Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Devil's Rain - a toupological analysis.



The Devil's Rain
is a 1975 horror movie starring Ernest Borgnine, Tom Skerritt and William Shatner and was apparently made to cash in on the success of 1973's The Exorcist. Here's a trailer:



The plot is pretty indecipherable. To quote this review:

"The story is all about the Preston family and their age long problems with Jonathon Corbis...and his merry band of soulless miscreants. Jonathon was killed hundreds of years before for his wicked ways, but he came back to life cuz' he's just that damn evil! Plus he wants his book. Apparently he captured the souls of his eyeless crew by having them sign a book. And them dang ol' Preston's done stole his book! "Where's my cake, Bedelia?" So John wants his book and Mark Preston (William Shatner)...wants his kidnapped Mom back."

Ernest Borgnine as the Satanic priest Jonathon Corbis.

Confused? It really doesn't matter - the plot isn't important (Wikipedia has more). The movie, in fine clichéd form, starts on a dark and stormy night. Bill Shatner's character, Preston, watches his father inexplicably melt (there's lot's of melting in this film).


He decides to investigate and finds some Satanist church in the middle of a ghost town.


The Satanists go after Shatner.


His mother having already been zombified.


Bill Shatner is caught and eventually zombified too.


But not before he is tortured.


At this point, the script tries to do what 1960's Psycho did - getting rid of the lead character early on in the movie; in this case that means essentially ditching Bill Shatner. But that trick arguably worked in Psycho, because the audience was left alone with the person (Norman Bates) who had killed the leading lady (Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh). Here, the contrivance of shifting the focus to two new characters just feels very jarring. Bill Shatner is largely absent from The Devil's Rain from this point onwards....


...except for some flashback to the 17th century where he wears a strange wig. In the flashbacks, he portrays another member of the Preston family - for generations they have kept Corbis' evil book hidden. Corbis, you'll remember, needs this book in order to fully give his followers' souls to the devil.


Shatner's character is then burned at the stake.


Still confused? Let's quote this review:

"All right, yes, it's never entirely clear why Corbis just can't take the book from its not-terribly-clever hiding place; and yes again, it's never made entirely clear why the Prestons insist on doing stupidly heroic solo missions to find out what Corbis is doing. Anyway, the Prestons come up against Corbis' congregation of damned souls, black-hooded zombies with eyes gone solid black. These zombies dissolve in water, leaving behind only a puddle of wax -- somehow when their bodies are deprived of their souls, they exchange material with the wax dolls that are used in the ceremonies."

Flash forward and Bill Shatner is still being zombified.


At last!


The rest of the movie has all sorts of Satanic rituals.


And all kinds of strangeness, which highlights some of the film's strengths, namely decent cinematography, solid production design and some very interesting shot compositions:


Bill Shatner re-appears as a mask.


And then everybody melts in a very, very long ending, which can be viewed in full here.


Let's move swiftly to the to the hair...

As with The Andersonville Trial, Bill Shatner's toup is introduced first, before we see the actor's face.


The hair (of the "Lost Years" variety) is actually fairly decent - 1975 was a year when the toups Bill Shatner wore significantly increased in quality (see here for more on that) in comparison to the previous few years. Perhaps the prospect of Star Trek's return led Bill Shatner to start attending to his appearance more closely.


Early on in the movie, Bill Shatner removes his hat, lets the toup flail in the breeze, and then puts the hat back on again.



A little later, the toup gets slightly ruffled:


We don't know if such moments were contractually stipulated. Did Bill Shatner have a legally binding agreement with the toup that it must be given at least a couple of decent moments in each project?

Anyway, The Devil's Rain decidedly fails in the fright or horror departments - you're far more likely to guffaw your way through the bits that are supposed to be scary. However, the movie's sheer kitsch-ness has turned it into something of a camp, cult classic. Taken with a heavy pinch of salt (there really is no other way), it makes for a relatively entertaining and baffling viewing experience.

The Devil's Rain is available on DVD - and, at present, is also up on YouTube in its entirety. A very, very odd movie.

10 comments:

  1. http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/101428-William-Shatner-Making-Documentary-About-Himself

    This is where Shatner will finally talk about his toupee addiction.

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  2. Shat's in pretty good shape here. Lost his third season chubbiness. The toup has been working out as well.

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  3. Borgnine is looking like one of those aliens on Journey To Babel

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  4. Congratulations on digging up another gem - this looks absolutely dreadful - I'm off to watch it NOW!

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  5. "Absolutely dreadful" hits it pretty squarely on the head. Absolutely dreadful and almost completely baffling. But it beats jury duty.

    Barely.

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  6. Borgnine and Bill Shatner in the same movie...!Hide the children!!!!

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  7. NOOOooooooo! For someone who is incredibly attracted to Shatner, the zombie bit is painful. (CANNOT UNSEE.) But, given the perplexing nature of this film, I feel it my duty to watch.

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  8. Most female Shatner fans would love this film. Shirtless scene, with shaved chest and a bold, fresh toupee. And Shat wearing western, cowboy gear. This film should put these ladies into orbit at least for awhile...

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  9. The toupee is not that bad, but the whole thing is a mess. By the way, The Barbary Coast, from the same year, deserves a toupological analyses too.

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  10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnt2SAYeH-4&feature=related

    Go to about 1:52 - 1:57 and freeze. As Kruge hits Kirk against the rock, the toup is slightly dislodged from the back.

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