The product of an era and a film industry just outdated enough to really enjoy, Dark Forces is a goofily overwrought and quaintly entertaining little horror chestnut...if you're into old-fashioned Rasputin-lite rehashes and late 70's decor.
Originally released as Harlequin (and marketed in the vein of The Omen), Dark Forces centers around a stodgy senator, his ice-queen of a wife, and his leukemia-stricken son. Their lives of monotony and quiet despair are interrupted by the arrival of the wackily-dressed Gregory Wolfe, a guy who first appears to be a party clown but is, in fact, a mind-control guru magician who can cure leukemia as quickly as he can bed a senator's estranged wife.
It's not long before Greg becomes sort of a live-in nanny/political advisor/conversation piece/party trickster extraordinaire (he pretends to chop off an old lady's finger in one hilariously overbaked sequence), which leads to some nefarious doings on the part of our sour senator's political opponents.
More of a somewhat bland modernization of the Rasputin story than anything else, Dark Forces unfolds in languid fashion as the characters and sub-plots are set up in workmanlike fashion. And then we get a fairly flaccid finale in which Gregory uses his ESP in visually hilarious fashion. (I'm sure the FX were fine for 1980, but they sure do look antiquated and goofy now!)
Filmed, but (curiously enough) not set, in Australia, Dark Forces was an early career entry for director Simon Wincer and screenwriter Everett De Roche. To say that both filmmakers would eventually move on to better things would be an understatement. Although Dark Forces certainly isn't an awful little flick, it's way too long-winded for its own good, plus it's stocked with characters either dreary or daft. The few tentative steps the film takes into Horror Country are neutered at best, kinda ridiculous at worst.
But clearly there are some people out there who hold this kitschy little Australian relic in high regard, because Elite Entertainment has not only pulled this flick out of someone's vault, but they've jammed a few extra goodies in there as well. Director Simon Wincer and producer Antony Ginnane sit down for a feature-length commentary, and they chuckle warmly over their old baby. You'll also find a Trailer Gallery (Dark Forces, Syngenor, Strange Behavior, Thirst & Patrick), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery, and some Filmographies. Pretty stocked disc for such an obscure Aussie title.
The transfer is Widescreen Anamorphic, with sound presented in the original Mono track. You can also opt to watch the film with a French dub track, a Spanish dub track, or an isolated music score. Oh, and it's rated PG...and it would be rated PG if it were made today, too.