Director: Robert Fuest
Screenplay: James Ashton, Gabe Essoe and Gerald Hopman
Cast: Ernest Borgnine (as Jonathan Corbis); Eddie Albert (as Dr. Sam Richards); William Shatner (as Mark Preston); Ida Lupino (as Emma Preston); Tom Skerritt (as Tom Preston); Joan Prather (as Julie Preston)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) #60
On paper The Devil's Rain should be awesome, words which ultimately spell doom to the final results but let's stick to the image of the film inside my head first before I have to pop the imaginary bubble. The director of The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) making a Satanic panic film starring William Shatner against Ernest Borgnine as the leader of a cult able to turn people into soulless, eyeless followers who melt like wax when beaten. Add a small role from Ida Lupino, a great actress and a pioneering female director of such gems like The Hitch-Hiker (1953), and the founder of the Church of Satan himself, Anton laVey, as a consultant for the Satanic rituals on screen and it should've been fascinating.
In actuality it's an exceptionally dull film. How it manages to be so dull is incredible in a perverse way in how it has nothing to bring to the table, but a large part of the issue is its complete lack of tension, mood or even kitsch to play out the feature length, like a black hole of charisma in terms of what's left. Shatner is a supporting actor behind Tom Preston and Joan Prather as Tom and Julie Preston, a bland couple with little interest in them barring a completely unused reference to the paranormal obsession of the seventies, Julie able to go into psychokinetic trances where she can see events in another time zone. Lupino is only in for a cameo and only Borgnine has any semblance of screen time of any interest, unable to support the film even in his demonic goat face makeup but at least chewing the scenery with the intensity expected from such a well regarded character actor.
Possibly the biggest disappointment, considering the founder of Church of Satan was on hand to contribute advice, is how utterly bland the evil cult as an entity is barring some pretty and blasphemous set decoration. Admittedly the Church of Satan is not about worshipping the Christian Devil - it's an atheist religion about its followers thinking for themselves, the choice of name meant to rebel against conservative moralists on purpose - but while the aesthetic choices are significantly more distinct than other cult related horror films, it's a further testament to the squandered resources found in The Devil's Rain. After this director Fuest's career practically fell off a cliff, tragic but it's absolutely depressing, considering how imaginative The Abominable Dr. Phibes was, that he went on to something the complete opposite of that film in quality.