This is this week’s Saturday night pizza and bad movie offering. And, oh, brother, was this puppy a stinker.
The opening credits roll over various shots of the weirder scenes from Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych altarpiece, The Garden of Earthly Delights. Bosch even gets a mention in those credits.
The viewer is treated to a glimpse of a gruesome crucifix and the sounds of thunder. Mrs. Preston (Ida Lupino) looks out a window into the pouring rain, worry on her face. Son Mark (William Shatner) arrives with a damp coat dry hat. Maybe he came in through the garage.
Mrs. Preston mentions a dream that always “starts with a storm… and then your father…”
Mark dismisses the idea.
A barking dog alerts the household to a visitor. (They leave to dog out in the rain?) Steve Preston (George Sawaya) stumbles into an entryway. His face appears covered in wax. His family looks at him in surprise but says nothing.
The elder Preston mumbles about the book and Corbis in the desert at Red Stone, a ghost town. “Give Corbis what belongs to him.”
He drops to the ground and, in front of his horrified family, mutters “in nomine satanis” before melting in the rain like a Nazi peeking into the Ark of the Covenant.
Mrs. Preston says, “That was not your father” and begs Mark to give Corbis the book. Mark agrees, but he’ll do so on his terms, which involves a gun. He takes the gun, retrieves the book from under the floorboards, and goes to his car in the nighttime and pouring rain. Here her finds a doll pinned to his steering wheel. A scream arises from the house, and lights flash on and off from upstairs windows.
Running back in, Mark finds ranch hand John (Woodrow Chambliss) strung up by his heels and bloodied. (“Corbis! Goddamn you!”). He cuts John down, goes upstairs to find his mother’s room in shambles. His mother is nowhere to be found. From under the same floorboards where he earlier retrieved the book, he now retrieves an amulet and goes back outside, where suddenly daylight has struck. The road is dry to the point his car kicks up dust as he drives away.
He tells John he’ll be back but has pretty much left the old man to fend for himself.
John mutters, “They have no faces…”
This has got to be one of the most incomprehensible movies I’ve seen in a long time. There’s something about a book that an old apprentice of the devil, Jonathan Corbis (Ernest Borgnine), wants because it contains the signatures of those he’s convinced to since Puritan times to swear allegiance to Satan. These are the souls he holds in what looks like an oversized planter where it’s always raining. A viewing pane shows them wandering around crying like, well, the souls of the damned.
If the book gives Corbis so much power, passed down by generations of the Preston family for some four hundred years, you’d think someone somewhere along the line might think to destroy the book? What a good idea! A little kindling or gasoline and a match? Later, when a character brings the book from a safe place into a Satanist stronghold, no one says, “Bad plan, dude.”
Part of this is silly fun. Ernest Borgnine clearly enjoyed being the bad guy who scared the daylights out of all our heroes. There is some gore in the film. People—wax -people with blacked-out eyes—dissolve in the rain. (That’s not the devil’s rain, though.) When they’re shot, as a good number of them are, they bleed a stream of green blood and another of blue. Children may find it scary. I found it hokey.
Church of Satan founder Anton Lavey served as technical advisor and had a small part in the film. Another small—blink-and-you’ll-miss-him small—went to John Travolta as a young Satanist.
For her role, Ida Lupino won best supporting actress from Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films in 1976.
I recommend avoiding this one. There may be a complete story in there somewhere, but I’m just not interested enough to go look for it.
This gem came be viewed on YouTube for free here. It’s even available for rent or purchase.
Title: The Devil’s Rain (1975)
Gabe Essoe…(written by) &
James Ashton…(written by) and
Gerald Hopman…(written by)
Ernest Borgnine…Jonathan Corbis
Eddie Albert…Dr. Sam Richards
Ida Lupino…Mrs. Preston
William Shatner…Mark Preston
Keenan Wynn…Sheriff Owens
Tom Skerritt…Tom Preston
Length: 1 hour, 26 minutes