 12 November 2012
- David Stratton, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan MacMillan, 1990 p298
- Beilby & Murray p 638
- Beilby & Wincer p639
- Peter Beilby & Scott Murray, "Jane Scott", Cinema Papers, Dec-Jan 1979-80 p643
- David Stratton, The Last New Wave: The Australian Film Revival, Angus & Robertson, 1980 p255
- "Interview with Simon Winceer", Signis, 8 May 1995 accessed 21 November 2012