The Devil’s Rain 1975

Devils-Rain-3

 

While watching The Devil’s Rain  I was convinced that the filmmakers had just misspelled reign, because the Devil’s reign is a terrifying prospect, but the Devil’s rain is just weird. However (and you are about to get a spoiler on a 39 year old film I’d never even heard of until five minutes before I started watching it) it is indeed the Devil’s rain and the film reveals that when you are sent to eternal damnation in Hell, it rains, a lot. And not fiery hell-rain either; just big, wet, miserable rain. What they’re essentially saying is that Hell is a lot like Great Britain. Which you wouldn’t guess in this all-but forgotten (actually no, just forgotten) barn-storming nonsense from the darkest days of Devil-mania, post-Exorcist 1970s.

The scary stuff here happens in the middle of dusty old Mexico pretending to be rural America. Okay, it’s not scary at all, but it is brilliant* because facing off against each other are a good man, potentially corrupted, played with wild abandon by the fantastic William Shatner, and the sinister and swivel-eyed lunacy of Ernest Borgnine. It’s a match made in over-the-top acting madness heaven. Well from Shatner anyway. Borgnine tries to play it straight at least some of the time. But then he is also prone to suddenly turning into a horned beast that looks like this…

The Devils Rain_Borg

…which somewhat undermines his efforts. Sure, he’s a horned demon from the pits of Hades, but he also looks kind of cuddly.

Don’t worry folks, it’s not all just two great actors at the top of their hammy game. There’s also a plot, and John Travolta.

It starts all dark and moody with Shatner, his mother and an old man (who lives in the house with them but at no point is it explained who he is) worried about where Shatner’s father is. Don’t worry, soon old ‘pa turns up missing his eyeballs and melts into a pile of green goo, which is a shock I can tell you. Before sliming, the father tells them that Ernest Borgnine wants the evil book they have in their position so he can do whatever it is devil worshippers do with evil books. Shatner decides that he’s had enough of Borgnine and his library-type demands, so he sets off to have it out with the old git.

This turns out to be a bit of a bad idea. Firstly, because the moment he steps out of the house his mother disappears in a puff of sulphur (leaving the unexplained old man even more confused than he already is). And also because while Shatner has his faith, Borgnine has his own faith, about fifty eyeless followers (who still see pretty happy about this considering) and the aforementioned ability to turn into a goat. Soon, Shatner is pointing and shouting about faith and God and the good times, while Borgnine just sits back in his robes waiting for Shatner to fall apart. Which takes about five glorious minutes. Before you know it he’s being stripped and whipped and tied to an altar. Somewhere a Star Trek fan wets himself.

So, it’s up to Shatner’s previously unmentioned younger brother, a very young-looking, no not Travolta, Tom Skerritt to come along with his Mrs and rescue his brother, save the big book and kick Borgnine ass. Which he does, but really weakly and without the required hammy acting. Also by the time he shows up its too late for Shatner. He’s gone to the dark side which means his eyes have been sucked out:

Don’t worry folks, its not all just two great actors at the top of their hammy game. There’s also a plot, and John Travolta.

It starts all dark and moody with Shatner, his mother and an old man (who lives in the house with them but at no point is he explained who he is) worried about where Shatner’s father is. Don’t worry soon old ‘pa turns up missing his eyeballs and melts into a pile of green goo, which is a shock I can tell you. Before sliming, the father tells them that Ernest Borgnine wants the evil book they have in their position so he can do whatever it is devil worshippers do with evil books. Shatner decides that he’s had enough of Borgnine and his library-type demands so sets off to have it out with the old git.

This turn out to be a bit of a bad idea. Firstly, because the moment he steps out of the house his mother disappears in a puff of sulphur (leaving the old man even more confused than he already is). And also because while Shatner has his faith, Borgnine has his own faith, about fifty eyeless followers (who still see pretty happy about this considering) and the aforementioned ability to turn into a goat. Soon, Shatner is pointing and shouting about faith and God and the good times, while Borgnine just sits back in his robes waiting for Shatner to fall apart. Which takes about five glorious minutes. Before you know it he’s being stripped and whipped and tied to an alter. Somewhere a Star Trek fan wets himself.

So, its up to Shatner’s previously unmentioned younger brother, a very young-looking, no not Travolta, Tom Skerritt to come along with his misses and rescue his brother, save the big book and kick Borgnine ass. Which he does, but really weakly and without the required hammy acting. Also by the time he shows up its too late for Shatner. He’s gone to the dark side which means his eyes have been sucked out:

devil_shatner

The upshot of which is that he ends up looking like a mask of William Shatner. And we all know who wore a mask of William Shatner don’t we? Yes, he looks uncannily like Michael Myers from Halloween:

halloween-1978

A fun, unintentional touch. And there’s a lot of them.

While the film is in and of itself meant to be a serious film, it falls for the classic problem a lot of Satanist movies do and makes the whole Devil cult seem absolutely ludicrous. I mean, what is the appeal of joining a cult where you lose your eyeballs and your soul is stuck in hell getting rained on by the Devil. Hang on, maybe that’s it, the Devil’s rain of the title is in fact his piss. All eternity being pissed on actually does sound quite unpleasant. Especially if it’s that first thing in the morning piss which is always a bit dark and foamy**. There are some nice robes when you sign up, but you’re stuck in an abandoned church in the middle of Mexico so they’ll just be a sweaty burden. Plus, there seems to be a distinct lack of orgies, surely the main draw for any satanist. On the flip side you DO get to whip a naked William Shatner, so its swings and roundabouts.

Why is it that something like Hammer’s The Devil Rides Out can deal with the exact same subject matter, and even the same amount of velvet robing, and a goat, but manage to be an rip-roaring adventure, while The Devil’s Rain is a load of old nonsense? Not that you should hold that it against it. Its a bit slow and wordy in places but the actors give it their over-the-top all, there are some interesting, if not entirely successful, effects and some whacky ideas, mostly involving rain.

Also there’s John Travolta. You’ll barely recognise him because he’s got no eyes and a big robe, but he seems to be featured as one of the main devil worshippers, a young farmboy corrupted by evil. I think, anyway, I was too overwhelmed by William Shatner to pay much attention. God he’s great.

Also it should be noted that the ending has two amazing moments. One, possibly the longest baddies-melt-to-death climaxes committed to film, as everyone turns into a pile of gloop for seemingly an hour, but I think was really only a still far too long ten minutes. It beats the ending of Evil Dead in length if not in quality. And two, according to one of the posters it has “The Most Incredible Ending of Any Motion Picture Ever!” Trust me, not that poster, it’s not incredible, it’s nonsense, just like the rest of this movie. And it involves rain.

* When I say brilliant I mean it is not brilliant, but that’s what makes it brilliant. So it is brilliant again after all.

** Erm, if you don’t drink enough water and have a bladder infection, apparently…

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