Saturday, May 1, 2010

"The Devil's Rain"(1975)d/Robert Fuest

Okay,dig this scenario,boys:You've got Robert "Dr.Phibes" Fuest directing a satanic cult-based horror movie,which has Anton LaVey on board as a technical advisor,a cast that includes Ernest Borgnine,William Shatner,Ida Lupino,Eddie Albert,Tom Skerritt,and an eyeless Vinnie Barbarino,you've got Ellis Burman handling the makeup effects,and "Absolutely the most incredible ending of any motion picture" as a tagline.Couple all of that with delectable sneak-peak coverage in Famous Monsters way back when,and color me a kid who'd eat the green stuff on his dinner plate AND promise not to drill Aunt Eleanor in the floating ribs with a football as she walked up the hill carrying two armloads of brown bagged groceries just to see what promised to be a horror-shocker of epic proportions.Boy,I'm glad I ultimately never gave either of those in writing after finally seeing it.
Despite the fact that much of the civilized world despises the shit out of this movie,and having taken part in it probably delegated poor Fuest to Afternoon Special-Hell,directing tele-pictures for the remainder of his career,I can straight-facedly say that I do not hate it.Sure,it's a letdown when,by "most incredible ending" the film's producers simply meant "long",but it doesn't deserve Sea Monkey-letdown status,by any means.You know,you're six or seven years old reading your D.C. horror anthology comic books and you see the ad with the lure of adopting a little pink antennae-headed family of pals,and you get sent a packet of brine shrimp eggs.Unlike the "sea monkeys",which ate swirling,metallic kitchen drain-death,this film doesn't totally blow.Just mostly.
Mark Preston(The Shat-in-a-hat) demands a kosher ham-off with Corbis(Borgnine).
John Corbis(Ernest Borgnine) is a pot-bellied,gap-toothed satanic priest,at odds with the Preston family down through the ages for their betrayal and thievery of his unholy book o'signatures.You see,Corbis can capture people's immortal souls in this bulky,watermelon-shaped vessel with an ornate ram's head thrown on top for good measure,causing them to wander about in black hooded robes,eyeless pawns of evil,but without the book o'Hancocks,he's unable to deliver them down to the despicable duke of dirty-dealings himself.He captures the father of the family,then sends him back to them,demanding his stolen property and warning them of Corbis' pissoffedness, before the patriarch melts into a puddle of candlewaxy blech.Preston's son,Mark(William Shatner) is sent off to a dusty western movie backlot to confront the foul priest,armed with a gaudy crucifix pendant the size of a miniature horse,and a handgun.The two men square off in the desolate satanic church,but Preston's overdelivered Lord's Prayer is no match for the beerbellied parlour tricks of the Devil's disciple(and some cheap trick photography),who turns the crucifix into a relatively harmless constrictor,and introduces the man to his own eyeless mother,as one of the flock.Preston vainly flees,barrelling through robed retards like a Jewish Ken Foree on a Monroeville Mall shopping spree,cowboy hat in tow,but is eventually overtaken by Mephistopheles' moonies.
"Mistuh Kottuh!You ain' gon' belie' dis.Da othah Sweathogs stole mah eyes!"
Enter Mark's older brother,Tom(Tom Skerritt),who,along with his wife and Dr. Richards(Eddie Albert as a fucking psychic researcher,by God!!!),has been searching for his missing bro.After finding the church and jacking a nifty black robe,Tom slips in unnoticed among the foul flock to bear witness to the ceremony where Mark is transformed into an eyeless goon for the anti-good guys,and Corbis changes himself into,well,Corbis with a bit of latex,crepe wool,and some ram horns on top.The all-powerful priest finally discovers the intruder(you're probably more apt to have intruders when your following all wear bulky black robes),but Tom escapes.
Tom and Richards find the book Corbis has been looking for(just under the floorboards in the living room of the house Corbis had previously turned upside down,along with poor Woody "They had no eyesssss!" Chambliss,earlier in the picture...I would think if this book was so friggin' important to the Devil himself,his right hand man might have been,I dunno,a little more thorough in searching for it?),and while searching for the means to destroy Corbis in his empty church,they stumble upon the titular Devil's Rain soul-housing whatchamacallit,but leave the book unguarded,so that an eyeless sweathog(Travolta) can return it to Corbis.Just when it looks hopeless for the powers of righteous religious persecution in the name of Jesus Christ,eyeless Mark has a moment of humanity,and smashes the container.At this point,the roof of the church explodes,and a torrential rain covers all inside,causing everyone on the side of H-E-double hockey sticks to start melting.Thoroughly.About twenty drippy,gooey,bubbling minutes worth.Seriously,like,the edited television version inserted a commercial break somewhere in the middle of the melt,and after watching some anorexic coke whores walkin' cocky with Sassoon jeans on,you were back to Goat-nine's putrid,drippy,eye-hanging face melting into a puddle of tan liquid goo.But I digress.The church explodes,and Tom hugs his wife triumphantly afterwards,unaware that it's really Corbis in one of his tricky disguises,and his wife's soul is wailing away inside a new clear satanic watermelon.Duh duh DUH!The trick ending rears its ugly head once again.
Goat-nine sinisterly proclaims,"Apart from the Burman makeup effects herein,this movie is pretty baaaaaaaaaaad!" yeah,there are enough quality cheese-factor elements in place here that might make for a marginally enjoyable experience for you,the cast honorably trudges through the candlewax,Shat and Borg,excellent as always,the effects are very good for the time period(the finale's eternal meltageddon included),and somewhere in here are a few creepy moments that keep the entire production from dipping(dripping?)into worthlessness.All-in-all,an average entry that should have earned a much,much higher Wopsploitation scale rating than it ended up scoring.I guess that'd be the letdown I was rambling about earlier.And,for the record,Aunt Eleanor,I apologize about your floating ribs,wherever you are.
A.....vessel....full of....souls,you say?



CowboyX said...

Shatner can make anything work

beedubelhue said...'ll tackle Impulse(1974) soon,where Shat is a leisure suit-wearing,pork-sweating homicidal maniac.Doesn't get much better than that,C.

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