Review Date: 6/16/18
Technical Advisor: Anton LaVey
Cast: Ernest Borgnine, William Shatner, Tom Skerritt, Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino, Keenan Wynn, Joan Prather, cameo by John Travolta
A tedious and silly film about a Satanic cult led by a creepy and maniacal priest named Jonathan Corbis (Ernest Borgnine). Corbis spends the entire film tormenting the Preston family in an attempt to recover a sacred book that was stolen from him 300 years ago. When Mark Preston (William Shatner) confronts Corbis and fails, his brother Tom (Tom Skerritt) goes looking for him. With help from Dr. Richards (Eddie Albert), Tom manages to destroy the Satanic church and free the tormented souls that Corbis has been keeping in limbo. Either that, or he just hastens their journey to Hell. It's hard to tell. Corbis goes up in flames, but just as you would expect from an agent of Lucifer, he's got an ace up his sleeve.
The story is flimsy and the pacing is dreadfully slow, but the charismatic cast helps keep things interesting. Anton LaVey, the High Priest Of The Church Of Satan, served as a technical advisor on the film, which I suppose adds a sense of authenticity to it. However, there's not much going on in the film, and it solely relies on just the idea of Satanism being enough to scare people and carry the film. Maybe in the 70's that was enough to freak people out, but not these days. The cinematography is beautiful and an eerie music score creates an unsettling sense of doom that plays throughout the entire picture. The visual effects are good, including some nice creature makeup and melting effects. The protracted climax is dominated by melting people as the cultists fall victim to the Devil's Rain, and while it looks really neat, it goes on WAY too long and becomes boring after a while. Two or three melting people is cool, while a couple dozen melting people is just a tad absurd. There's also a bizarre side plot involving ESP research that doesn't really make any sense, and I found it amusing that Dr. Richards happens to be a medical doctor, an ESP researcher, AND an expert on the occult. Is there anything he can't do?