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OCTOBER 30 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE DEVILS RAIN
From helium.com

It starts out in an old western town with Mark Preston and his family defending an ancient book which Jonathan Corbis wants. Corbis is leader of a satanic cult that live in an old church. He is set to lead his cult to satan's kingdom but needs the book that the Prestons (descendants of the Fyffes) stole three centuries before. After taking his family, Preston puts his faith against that of Satan in exchange for his family, if he wins, or the book and his soul, if he loses. Tom Preston, Mark's brother, is investigating his family's disappearance. He's aided by Julie Preston, who can see visions of the past and future, conveniently giving us a place to explain what the whole movie is really about. Corbis is possessed by a demon and his head is transformed into that of a ram's head that looks really creepy. Dr. Sam Richards, Eddie Albert, is the Preston family doctor and aides the family. Corbis has tv like container filled with souls, which contain the devil's rain that is unleashed at the end.

Robert Fuest is the director and writer. He also directed the Vincent Price classics 'The Abominable Dr. Phibes' (1971) and 'Dr. Phibes Rises Again' (1972). He wrote 'Dr. Phibes Rises Again.' He was also the director and Production Designer for several episodes of the 60s show, 'The Avengers.'

The plot is fairly simple. A cult leader wants his 17th century book back in order to complete his cult's journey into satan's kingdom. But what is the devil's rain? Watch the movie to find out!

It is mostly shot outside on the desert plains of a southwestern town, now mostly deserted. There's always a feeling of rushing, of time running out. It never gets horrific.

This movie is filled with big stars from the 70s/80s. Too bad they came together for this B-movie.

William Shattner plays Mark Preston and briefly as his own past relative (a Fyffes) in the 17th century. He's plays his usual overacting self. He's not too bad here though but only acts for about the first third of the movie. Borgnine is the best of this movie, as Jonathan Corbis, the cult leader. He acts great in this movie, outshining the rest of the cast, even Shattner. The best part is his get up as the ram-headed demon. He's creepy looking!

Tom Skerritt plays Tom Preston, brother of Mark Preston, and the hero for most of the movie. He plays his usual B-movie best, it's okay.

Eddie Albert plays Dr. Sam Richards, the Preston's family doctor and friend, who helps Tom in his investigation. He plays his little role fine.

plays his first movie role as Danny (it's in the credits, although we never hear his name), a cult member with no dialogue and can only be seen a few times, totaling less than a few minutes (he gets beat up on the stairs, then aiding Corbis, and a few during the conclusion).

All cult members are soulless, eyeless, have whitish blood, and rarely talk.

Your basic camera work for the 70s, a bit faded but clear. Lighting's in good, some shadows now and then on indoor shots.

John Travolta plays his first movie role as Danny (it's in the credits, although we never hear his name), a cult member with no dialogue and can only be seen a few times, totaling less than a few minutes (he gets beat up on the stairs, then aiding Corbis, and a few during the conclusion).

All cult members are soulless, eyeless, have whitish blood, and rarely talk.

Your basic camera work for the 70s, a bit faded but clear. Lighting's in good, some shadows now and then on indoor shots.

Audio is clear. Music just to set the mood, no lyrics. The SFX? Up until Corbis takes on his demon-ram's head form, there isn't much SFX. The cult members have wax over their faces and black out eyes (hidden under the wax to create a dark tunnel in front of their eyes). They do look disturbing though. Sometimes you can see flames in their eyes (a blue screen). The
highlight is Corbis' ram head. He looks very evil and menacing with big horns, a snout, white hair, and piercing eyes. And one explosion.

This is great if you like simple, cheesy movies with some fairly big names in it. The highlights are Ernest Borgnine's in his ram-head form and John Travolta's first movie role, which isn't very much of a role. The ending is predictable.

Overall, while not great, it is entertaining. 3/5


OCTOBER 30 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE DEVILS RAIN
From horrortalk.com

One stormy night, Mark Preston’s (William Shatner) father fails to come home. Remembering a recent nightmare, Preston’s wife (Ida Lupino) thinks something horrible has happened to him. Suddenly, Mark's old man does appear, but his eyesockets are empty, and he babbles something about "bringing Corbis what belongs to him" — then promptly melts into a pile of hot wax and goo. Turns out, this Corbis fellow is a highly-ranked servant of Satan, and the Prestons have been sheltering a rather important book away from him for centuries. Moments later, Mark overhears his father's truck pulling into the driveway, but as he rushes out to investigate, he hears loud noises back from the house. He returns to find his mother kidnapped, and the family servant badly beaten. Naturally, he decides to hunt Corbis down, and heads to his place of residence, a dreary desert town of Redstone.

