Fear In Fun Park (1989)

Director: Donald Crombie
Starring: Simon Dutton, Ed Devereaux, Rebecca Gilling, Richard Roxburgh, Nikki Coghill Max Cullen, Anthony Wong, Ernie Dingo
Music: Peter Best (Title theme by Serge Franklin)
Based on characters created by Leslie Charteris

As an Australian, I am particularly parochial about local productions. I like a good story where I recognise the landmarks and the settings in which the story takes place. To find out that there was a Saint tele-movie set in Australia delighted me no end and naturally I had to track it down – and that search has taken me quite a while – but finally I have got my opportunity.

Now there’s a reason that it has taken me so long to find this film; namely that it hasn’t been available. Why would a series based on a popular character like The Saint be held back and made unavailable I ask? Watching the first ten minutes of Fear In Fun Park gave me the answer. It’s bloody terrible. In my reviews for The Software Murders and The Blue Dulac, I have been fairly scathing of the acting on display; and let’s be honest, I watch a lot of shit, so I am quite forgiving of shortcomings in low-budget productions. But here the acting reaches the bottom of the barrel. And I am not talking about hack actors – most of the Australian cast have been around the traps for quite a while – and capable of much better than this. Even the accents seemed to be bunged on. Look I grew up in rural Australia, and would suggest I have a very broad ‘Aussie’ accent, but the characters in this film make me seem like an English language professor. I am guessing they are trying to ‘ocker’ up the show to make Simon Templar seem even more like a fish out of water. Maybe there is even a bit of an attempt to latch onto the memory of Crocodile Dundee which was a massive hit in 1985.

The show starts off in Sydney airport and a myriad of characters arrive of various flights from around the world. Naturally, one of these characters is Simon Templar; AKA The Saint (Simon Dutton). He has flown in from Hong Kong, on the request of a Chinese Businessman, whose daughter has gone missing in Sydney. Templar believes she has been snatched up by the Chinese underworld and drugged and forced to work in a brothel.

Also arriving from France are Harry and Aileen Brampton. Harry is the head of the powerful Brampton business empire, but recently his company has slumped, and it looks like he may have to sell off some of his companies assets. One of these assets is Sydney’s Luna Park – called Fun Park in this show (I am sure for legal reasons). Waiting to greet Harry and Aileen, is Harry’s daughter from a previous marriage, Fiona (Nikki Coghill).

Another recent arrival is a young confused Chinese girl who speaks no English. As she waits in the arrivals lounge, Templar offers her assistance. But before she can respond, she is approached by some Chinese business people and shuffled outside the terminal to a waiting car.

At this point Simon bumps into Fiona, who used to be a jetsetter and knows Templar from her old days in London. Their reunion is a pleasant one, and Simon is invited back that evening to have dinner with Harry, Aileen and Fiona. Simon accepts but must check into his hotel first. Fiona offers to drive him into town. As they leave the airport, Templar spots the young Chinese girl, looking rather distressed, ensconced in the back of a black Mercedes Benz as it weaves through the traffic. Templar asks Fiona to follow the car, which she does up until a certain point, where the car gets blocked behind a truck in Chinatown. Templar leaps from the car and tries to follow on foot, but loses the car in a maze of side streets.

Later that evening, as Templar dines with the Bramptons, he meets Fiona’s new fiancé, Justin (an incredibly youthful Richard Roxburgh). Justin is a real estate agent and has been asked to arrange the sale of Fun Park to get the Brampton company out of trouble. The thing is, secretly, Justin has a gambling problem and owes the Chinese underworld $954,000. The only way he can repay his debt is to arrange that Fun Park is sold to the Chinese.

The fly in the ointment, however, is that Fun Park is the legacy of Harry’s first wife, and Fiona would rather take out a loan to keep Fun Park as a family asset that can be handed down from generation to generation, rather than sold off for short term gain. Justin is caught is the middle – if he sells Fun Park, he gets out of trouble with the underworld, but risks losing Fiona. If he doesn’t sell it, then he keeps Fiona, but what good is that, when the Chinese underworld have a mark on your head.

As the story progresses, the threads of the Brampton family’s financial problems and Templar’s investigation into the white slavery ring come together, and this results in some chases through the streets of Sydney, on and over every conceivable landmark the film-makers could get permission to climb (these include the newly constructed Darling Harbour and Sydney Monorail). At times the movie feels more like an advert for the Australian Tourist Commission than a Saint episode (it even includes throwing ‘prawns on the barbie’).

Fear In Fun Park is an amateurish production despite the people in front and behind the camera, which is such a shame, because Sydney is a great setting for a Saint story. The white slavery story itself isn’t too bad, but there are a few too many story threads that probably only resonate with Sydneysiders who were there in the late eighties. One such is the ‘Save Luna Park’ thread, which was an issue when the Park had been left abandoned for years after a fire on one of the rides killed some children. It looked as if the derelict Park would be sold off to foreign investors, who would redevelop the land. Viewers from other parts of the world, particularly now (nearly twenty years later), may wonder what the hell the characters are talking about. Why? What protesters?

As I seem to do with all the Simon Dutton Saint movies, I ‘ll sign off by saying that Saint fans may feel compelled to watch this episode, but it really isn’t very good at all. Others should stay clear.

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