Friday, 26 March 2010

Holocaust 2000 (AKA Rain of Fire, 1977)

Alberto De Martino’s Holocaust 2000 (also released as Rain of Fire) was a 1977 British/Italian co-production designed to cash in on the success of The Omen. It’s even sillier than The Omen, and in some ways it’s even more fun.

The Antichrist is up to his old tricks again. This time it’s Kirk Douglas rather than Gregory Peck who finds himself in the midst of all the trouble. And since Kirk Douglas is a better scenery chewer than Gregory Peck, he has a definite advantage. Kirk is immensely wealthy business tycoon Robert Caine and he’s planning to build a huge new nuclear power station is an unnamed Third World country. This will be the very last word in nuclear technology. His wife is opposed to the project, but his son Angel (Simon Ward) supports his old man whole-heartedly. His wife dies in mysterious circumstances, apparently the victim of an assassination plot aimed at Caine himself. This conveniently allows Caine to go full speed ahead on the project (his wife had owned a majority of the shares in the family company).

His wife’s death also conveniently allows him to hook up with a beautiful young Italian journalist. You might think his son would be a little upset by this, but in fact he’s delighted that dear old dad has a hot new girlfriend. And he’s equally delighted by the news that he’ll soon have a little brother.

There is of course plenty of opposition to the power plant project. There are the usual environmentalist protestors, but there’s also the super-computer being used to make the project possible, which keeps printing out strange biblical warnings about ominous numerical significances. There’s also a fanatical Catholic priest who’s been just waiting for the Antichrist to make his next move. And there are some concerned dedicated scientists.

Odd accidents keep happening to those who oppose the project. The prime minister of the unnamed Third World country gets decapitated in a helicopter accident. Computers go insane and kill their controllers.

And it turns out that Angel Caine actually had a twin brother who died at birth. All this clearly points to Antichrist activity in the Caine family, but which member of the family is the actual Antichrist?

This movie is usually dismissed as a silly trashy Omen rip-off. Which I think misses the whole point. Whoever heard of an Antichrist movie that made sense or had a coherent plot? Where would be the fun in that? The things that make this such a bad movie are the very things that make it such a great movie.

Kirk Douglas overacts outrageously. Simon Ward spends most of the movie looking vaguely sinister in an innocent cute pouty kind of way. Agostina Belli just has to look sexy and worried, which she does admirably. Anthony Quayle plays the gruff but dedicated scientist who starts to suspect that there are Some Things Science Should Not Meddle With. And he plays the role in the perfectly stereotyped manner in which it should be played. Romolo Valli as the crazed fanatical priest is creepily crazed and fanatical.

The plot combines environmental paranoia, nuclear paranoia, big business paranoia and Satanic paranoia, and combines these elements in a deliriously nonsensical and fun way. There’s lots of sinister significance in numbers. Numbers that when written backwards spell demonic warnings, and other wonderfully silly warning signs of bad stuff about to happen.

It’s a low-budget movie so it doesn’t have much in the way of spectacular action set-pieces. In fact it doesn’t have any, but it makes up for it in silliness and overacting.

I honestly don’t know what more you could want in an Antichrist movie, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. You’ll need lots of popcorn.


Samuel Wilson said...

It was a fun film, especially when Kirk lets it rip in a naked nightmare and his stay in an insane asylum. He put a lot of himself into a project that must have seemed like slumming to him, and I salute him for that.

dfordoom said...

Samuel, I agree. Kirk was a real trouper, and he gives it everything he's got. Which is the only way to make a movie like this work.