Ah, The Devil’s Rain, I became familiar with this through a show called, That’s Hollywood, I believe, narrated by Happy Day’s Tom Bosley. Back when I was a kid, though, horror movies weren’t my thing, but I was sometimes exposed to them because there were various monster and scifi movies that had horror elements in them. So, basically, I had no interest in this movie, and I think the clip they showed was that notorious ending where everyone melts like they were made of mud. I have a vague memory of coming across the actual movie later on in life, but cannot remember if I ever watched it. I think my brother did, which was something, because he doesn’t like horror movies, even to this day. So, in conclusion, what I’m trying to say is I’ve never seen this movie all the way through, and my only knowledge of it is that ending that has stuck with me to this day. I think I was also somewhat horrified by that scene too.
Just so you know that above paragraph and this one I’m currently writing has been written in advance, something I tend to do, if I have time, before seeing a “memory movie.” The Devil’s Rain has always remained something of a weird curiosity for me and now that I have an opportunity to review this nifty new blu-ray I’m dying to see it and see if it’s a keeper. I’m currently a few days away from actually watching it.
Okay, here we are days later and now that I’ve finally seen it, the only thing that I recognized was the big “melting” finale and the twist ending, but nothing else looked familiar. So, in conclusion, I’m going to have to say I guess I never did see the whole movie when I was a kid. It’s not a bad movie either, certainly one that, if I had seen it when it first came out, would have scared me, since there is some “mild eye trauma,” and eye trauma has always bothered me. Horror Express (1972) would be the mother of all “eye trauma” movies, and that one actually traumatized me. This one, though, has one creepy “eye trauma” scene in the beginning that as an adult still managed to creep me out.
The movie has some logic issues, but they weren’t strong enough in my opinion to derail the whole viewing experience. It starts off by throwing you right into the deep end, there’s no prologue, no set-up, it’s just there, shit has already happened, and you do feel a little like you’re playing catch up, but a ways in we get a flashback to three-hundred years back that explains things to a degree. Best as I can figure during pilgrim times there was this Satanist by the name of Jonathan Corbis (Ernest Borgnine), and one of his disciples was Martin Fife (William Shatner). On this particular night Corbis and his followers are about to be visited by the town’s priest and a good portion of the townsfolk who have been told by Fife’s wife Corbis and these others are in league with Lucifer. That’s right, Fife’s wife is a turncoat, but Fife didn’t know anything about that, most importantly she’s taken a special book of Corbis’ and hid it. It’s a large leather bound tome with the names of all the souls Corbis has taken. Corbis, an emissary of sorts for the Devil on Earth, has this crazy knack of being able to take out someone’s soul that also makes the person eyeless, so they go around with these black, empty sockets in their dome. Corbis and his flock are confronted and the last we see is he, Fife, and the others are about to be burned at the stake. But before he returns to Hell he curses all of Fife’s descendants.
When the flick starts off we don’t know any of this, what’s thrown at us is a mother waiting for her son and husband to come home, and there’s a vicious storm raging outside. This mother is Emma Preston (Ida Lupino), and her son is Mark (William Shatner). Apparently, he’s been out looking for his father, and couldn’t find him, which has led them to believe this man named, Corbis that they seem to be all too familiar with has kidnapped him. Corbis still wants his book and the Fife descendants have managed to keep it away from him for centuries. Nice.
What’s never explained is the big gap of time between the scene where they were burned at the stake and now. With Fife, we can assume Mark is a descendant who looks just like Martin, but seeing as Corbis has “powers” was he actually burned at the stake and killed? If so, how did he “come back” and how does he still recognize Mark as his previous incarnation, for he calls him by his old name during an early confrontation. Obviously, Mark knows nothing of who he was three-hundred years ago, which makes a lot of sense.