Once there, Mark is greeted by Corbis himself (Ernest Borgnine), who makes him a deal — they will pit their faiths against each other and if Mark wins, he can have his parents back. If, however, Corbis wins, he will get the book, and Mark's soul. Agreeing to this bargain, Mark is escorted to a makeshift satanic church, where he gets positively freaked out by the Corbis-led rite. He storms out of the building, only to be captured by a bunch of hooded cultists.

Meanwhile, Mark's brother Tom (Tom Skerritt) finds out about his family's disappearance, and decides to visit Redstone himself with his psychic wife Julie (Joan Prather) in tow. After avoiding a few attacks and examining the church, Julie suddenly has a vision of events preceding this whole issue. We learn that Corbis is this 300-year old warlock, who was burned at the stake along with his initial followers. His cover got blown when one of his acolytes stole the aformentioned book and betrayed him, inducing a curse from Corbis in process. Tom must join forces with his mentor, parapsychologist dr. Sam Richards (Eddie Albert), and stop the satanic forces at work before it's too late.

Review:

Back in the late '80s and early '90s, when VHS ruled the Earth and I spent hours and hours browsing the local rental store's catalogue (much to the clerks' chagrin), I developed a bad habit. Because of the such gigantic outpour of trashy action and horror (my genres of choice) films during those years, I opted usually to rent only titles which would have some sort of name power attached to it, thus avoiding an evening of certain cringing in front of the VCR. Granted, I probably missed many a good title with this narrow-minded selection regime, but I also saved my teenage brains from the onslaught of Z-productions which plagued the shelves. Imagine, then, my delight when Alien Redrum offered me The Devil's Rain to review, a seventies horror with William Shatner, Ernest Borgnine, Ida Lupino, Tom Skerritt, Keenan Wynn, Eddie Albert and John Travolta. And if that wasn't enough, Anton LaVey, father of the Church of Satan (as in, the real, existing Church of Satan), is billed as a creative consultant, and appears in a minor role, as well. I was sold like Louisiana the moment I saw the cover and a snap of Borgnine wearing satanic priest robes — at very least, this would prove to be tremendous entertainment. Sadly enough, that wasn't the case.

The prime suspect for this judgement might be the lack of thrills this film offers. Despite being made in the seventies, a decade in which celluloid violence and taboo breaking took hold, The Devil's Rain is a pretty tame movie despite the dark topic it explores. You are already forewarned this won't be anything even remotely tough after seeing the "PG" rating on the DVD box, yet the age certificate is fully justified. The numerous satanic rites we are made to observe throughout the duration of the film yield exactly no blood, no nudity, no nothing, save for Borgnine uttering some incantations and sprinkling rhetorical words of wisdom. Consequently, there are no scares in the film, not even of cheap "boo!" variety, resulting in the average horror fan just being plain bored in the end. The opening credits are laid out across some images of a Hyeronimus Bosch painting, and this, along with the special effects of devil followers melting when shot, might be the closest this picture got to being even remotely explicit.

Another odd choice the film takes is the sudden, halfway switch of protagonists. The switcharoo itself wouldn't be weird, if either actor actually fit the bill for the role. As Mark Preston, Shatner over-acts on about every line of the script; come the midway point of the film, the focus shifts to Tom Skerritt, who has a rather difficult time looking even remotely interested in things going on around him, sleepwalking through the second half. To make things even more muddled, the final act features Skerritt strengthened by Eddie Albert, who carries the last fifteen minutes basically by himself. While Albert gives a spirited performance (given the circumstances), his effort arrives way too late. A subpar script by James Ashton, Gabe Essoe and Gerald Hopman is nothing to write home about, either — just observe some of the exchanges, especially the Shatner — Borgnine showdown which ensues following Mark's entrance into Redstone. With both actors dressed in wild-west garbs and sporting cowboy hats while spouting almost utter nonsense, you're just waiting for John Wayne to appear out of nowhere and treat both to some premium American lead.

Perhaps the biggest crime The Devil's Rain commits is the one of procrastination. If you have to spend five-plus minutes on credits in a 86 minute feature, you know you're in dire straits with the original material. The already thin storyline is artificially stretched even thinner through long, unneccessary segues between the action parts. When Mark leaves for Redstone, his trek is rather meticulously shown with a number of pretty crafty, yet rather redundant, tracking shots. The climactic final sequence also prolongs itself for a few minutes too many, losing much of its punch in process.

If there is a saving grace to this picture, it's Ernest Borgnine's turn as the cult leader Corbis. Borgnine, who for the better part of his career played supporting roles, is seemingly having a blast playing the bad guy, doing it with much gusto and adding a strange, eclectic flavour to an otherwise stock "satan lover" character. Highlights include the 18th century flashback and burning, complete with scriptlines in ye olde English, as well as memorable shots with Ernest fully made up as a humanoid goat (check those screen caps). And while I'm busy with the actors, John Travolta is little more than an unbilled extra in his theatrical debut, playing a cultist who recovers the book and sees through Tom's ruse during a ceremony. Keenan Wynn, veteran of many westerns, appears as...a sheriff, of all typecast roles he could get.

