Just once, Appellate Judge Tom Becker would like to meet an antichrist who didn't smirk.
"What do our children want to be when they grow up?"
We hear "Kirk Douglas," we think, "Great American movie star," "intense actor of the '40s, '50s, and '60s." We think, "father of Michael Douglas," we think, "I am Spartacus!" We rarely think, "Kirk Douglas, B-movie King," but when you consider his work in the late '70s and beyond, that's exactly who he is. Forget Lust for Life, bring on The Fury. Who needs Detective Story when you've got Saturn 3?
Here we have Kirk Douglas in a 1977 Italian exploitation/horror movie, Rain of Fire (aka, Holocaust 2000, so named when "2000" meant a scary new century and not a wistful look back to the Clinton years). Douglas plays Robert Caine, an inordinately wealthy captain of industry who's trying to get a nuclear plant built in the Holy Land.
This quest does not make him Mr. Popular. Opposing him are the government of the desert country where he'd like to build, some pinko, granola-eating anti nuke protestors, and his own wife, who's a major shareholder in the company.
In his corner, however, is a heavy hitter, someone more powerful than even the escaped mental patient who tries to shank Robert at a swanky party: yes, it's Satan. It seems that Ol' Scratch is looking to branch out from that whole fiery furnace thing and sees nuclear energy as the wave of the future. It's clean, it's efficient, and with little or no effort, it can turn the Earth into a big fat fireball.
Satan, of course, is merely a silent partner in all this. Robert doesn't even know the Prince of Darkness has signed on, until "strange stuff" (violent, unexplained deaths, and the like) starts happening and he begins cross-referencing the Book of Revelations. Fearing an apocalypse now, Robert finds himself in a struggle against the forces of evil; worse, there's a good chance that the baby his girlfriend is carrying is actually…the antichrist!
Take two parts The Exorcist, three parts The Omen, strain out the budget, and liberally sprinkle with cheese, and you've got Rain of Fire, an enjoyably low-rent Italian shock-and-schlock from the guy who directed The Puma Man. While it's almost criminally derivative, Rain of Fire is not without its virtues.
First off, it's got a fun script that does a good job with that whole Biblical puzzle rug thing. Conveniently, Robert keeps running into people who know little factoids about the antichrist and the apocalypse, and in no time, he's making all kinds of connections between his nuclear project and all those end-of-the-world (as we know it) prophecies.
Satan, of course, is notorious for the grand gesture, and so we get some nicely showy deaths. Much to his credit, Director Alberto De Martino plays these just right, making us familiar with the characters, giving us a long build up, and reminding us that this is the Devil monkeying around and causing the bloodletting.
De Martino also gives us some very well-crafted and suspenseful set pieces. One that's particularly good takes place in an insane asylum where the inmates are kept in a room with transparent Plexiglas walls; another is in a hospital during a storm, with the lights flickering on and off.
Douglas is always worth watching, and he makes the most of the silly histrionics here. Even in his 60s, his natural athleticism is obvious. We get good work from Simon Ward (Young Winston) as Douglas' son, Angel(!!!), as well as from Anthony Quayle, Virginia McKenna, and Alexander Knox in smaller parts. They get to do all their emoting to a top-notch Ennio Morricone score.
Since this is from Lionsgate, we get nothing more than a beat-up looking transfer, bland audio, and a big, blank space where the extras should be. Here's what Lionsgate did right: They're giving us the 102-minute version that includes a bleak ending, rather than the 96-minute US release that tied everything up nice and neat.
Rain of Fire is surprisingly fun. If you're only going to see one '70s exploitation film featuring a former superstar awash in a sea of hysterical degradations, it might as well be this one.
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