The Devil’s Rain (1975)

Director: Robert Fuest

It would be harsh to say that this film’s credit sequence, which uses the work of Hieronymus Bosch for its backgrounds, is the best thing about it, but I’m sure some people—probably a lot of people, in fact—would say it’s also fair… we’re looking at a somewhat notorious dog here (Scott Ashlin’s observation about the film’s nonsensical promotional tagline is apt), which more or less killed Fuest’s film career, he only made one more theatrical film in the early 80s and otherwise remained stuck working in TV for whatever remained of his career. The problem seems to have been producer Sandy Howard, who wanted a movie featuring Satanists and a climax with all of them melting; quite how the film was supposed to get to that point seems to have been of less interest to him. Fuest was accordingly saddled with a script that didn’t make much sense and little way to force it to do so… conversely, he was also saddled with interesting Mexican locations also picked by Howard, and he does get to do good things with those in widescreen, and his design background serves him well with the Satanist church setting (I presume this is where Anton LaVey offered “technical advice”). The story involves a book belonging to a Satanic cult back in pilgrim times, containing the names of the members who’ve sold their souls to Satan, and when it’s stolen it means cult leader Ernest Borgnine can’t actually dispatch their souls to Hell. Quite why Satan is so picky about this detail is something the film never addresses, as is the question of quite why Borgnine takes, you know, a few hundred years to find the book, doesn’t say a lot for his supposed Satanic powers… But none of that was the point anyway, the point was Sandy Howard’s melting Satanists, and, well, he surely got those, frankly to excess as Fuest himself says in the DVD commentary. Alas, the evident determination to get a PG rating means you don’t even really get that much of a gorefest, everyone just melts into goo rather than blood and guts. On the whole pretty meh, but there is some bravura ham from Borgnine (and from Bill Shatner to a smaller extent) and a certain overall strangeness that does keep you watching, even if the attempt to understand is sometimes in vain…

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