Release Date(s)1975 (October 31, 2017)
Studio(s)Bryanston Distributing (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: D+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
Few films are as completely off the rails while simultaneously boring their audiences for a considerable amount of their running time as The Devil’s Rain. What was a promising premise about a local family in an abandoned desert town succumbing one by one to a Satanic cult wound up being a major critical and commercial failure, ultimately becoming an embarrassment to many of the people involved with it. BUT, with an ending that’s stated on the film’s poster as “Absolutely the most incredible ending of any motion picture ever!”, one must seek it out regardless.
Released through Bryanston Distributing, the same company responsible for the release of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Devil’s Rain is a treasure trove of eccentric, sometimes questionable performances mixed with great prosthetic and make-up effects. There was even a technical advisor for the ritual sequences in the form of the then-high priest of the Church of Satan Anton LaVey. And if not for some of the more extreme moments, the film could almost be mistaken for a TV movie – particularly due to its cast, which includes William Shatner, Ernest Borgnine, Ida Lupino, Tom Skerritt, Keenan Wynn, and a fresh-faced John Travolta.
All of that being said, it’s clear that director Robert Fuest and his crew were trying to do their best under the circumstances. Some good cinematography is put to good use and creepy imagery is on display, but it’s the (as advertised) over the top ending that the film is mostly remembered for. The immediate dismissal of it was also troubling for Fuest, who had just came off of The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Dr. Phibes Rises Again, both commercially successful films for American International Pictures. The Devil’s Rain more or less killed his career as a filmmaker and he retired from the industry altogether soon after.
For a film so poorly regarded over the years, it’s not surprising that it hasn’t had a proper U.S. Blu-ray release until now. Severin Films has taken it upon themselves to do a new 2K restoration from the film’s interpositive which, according to them, is the best available element. Although it was released through Dark Sky Films on DVD some time ago, this Blu-ray is a substantial improvement. Although slightly soft in appearance, it features solid grain reproduction with excellent detail, particularly on skin textures and make-up effects, the latter of which are more prominent than ever now. Color reproduction is also vastly improved, especially in regards to red, blue, and brown hues. Skin tones are merely decent while black levels are mostly solid and deep. Overall brightness and contrast is satisfying, and the encode itself is quite good. It’s also a clean and stable presentation. Mild speckling and scratches show themselves occasionally, there’s at least one instance of banding, and a couple of black frames towards the end, but otherwise, this is a major step up from DVD. The audio is presented in English, Spanish, and French 2.0 mono DTS-HD with English subtitles. Being mono-sourced, it’s predictably flat without much in the way of dynamics, although sporadic fidelity is present in some of the sound effects. Dialogue is clear and discernible, but the rest of the track can tend to be a little muddled due to the sound and musical elements being at war with each other, chiefly at the end. However, the track is reproduced well here with no major hiss, crackle, or dropouts to speak of.
As for the extras, Severin’s release packs a real punch. First up is the audio commentary with director Robert Fuest and moderator Marcus Hearn carried over from the Dark Sky Films’ DVD. There’s also some great new and vintage interview material, including Confessions of Tom, an interview with actor Tom Skerritt; The Devil’s Makeup, an interview with special effects artist Tom Burman; a 1975 interview with actor William Shatner; First Stop Durango, an interview with script supervisor Ana Marie Quintana; Consulting with the Devil, an interview with the current high priest and priestess of the Church of Satan; Hail Satan!, an interview with Anton LaVey biographer Blance Barton; Filmmaker/Collector Daniel Roebuck on The Devil’s Rain; an on-set Polaroid gallery by script supervisor Ana Marie Quintana accompanied by 6 radio spots; the film’s theatrical trailer; 3 TV spots; and “Images from Hell”, an animated poster and still gallery. The only thing missing from the Dark Sky Films release is a brief newsreel showcasing Anton LaVey. Suffice it to say, all of this material is extremely entertaining and informative, and far better than the film itself.
While it’s difficult to recommend The Devil’s Rain to anybody with half a brain, I can say for certain that Severin Films’ Blu-ray release certainly puts the film in its proper context and makes it a much more attractive package. If you’re interested in something that’s been buried at the bottom of a garbage heap and newly unearthed for your edification (or dismay), then The Devil’s Rain is definitely worthy of your time.
- Tim Salmons