Tag Archives: David Hemmings

Are His Powers More Than Magic?

I watched a rather odd movie the other night. It was an Australian production from 1980, directed by Simon Wincer (“D.A.R.Y.L.”, “Free Willy”), titled “Harlequin”.

Mark Spain & Robert Powell

The film opens with a politician disappearing under the surface whilst swimming in the sea. The action switches to a child’s birthday party where we find the leukaemia suffering birthday boy, Alex Rast (Mark Spain – “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”, “The Schlocky Horror Picture Show”). Alex is clearly not having any fun at all, until a clown gives him some one on one attention and manages to make a breakthrough.

David Hemmings

With the viewer having been introduced to Alex’s parents, senator Nick Rast (David Hemmings – “Blow-Up”, “Eye Of The Devil”) and his wife Sandra (Carmen Duncan – “Turkey Shoot”, “Now And Forever”), we see the now-unmasked clown, Gregory Wolfe (Robert Powell – “The Thirty-Nine Steps”, “Tommy”) turn up in their home again and declare that he has cured Alex of his illness.

Carmen Duncan

Nick is very sceptical over Gregory’s claims but Sandra very quickly comes under his spell and before you know it the pair have become very close indeed.

What follows is a strange mix of political thriller, drama and fantasy film as Gregory’s influence and magical powers are demonstrated (or is it just an elaborate con?) whilst Doc Wheelan (Broderick Crawford – “A Little Romance”, “Born Yesterday”) leads a shadowy group intending to manouvere Nick’s political career to their own ends.

Robert Powell

Having done a little reading since watching the film it seems that the story is loosely based on that of the famous Russian mystic monk Grigori Rasputin and his involvement with Tsar Nicholas II. Certainly the parallels are there, and in retrospect there is a clue in the main characters names  – Gregory (Grigori), Nick (Nicholas), Sandra (Alexandra) and Alex (Alexei) and even the family’s surname Rast being Tsar reversed.

Broderick Crawford & Robert Powell

I’m not sure if that helps make any more sense of a film that seems to be a bit confused about what it wants to be or not, to be honest. An odd cinematic offering to be sure, and not hugely well-known even under the alternate title of “Dark Forces”, but Robert Powell’s performance is very good and overall I’d say the movie is definitely worth seeking out and viewing…

Sometimes Reality Is The Strangest Fantasy Of All

In the mood for a Sixties movie today, so I dug out the iconic 1966 mystery drama “Blow-Up” from writer / director Michelangelo Antonioni (“Zabriskie Point”, “Beyond The Clouds”).

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David Hemmings
David Hemmings

At the start of the film we see a group of young people, who are wearing white face paint, running around London, interspersed with scenes of men leaving a doss house in the city. One of these men is photographer Thomas (David Hemmings – “Gladiator”, “Eye Of The Devil”) who has been taking photos of some of the residents for a book that he is preparing.

Veruschka Von Lehndorff & David Hemmings
Veruschka Von Lehndorff & David Hemmings

Returning late to his studio, he begins a shoot with model Veruschka (Veruschka Von Lehndorff – “Milo Milo”, “The Bride”). After this he begins a session with a group of models but grows bored and leaves part way through and heads for an antiques shop where he buys a propeller before wandering into a nearby park.

Vanessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave

In the park he spies a man and a woman, seemingly two lovers, and covertly takes photos of them from a distance. When the woman, Jane (Vanessa Redgrave – “The Devils”, “Mission : Impossible”), spots Thomas she is furious and chases after him, demanding the photos. He later gives her a different roll of film, keeping the one that he used in the park and developing it with a view to adding pictures of the lovers in his book.

David Hemmings
David Hemmings

When he develops the pictures he notices something in the trees and blows them up larger and larger until he can discern a figure holding a gun, and then what appears to be a body lying in the grass. Convinced that a murder has taken place, he revisits the park and finds the dead body but is spooked by a noise before he can take any further photographs.

Peter Bowles
Peter Bowles

Following an eventful day that also involves sex with two models, seeing The Yardbirds performing in a club, and then going to a party where everyone, including his agent Ron (Peter Bowles – “Only When I Laugh”, “The Bank Job”) seems to be under the influence of drugs he awakes the next morning and returns to the park once more but the body has disappeared…

John Castle & Sarah Miles
John Castle & Sarah Miles

There are some rather random scenes in the film that add little, if anything, to the underlying story, such as when Thomas watches through blinds as his neighbours Bill (John Castle – “Antony & Cleopatra”, “The Lion In Winter”) and Patricia (Sarah Miles – “Ryan’s Daughter”, “White Mischief”) are making love.

