Tag Archives: Simon Wincer

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…

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Who Says There Are No More Heroes?

Time for a buddy film today – the 1991 crime drama offering from director Simon Wincer (“The Phantom”, “Free Willy”), the snappily titled “Harley Davidson And The Marlboro Man”.

1991-harley-davidson-and-the-marlboro-man-poster1

Mickey Rourke
Mickey Rourke

The movie opens with a shirtless biker Harley Davidson (Mickey Rourke – “Homeboy”, “9½ Weeks”) smoking in a motel room, while a naked woman lies on the bed. Without so much as a word, as Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive” plays, Harley leaves the room, gets on his motorbike (you know the make, right?!) and splits.

Don Johnson
Don Johnson

When we meet cowboy Marlboro (Don Johnson – “Miami Vice”, “Cold In July”) he is trying to hustle some native Americans over a game of pool, a plan which isn’t going too well and after a good old bar fight Marlboro leaves with his long-term friend Harley.

Don Johnson & Mickey Rourke
Don Johnson & Mickey Rourke

When the pair discover that their favourite bar is about to be closed due to the rent being skyrocketed by the bank they have an obvious solution. They’ll team up and rob the bank in question of the amount of cash needed to keep the bar permanently open. As you would.

Tom Sizemore
Tom Sizemore

Things go a little awry, however, when they hold up the bank’s armoured van and discover that instead of shed loads of cash they’ve actually stolen a designer drug called Crystal Dream that the bank’s corrupt president Chance Wilder (Tom Sizemore – “Heat”, “Blue Steel”) was dealing in to supplement his income.

The Black Trenchcoat-Clad Killers
The Black Trenchcoat-Clad Killers

Wilder is more than a little keen to retrieve his missing drugs and so begins a kind of cat and mouse game between him (and his seemingly indestructible black trenchcoat-clad killers) and Harley and Marlboro.

Chelsea Field
Chelsea Field

There is a side story about Marlboro’s involvement with a married motorbike cop called Virginia Slim (Chelsea Field – “Extreme Justice, “Flipper”), and other notable appearances include nightclub singer Lulu Daniels (Vanessa Williams – “Eraser”, “Hoodlum”) and the lead black trenchcoat-clad killer Alexander (Daniel Baldwin – “Mulholland Falls”, “Vampires”).

Harley tumblr_l7xeauPGEI1qba23ho1_500The film, released in 1991 remember, is for some unknown reason set in the future – the then-rather-near-future of 1996!

With character names being taken from brands (Harley Davidson, Marlboro, Virginia Slim (cigarettes), Jack Daniels (whiskey) and Jose Cuervo (tequila), the big question is whether the film is a kind of warning of the impending dangers of brand globalisation, or whether the scriptwriters just couldn’t come up with original character names.

Vanessa Williams, Mickey Rourke & Don Johnson
Vanessa Williams, Mickey Rourke & Don Johnson

For me, the jury’s out on that one. This is a film that falls firmly into cult classic territory. Is it terrible? Or is it knowingly taking the mickey out of itself? Some of the dialogue that Rourke and Johnson have to deliver suggests the latter, but at the same time the movie does seem to be terribly serious – at least in terms of appearing very cool.

Mickey Rourke & Theresa San Nicholas
Mickey Rourke & Theresa San Nicholas

There is a decent rock soundtrack, plenty of 90s MTV music video style cinematography, bikes, guns, babes, bikes, guns, explosions, bikes, guns… So who knows? What I do know is that regardless of its artistic merits (or lack of) I had a good time watching the film. And at the end of the day that’s probably the most important thing…2927