The Devils Rain is a 1975 low-budget horror film, directed by Robert Fuest. It was one of several B-films in which William Shatner starred between the original Star Trek television series and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Other cast members included Tom Skerritt, Ernest Borgnine, Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino, Keenan Wynn and John Travolta in his film debut in a minor role. Satanist Anton LaVey is credited as the films technical advisor and appeared in the film playing a minor role.
Satanists in the middle west terrorize and sometimes melt the terrified locals.
A curse affects the Preston family, caused by their betrayal of the Satanic priest Jonathan Corbis (Ernest Borgnine). Corbis has harassed the Preston family for generations to obtain a Satanic book of great power. Corbis captures patriarch Steve Preston, who is allowed to escape to warn his wife and younger son about Corbiss wrath. He tells them to give the book to Corbis, but during a rainstorm he melts into a waxy substance.
Mark Preston (Shatner) takes the book, hoping to meet with Corbis and defeat him. In a ghost town in the desert, Corbis gives Preston a drink of water from an old hand-pumped well. Preston drinks but then spits out the bitter water. He challenges Corbis to a battle of faith, then draws a pistol and aims it at him. Corbis belittles this threat and Preston tries to escape, but he is surrounded by Corbis followers. He produces a cross, but Corbis transforms it into a snake and Preston discards it. Corbis followers capture Preston, and Corbis uses a ritual to erase Prestons memory in preparation for a ceremony later that evening.
Prestons older brother, Tom (Tom Skerritt), and his wife, Julie, search for Mark. They are accompanied by Dr. Sam Richards (Albert), a psychic researcher. Their search leads them to Corbis church, where Corbis is performing a ceremony to convert Mark into one of his soulless minions; during the proceedings Corbis transforms into a Satanic goat-like being. Tom witnesses all of this; he is discovered by the Satanists but eludes capture. Later he and Richards meet at the Satanic church, where they discover that the source of Corbiss power is an ornate glass bottle known as "The Devils Rain", which contains the souls of Corbiss disciples.
Corbis and the Satanists converge on the church. Richards threatens to destroy The Devils Rain, but he is overpowered by the acolytes. He appeals to Marks lost humanity and convinces him to destroy the bottle, which he does in defiance of Corbis entreaties. A storm rages outside, and the Satanists melt in the rain. Tom and his wife make a hasty exit. As Tom holds his wife, it is revealed that he is actually embracing Corbis, and his wifes soul has become trapped within a new Devils Rain.
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
Keenan Wynn as Sheriff Owens
John Travolta as Danny
George Sawaya as Steve Preston
Anton LaVey as High Priest of the Church of Satan
Woodrow Chambliss as John
The Devils Rain received a uniformly negative critical response, with the chief complaint being the incoherent storyline. The films refusal to provide adequate scares was also widely criticized. Vincent Canby in the New York Times noted that "The Devils Rain is ostensibly a horror film, but it barely manages to be a horror...It is as horrible as watching an egg fry." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times said "All of this would be good silly fun if the movie werent so painfully dull. The problem is that the materials stretched too thin. Theres not enough here to fill a feature-length film." He gave the film 1½ stars out of four.
The movies disastrous reception arguably killed off director Fuests career. Fuest had previously directed The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), and The Final Programme (1973). The Devils Rain suffered such a critical drubbing that Fuest immediately was forced to retreat to television, directing several nondescript TV-movies and series episodes over the years. He has made only one additional theatrical feature, Aphrodite (1982), a softcore sex romp shot in Greece.
In his 2010 book Showgirls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies, Australian film reviewer Michael Adams ironically called The Devils Rain "the ultimate cult movie": "Its about a cult, has a cult following, was devised with input from a cult leader, and saw a future superstar indoctrinated into a cult hed help popularize."