Jane Birkin & Gillian Hills
Jane Birkin & Gillian Hills

The sequence that involves Thomas with the two models – a blonde (Jane Birkin – “Evil Under The Sun”, “La Belle Noiseuse”) and a brunette (Gillian Hills – “A Clockwork Orange”, “The Killer Wore Gloves”) and, especially, the scene involving The Yardbirds (including both Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck) performing to the least enthusiastic audience I’ve ever seen equally both seem like filler rather than being essential.

The Yardbirds
The Yardbirds

Having said all that, and despite the central mystery never being resolved for the viewer, I really enjoyed the movie. It was made before I was born so I have no idea how accurate a portrayal of London in the swinging Sixties it is, but nevertheless the film is evocative of a time – the era of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, Twiggy and the Krays – that I never knew but still holds a certain magic today. The movie may not give any answers but it supplies plenty of entertainment…btm

Look At Her Long Enough And She May Be The Last Thing You’ll Ever See!

Forty six years ago today, on 8 August 1969, the actress Sharon Tate was brutally murdered at 10050 Cielo Drive, the rented home she shared with her film-maker husband Roman Polanski, by members of the Manson Family – followers of criminal guru Charles Manson.

Over the coming days I’m going to look at the films that Tate starred in before her untimely death, starting with “Eye Of The Devil”, her first starring role filmed in 1965 and released in the UK during the summer of 1966.

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Philip Loraine - Day Of The Arrow
Philip Loraine – Day Of The Arrow

Directed by J. Lee Thompson (“The Guns Of Navarone”, “Conquest Of The PLanet Of The Apes”) the movie was based on a novel by Philip Loraine titled “Day Of The Arrow”.

David Niven
David Niven

Philippe de Montfauçon (David Niven – “Murder By Death”, “The Pink Panther”) is a wealthy vineyard owner who becomes concerned when he learns that his crops have failed for the third consecutive year.

Deborah Kerr
Deborah Kerr

He heads off to the family estate at Montfauçon Castle in Belenac to rectify matters, but tells his wife Catherine (Deborah Kerr – “From Here To Eternity”, “The Sundowners”) that he does not want her or their children to go with him, something that Catherine is none too pleased about.

Donald Pleasence & David Niven
Donald Pleasence & David Niven

Arriving in Belnac, Philippe is greeted by the village priest, Father Dominic (Donald Pleasence – “The Eagle Had Landed”, “From Beyond The Grave”), who makes vague references to a duty which he says that he was sure Philippe would not refuse when the time came.

Sharon Tate & Robert Duncan
Sharon Tate & Robert Duncan

Still at their home, Catherine is disturbed when the couple’s young son Jacques (Robert Duncan – “Rasputin : The Mad Monk”) has a sleepwalking episode during which he talks of going to see his father, leading her to decide that she needs to take the children out to the estate.

David Hemmings
David Hemmings

When Catherine gets to the castle she is unsettled by a pair of mysterious siblings. Christian de Caray (David Hemmings – “Blow-Up”, “Barbarella”) who likes to wander around the castle grounds shooting birds with his bow and arrow and his sister Odile de Caray (Tate) who has a hypnotic effect on those around her.

eod-016[1]When Catherine sees the siblings sneaking into the castle with a dove that Christian had killed and follows them to witness some kind of pagan ritual taking place. Spying hooded figures in the woods has Catherine further spooked and fearful for the safety of her husband…

Tate apparently met with the High Priest and High Priestess of Alexandrian Wicca in the UK to prepare for her role.

Sharon Tate
Sharon Tate

Although she and Hemmings both have relatively minor roles in terms of speaking parts, their presence is essential to the feel of the film and Tate, in particular, is quite spellbinding – beautiful and also projecting an ethereal quality that, for me, really made the film much more effective that it might otherwise have been.

Also known as “13”, this is certainly an interesting film with clear parallels with “The Wicker Man”, especially in terms of how it treats paganism and pagan rites and the narrative about sacrifice with regard to failed crops, and the isolated and insular community involved. Whilst it isn’t in the same league as its more famous counterpart this particular film is still well worthy of watching.

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