Two Hack Reviews from 1976

Both these reviews appeared in the June 1976 issue of Monthly Film Bulletin (vol. 43, no. 509). — J.R.


Devil’s Rain. The

U.S.A., 1975

Director: Robert Fuest


devil's rain

In a heavy storm, Steve Preston returns to his ranch-house on the brink of death, dissolving into a waxy liquid as he utters the name of Jonathan Corbis. His wife Emma subsequently disappears, and their son Mark [William Shatner] takes an amulet left by her (supposedly protection against Corbis’ power) and drives to the ghost town of Redstone. There Corbis [Ernest Borgnine], the leader of a Satanist cult, renders Mark defenseless by turning the amulet into a snake after Mark discovers that Emma his been enlisted into the sect. When Tom [Tom Skerritt], Mark’s younger brother, arrives in Redstone with his wife Julie [Joan Prather] to look for his family, Julie is captured and Tom witnesses a diabolical rite during which Mark, having undergone tortures, is initiated into the cult and Corbis is transformed into the devil himself. Tom returns to the Preston ranch, where Dr. Richards [Eddie Albert], a friend. of the family, explains that Corbis is the reincarnation of a 17th century witch betrayed by ancestors of the Prestons and burned at the stake, and that the Preston family has secretly preserved the ‘sacred book’ of names of people sworn to the devil which once belonged to Corbis and without which he cannot deliver those souls to Satan. With Richards, Tom returns to Redstone, and visits the sect’s church — now empty – where they find a bottle below the altar containing the trapped souls of tire Devil’s Rain. Caught by the returning coven, Tom persuades Mark to smash the bottle; it explodes, and as rain falls into the church, members of the coven melt like wax. Tom and Julie flee from the burning church, but after they embrace it becomes evident that Corbis himself has assumed Julie’s form while she remains trapped with the other souls of the Devil’s Rain.


Unknown-1940-02If there is anything to recommend this confusing horror exercise, then it surely isn’t the direction, which veers throughout from the pedestrian to the stilted. Nor is it the script, which raises more questions in a single reel than it can resolve in three, while satanic effects are piled on at every possible juncture, with gore virtually used to plaster over every gaping loophole. The performances are sufficiently uninspired to make one appreciate Eddie Albert’s seemingly bemused amusement in relation to the rest of the goings on, and regret the plot machinations that render Woodrow Chambliss’ quizzical charms [in a bit part] quickly expendable. But the makeup and special effects work are clearly something to behold, even though they achieve their impact through a rather spectacular form of excess that tends otherwise to bend the film grotesquely out of shape. Ernest Borgnine’s transformations into a goatlike incarnation of the devil are splendidly realized, recalling the vivid graphic style of style of Edd Cartier’s drawings for the late fantasy magazine Unknown, despite the fact that the specific reasons for these metamorphoses are never spelled out. Even more impressive to watch, and less edifying to ponder, is the repetitive process by which members of the Corbis coven bleed endless quantities of brown and blue custard whenever wounded — a phenomenon that reaches a kind of apotheosis when they all die and dribble away like melted candles in the final sequence; this apocalyptic flow of goo satisfyingly reduces the film’s elements for once to a homogeneous consistency.










Motorvej på sengekanten

(Highway through the Bedroom)

Denmark, 1972

Director: John Hilbard

Highway-posterWhen the inhabitants of Sevenhouse protest the construction of a highway through their village, the Minister of Transport sends his junior assistant, Martin Ludvigsen, to obtain the signatures of the all-female parish council — suggesting that he seduce all the women if necessary, and promising him a promotion if he succeeds. At a meeting, the women plan to foil the Ministry by trapping Martin in a compromising situation and then using blackmail; they draw lots by spinning eggs, but after several of the women have tried to seduce Martin, their schemes of entrapment all fail. Martin meanwhile incurs the wrath of a local schoolteacher, in whom he has taken an interest independently of his job, when his chauffeur inadvertently suggests that Martin is using her to further his ends; and the local menfolk,  tired of letting their wives run the village while they spend their time hunting and fishing, start to rebel.. A showdown and free-for-all ensues-after the Minister arrives in Sevenhouse, but order is restored when he agrees to divert the highway west of the village and pay all the villagers sums of money.


This lugubrious Bavarian-style ‘sex’ farce in subtitled Danish initially raises a  potential flicker of interest by establishing that all government officials, hero included, are a team of corrupt, blithering idiots — a plot premise which would probably not be permissible in many other countries. It soon emerges, however, that corrupt, blithering idiocy is regarded as a common sign of humanity, uniting everyone in the story; and amidst all this good-natured mindlessness, any pretense at either social critique or sex quickly flies out the window, for the sake of endless bouts of sniggering, unfunny slapstick.



This entry was posted in Featured Texts. Bookmark the permalink.