Director Robert Fuest, who you might remember as the guy who helmed both Dr. Phibes films, is also one of the least guilty parties for this mess. It is conceivable that Fuest was enamored with spaghetti westerns at the time of making this, a fact which becomes evident once you see him manipulating the barren desert landscapes into eye candy for the viewer. Granted, as I said before, all the "nice" shots are virtually cosmetic, but in a horror picture with no gore or anything to gawk at, you gotta admire at least something. Fuest also acquits himself with the action scenes, the football-like dynamics, with stiff-arms and all, of that Shatner dash towards the car being my favourite.

So ultimately, The Devil's Rain is a lesser genre entry from the '70s, and considering the billed cast, a disappointment. Yet, if you feel like you really need to see Anton LaVey play a satanic priest (what a surprise that one), or watch Ernest Borgnine prance about with goat makeup, you might as well watch this. It's only 86 minutes, anyway.

Video and Audio:

We've grown to expect only superior A/V results from Dark Sky Films' releases, and this disc is no different. Boasting a new anamorphic transfer from the original 35mm source, The Devil's Rain, which was shot in 2.35:1 aspect ratio, looks pretty damned good. The quality of the transfer only improves on the film's strong points which I mentioned above, namely the photography and scenic shots. The only audio option on the disc is a cleaned-up 2.0 DD Mono track, which sounds clear and crisp.

Also, included is a subtitle track in English.

Special Features:

Audio commentary by director Robert Fuest
Newsreel with Anton LaVey, High Priest of the Church of Satan
Theatrical Trailer
Radio Spots
Still Gallery

British horror savant Marcus Hearn is joined by the director for the commentary track, in which Hearn asks Fuest all sorts of questions related not only to the film, but to his own career as well. While the answers and anecdotes provide good background information at times, Fuest — who is nearly 80 years old now — is occasionaly borderline ununderstandable, either slurring his speech or just plainly not remembering what happened. It's a good effort, and it's certainly an appreciated extra (I love director commentaries), but I've heard better chat tracks.

The newsreel footage is of Anton LaVey marrying a couple in a "satanic ceremony". Odd, for sure, but rather short.

The original theatrical trailer is for The Devil's Rain. Some neat '70s music to be heard here, although I think that placing the goat Borgnine so early in the trailer kinda spoils it.

There are three radio commercials, all three under a minute in length. The first one, clocking at some 55 seconds, is the longest and most interesting of the bunch. The other two spots just feel like condensed versions of the first one.

Lastly, there is a gallery of 12 stills, including two theatrical posters and some promo material. The first theatrical poster looks better than the film itself, actually.


OCTOBER 30 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE DEVILS RAIN
From filmconnoisseur.blogspot.com

When it comes to Satan worshipping films, very few of them achieve a level of believability. Most of the time they come of as silly, corny, or just plain laughable. Recently I had the opportunity of seeing Hammer Films To the Devil...a Daughter, and honestly, most of the time it was a laugh fest to me. It’s very rare for these films to come of as serious or scary. I’ve yet to see Ken Russell’s The Devils, but it sounds like a promising Satan Worshipping film. I’ve heard some good things about that one. Of the rare films that deal with this subject matter only a handful of them are good. Roman Polanski’s seems to be one of the few directors to understand how to make these kinds of films. His two Satanism films, The Ninth Gate (1999) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968) are proof of this. The Omen and its sequels are decent.

The Devils Rain caught my attention for various reasons. One of them was that it was one of John Travolta’s first performances ever. Another was that William Shatner (aka Captain Kirk) was in it. But these weren’t the big draws for me with this movie. What really grabbed me was that they used the "high priest of the church of Satan" (a.k.a. Anton Lavey) as a technical advisor for the film. That fact really peeked my curiosity for this film. Not because Im interested in Satanism or anything like that (I actually believe its one big joke!) but because I wanted to see what Anton Lavey, the founder of the “Church of Satan” could conjure up. Shouldn’t the high priest of Satan have a clear idea of what Satan is supposed to be like? Would he make us crap in our pants with a real vision of what Satan is like? Apparently not. Apparently the guy is full of shit. Apparently, he has a very cartoonish notion of what Satan is supposed to be like! If Ernest Borgnine with a gotee is what Satan is supposed to be like…then hell is one funny place! It’s a riot! Which just proves what I have always thought about religious leaders. They know nothing about what they preach!

