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THE DEVIL’S RAIN

Ultra-schlocky seventies horror of note because of its eclectic cast and GREAT ending.  In other words, you can safely fast forward through most of it without missing anything important! 

The Package 
     Fans of Satanic cinema must have LOVED the seventies, as THE DEVIL’S RAIN (1975) was just one of many American genre pictures exploiting the “Satanic panic” so prevalent at the time, bequeathed by Charles Manson, the Rolling Stones, Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE EXORCIST, among other nefarious influences.  THE TOUCH OF SATAN (1970), THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN (1971), SATAN’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS (1973), THE DEMON LOVER (1976), TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER (1976), THE OMEN (1976) and THE SENTINEL (1977) are just a few of the genre films that used the panic to their advantage.
     For THE DEVIL’S RAIN director Robert Feust (THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHILBES, THE FINAL PROGRAMME) assembled an impressive cast of seasoned veterans (Keenan Wynn, Eddie Albert, Ernest Borgnine, Ida Lupino, Claudio Brook) and promising newcomers (Tom Skerritt, future EIGHT IS ENOUGH regular Joan Prather, a debuting John Travolta), yet couldn’t seem to coax a decent performance from any of them!  Also appearing are William Shatner, in one of his many 70’s B-movie appearances (see Bill in 1974’s IMPULSE and 1977’s KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS for more unintentional hilarity) and Anton & Diane LaVay, the real life high priest and priestess of the Church of Satan (Anton LaVey is also credited as “technical adviser”).

The Story
     Probably the best, most concise description of this film’s “plot” comes from the IMDB: “A bunch of Satanists in the American rural landscape have terrible powers which enable them to melt their victims.”  This latter group includes an old man who happens to be part of the Preston clan, responsible for having the evil Jonathan Corbis burned at the stake over a hundred years ago.  In the process they stole Corbis’ “sacred book” listing the names of those who gave themselves over to Satan’s power.  But Corbis is back, practicing Satanic rituals together with a band of gullible followers in a church out in the desert, trapping those he doesn’t like inside a magic urn where the “Devil’s Rain” pelts them.
     The remaining Prestons gather at the church and confront Corbis.  In the melee the urn is smashed, unleashing the Devil’s Rain upon Corbis and his followers, which makes ‘em all melt...or so it seems.  Corbis is apparently the Devil himself (that would certainly explain the goofy horns and beard he displays at one point) and, as the last scene proves, his powers are still very much in abundance.  Oh, no. 

The Direction
     Robert Feust, a former production designer, has often been criticized for concentrating on the look of his films to the detriment of virtually everything else.  That certainly appears to be the case with THE DEVIL’S RAIN, which boasts crisp and colorful widescreen imagery that impresses throughout (the cinematography was by Alex Phillips, Jr., of BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, CHAC THE RAIN GOD and ROMANCING THE STONE fame).  Unfortunately, it seems Feust wasn’t nearly as interested in the narrative, which is erratically paced and often incoherent.  The use of a noisy, ludicrously over-insistent music score appears to be a lazy attempt at propping up this flatline, but to no avail.
     To be sure, it’s fun watching Ernest Borgnine run around in hilariously cheesy devil make-up, and the everybody-melts finale is great, though hardly the “most incredible ending of any motion picture ever”, as the ads proclaimed.  It’s a sure bet that when a film’s publicity concentrates on how brilliant the ending is (why bother sitting through the rest of it then?) you know it’s doomed!


Vital Statistics

THE DEVIL’S RAIN
BijouFlix Releasing

Director: Robert Feust
Producers: James V. Cullen, Michael S. Glick
Screenplay: James Ashton, Gabe Essoe, Gerald Hopman
Cinematography: Alex Phillips Jr.
Editor: Michael Kahn
Cast: William Shatner, Ernest Borgnine, Keenan Wynn, Tom Skerritt, Ida Lupino, Joan Prather, Eddie Albert, Erica Carlsson, John Travolta, Woody Chambliss, George Sawaya, Tony Cortex, Lisa Todd, Claudio Brook, Anton LaVey, Diane LaVey, Robert Wallace
 


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