“CORBIS! GOD DAMN YOU!!!” Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system. The above quote is from none other than the mighty William Shatner, and I’m emphasizing it to let everyone know what amazing and fantastical delights await those who enter…The Devil’s Rain. Released in 1975, to little fanfare, The Devil’s Rain sits smack dab in the middle of a decade long wave of satanic cinema. From Rosemary’s Baby (1968) to Damien Omen II (1978), the market was flooded with horror films dedicated to the Behooved One. It’s a shame that audiences and critics alike didn’t want to play in this rain, as this is a devilish delight.
Mark Preston (Shatner) and his family have been hiding Satan’s Guest Book from Jonathan Corbis (a creepily effective Ernest Borgnine) , Satan’s earthly salesman, for centuries. Without the book, all of Corbis’ converts cannot find their final resting place down below; instead they have to wait it out inside a funky looking TV set where it rains even more than in Seattle, hence the title of the film. As we find out in a sepia toned flashback, The Prestons’ ancestors, the Fyffes, were part of Corbis’ original cult in the late 1600’s. Deciding a life of hellfire was not for them, they ratted out Corbis to the village and the entire cult was burned at the stake. Corbis cursed Fyffe and his clan for all of eternity.
Back to the present day, Mark has a showdown with Corbis that doesn’t go too well. His brother Tom (Tom Skeritt, with a mustache so righteous that it could singlehandedly defeat Satan), Tom’s wife Julie (Eight is Enough’s Joan Prather), and Dr. Sam Richards (Green Acres’ Eddie Albert) arrive on the scene after Julie has a horrific vision of trouble back home on the range. Will they be able to save the Preston clan and defeat Satan’s minions? Or will Corbis have the last laugh?
I’ve never been able to take any of this satanic hokey pokey seriously – but apparently the filmmakers did; they even had The Church of Satan’s Founder Anton LaVey as ‘Technical Consultant’. So I guess the ceremonies performed in the film are ‘accurate’. Screenwriters James Ashton, Gabe Essoe and Gerald Hopman really want you to believe in this stuff; I say good on them for trying.
The Devil’s Rain was helmed by the late Robert Fuest. He had a killer one two punch in 1971 and ’72 with The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Dr. Phibes Rises Again, both starring Vincent Price as a mad doctor hell-bent on revenge, and both are great fun. Fuest directs The Devil’s Rain with the same great rapport he’s shown in the past with his actors; I’m assuming, however, that he took the chains off of Shatner and let him loose, because he plays not only to the cheap seats in the back but the parking lot outside the theater as well. There is a long sequence between Shatner and Borgnine in the desert that Fuest directs beautifully; suspenseful and well written. He was a great director who - after this film (and maybe because of it) was relegated mostly to TV movies for the rest of his career – deserved better treatment from the industry.
The evocative music score was done by Al De Lory. De Lory, well known as a hit making record producer for Glen Campbell in the late 1960’s, emphasizes percussive instruments to keep the story moving; it’s a creepy and minimalistic piece.
The makeup (and there’s a lot of it) was created by Ellis Burman, Jr., and it’s crudely effective. The protracted ending has Satan’s minions moaning and groaning as they melt in the rain like psychedelic sherbet; messy stuff that goes on for a tad too long.
The great thing about this cast is they could simultaneously star in a low budget horror film and an episode of The Love Boat at the same time; from Keenan Wynn (as Sheriff Owens) to Ida Lupino (as the Preston Matriarch) to the aforementioned Ernest Borgnine, all pros, always giving their all. They treat the material as they would any other project; with respect. Honorable mention goes to John Travolta (with a dubbed voice) in his film debut. Fun fact: Joan Prather allegedly introduced Travolta to Scientology during filming. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Here’s the bottom line: The Devil’s Rain is great fun. Well directed and acted, full of satanic silliness, and Shatner hitting warp drive. Oh, and I didn’t even mention that Borgnine turns into a goat devil…
“CORBIS! GOD DAMN YOU!!!”
The Devil’s Rain is currently available on DVD from Dark Sky Films. For the love of all that is unholy, track it down.Next: Drive-In Dust Offs: The Children