Moving on, I can’t say Anton Lavey is the only guy to blame, for who is more responsible for what appears up on the movie screen then the films director? In this case, Robert Fuest was the man behind the camera. He had directed previous black horror comedies like The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)and Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972). So it comes as no surprise that The Devils Rain came off as being a complete laugh riot as opposed to being a serious horror film about Satanism. This film received scathing reviews from critics everywhere destroying forever Robert Fuest’s directorial carreer. He ended up doing mostly tv work after this film was over with.

The story for The Devil’s Rain concerns a satanic cult led by a man named Corbis, played by Ernest Borgnine. William Shatner’s mom and dad have turned into devil worshippers! And Shatner wants to rescue them! Good news is that William Shatner’s dad betrays the Satanists and hands Shatner a magical book containing the names of all of those who have sold their souls to the Devil! Now Shatner holds the book! Corbis needs the book back in order to send the souls of all his followers to hell. Unfortunately, William Shatner has the book and he doesn’t want to give it back! I love that scene where he says with that unique Shatner voice: "I won’t give a devil man what he wants!"

This movie was a fun watch. I think it’s the combination of Ernest Borgnine and William Shatner is what did it for me. These guys are a hoot to watch! Ernest Borgnine as Corbis is positively evil! But weird as it may be, he is also funny! In an unintentional way that is. Borgnine’s performance is both cheesy and good at the same time. He looks funny dressed in red garments all the while his beer belly sticks out like a sore thumb. And it’s even funnier hearing him call the devil, saying all sorts of sacrilegious phrases. Then there’s Shatner who is always enjoyable to watch! He is guilty of over acting on this film on more then one occasion. He spoke his words as if he was giving commands aboard the Enterprise. It felt to me like the filmmakers brought these two actors together to see if they could bring the cheese factor higher. Well, I’ll tell ya, they achieved it. And goddamn it, even with all its faults, this film was fun as hell to watch. And for those of you holding their breath to catch Travolta in his second film role -his first being the William Shatner directed The Tenth Level (1975)- well don’t blink cause you just might miss it. He is virtually unrecognizable under the satanic black garments and make up. Honestly, the only way I recognized him was by looking at the dimple in his chin. He is practically an extra on this film. Well, I guess we all got to start somewhere!

The atmosphere in the movie is excellent. Right from the first opening minutes you are treated to an opening sequence that will certainly pull you in! You are right smack in the middle of a lightning storm with buckets and buckets of rain falling and the wind blowing like a madman. It just pulled me in right away and I loved that! Then there’s the spooky ghost town in which the Satanist’s do their worshipping. The isolation factor was very high on this production. The desolated town was a ripe old place for Satan mongers to fester in!

Something that has to be mentioned when talking about this Satanic Opus is the make up effects. We have to remember that this movie was boasting to have "the most incredible ending on any motion picture ever!" So of course, we should expect something special in its last frames. And special it was. Not mind blowingly special, but special enough to liven up my Saturday night. The ending was all sorts of gooey, messy, wet and slimy. Well worth the wait. The ending definitely lives up to the films title. What I really liked about the ending is that it goes on and on! We get to see slimy Satan worshipers melting in the rain for a long time! They really took their time to show these devil bastards melting in every which way they could possibly think of. I guess they spent a lot of the movies budget on the melting effects so they really wanted you to get a good look at them. Some might think this goes on for longer then it should, but I enjoyed it just the way it is.

The film has a couple of negative things about it. Number one, its pretty dull. I mean, it has all the elements for an entertaining movie, it just doesn’t know how to display them in an entertaining fashion. But of course, the cheesy factor comes in and makes things a bit more watchable. So yeah, its cheesy as hell. I mean come on dudes! Didn’t they use a high priest of the church of Satan to write this thing? Yet the whole thing comes off as a cartoony version of devil worship. Even the devil himself is a cartoon on this one! Complete with goat horns and all! I was expecting something a bit more serious from a movie that boasted having a high priest of the church of Satan helping them along the way. But no, we get the cartoon version of what Satanism is like. But this is not to say that the movie want fun...it was oodles of fun. Just not real or scary which is one of the main complaints with this movie. Its all about Satan, but it doesn’t even try to be scary. And yet another negative thing about the film is that it never really explains why the rain melts away the devil worshippers. Why do they die when rain hits them? Who the hell knows!

In conclusion, this was a fun movie with lots of cool little things to keep you interested, gooey slimy fx, cheesy story and acting. Plus don’t forget the Satanism which we all know is always good for a laugh. I consider Satanist to be lower in the religious beliefs pantheon. It somehow feels sillier then all other religions put together. Well, maybe not sillier then Scientology, but pretty damn close! So just remember, this movie is fun times, if you don’t take it seriously. It’s just not that type of movie and anyway the minute Shatner starts saying his dialogue you’ll think his going to beam Satan up to the enterprise or something. How can you not laugh at that?

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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