There’s an old man with Mark and Emma in the beginning and appears a couple of other times throughout the flick. I thought, maybe, this was Mark’s grandfather, but they call him by his first name. I don’t know, maybe, he was just a real good friend of the family, or something. Mark goes off to confront Corbis and get his father, Steve (George Sawaya), back, but his father shows up a short time later, with his eyes and face looking all fucked up. This is a hint of what you’ll see in the finale when all the Satanists melt under the Devil’s rain. For the longest time I had it in my mind they were made of mud, but I was confusing this melt with the melt at end of The Terror (1963), where a character does look like she was made of mud. The melting in this flick kind of implies when your soul is removed and you become an eyeless Satanist you become like candle wax. These Satanists do not bleed blood when they are shot, or stabbed, but bleed “candle wax,” so the big melting finale is like watching a horde of human candlesticks slowly disintegrate. But the appearance of a melting father in the rainstorm strains logic as well, since all of Corbis’ souls are kept in this huge, almost crystal ball-like object topped by the head of a ram. You can see all the human souls clamoring to get out, but they’re trapped in there in this rain referred to as . . . say it with me, guys—the Devil’s Rain! Breaking this thing will release the souls and this rain and it’s this rain that melts everyone at the end, so how is Mark’s father melting in the opening?
This town all these Satanists used to live in three hundred years ago is just a few miles down the road, but it’s a ghost town now. Well, that don’t mean shit to them. They’re still there practicing their evil and this is where Mark goes to take on Corbis. He loses and we get to see the ceremony that turns humans into eyeless Devil-loving lackeys.
Now with the Shatman out of the picture we’re introduced to his brother, Tom (Tom Skerritt), his wife, Julie (Joan Prather), and a Dr. Sam Richards (Eddie Albert). Julie’s psychic and it’s through a vision later that shows us Corbis and Fife’s origin in pilgrim days. Corbis also has the ability to channel Old Scratch himself, which happens during Mark’s “turning” ceremony. Borgnine’s Devil make-up is quite good and reminded of something that wouldn’t be out of place in The Island Of Dr. Moreau (1977), it being this half human/half ram visage. Borgnine will Devil-out one more time at the very end, when Richards and Tom crash the final ceremony after Julie gets taken.
There’s a twist that also strains logic. After the “soul storer” is destroyed, and the rain gets out and melts Satan and his followers, and literally blows up the church, we think Tom, Julie and Doc Richards made it out alive. Well, yes, they did make out alive, but when Tom hugs his wife, she becomes Corbis, chuckling in evil fashion, and the last shot that briefly plays over the end credits is Julie trapped somewhere in the rain. So, how did Corbis pull this switcharoo off? And where is her soul stored, since the “soul storer” was smashed? With those various gaps in storytelling, the movie moves under the locomotion of dream logic, and that was all right with me.
Aside from the creepy melting father in the beginning the only other thing that gave me a start was this horrific, high pitched scream Shatner does when he’s tied to this cross in the church and is head is bent down towards this pit. That, for a nanosecond, actually scared the shit out of me.
Keenan Wynn has a very small part as the local Sheriff.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.39:1 high definition widescreen—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 French DTS-HD Master Audio—English SDH subs only
Excellent looking transfer! Well, worth the upgrade, if you still have the old DVD.
Extras included . . .
- Audio Commentary With Director Robert Fuest, Hosted By Marcus Hearn
- Confessions Of Tom (10:59)
- The Devil’s Makeup ( 5:05)
- 1975 Archive Footage (3:47)
- First Stop Durango (14:47)
- Consulting With The Devil (10:17)
- Hail Satan! (8:04)
- Filmmaker/Collector Daniel Roebuck On The Devil’s Rain (10:33)
- On Set Polaroid Gallery By Ana Maria Quintana Accompanied By Radio Spots (7:57)
- Poster & Stills Gallery (7:48)
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
- Reverse Cover Art (see above/middle photo)
A great collection of extras especially the commentary, the 1975 Archive Footage, which is an interview with Shatner, and the Polaroids taken on set!