I was lead to The Devil’s Rain by a peculiar image featured in the recent Scientology documentary Going Clear: John Travolta’s young, eyeless, melting, goop-hemorrhaging face. The film was cited there as an example of Travolta’s immediate success in landing roles as a young actor, his earliest minor part in a feature-length film. It turns out that Travolta is not actually in The Devil’s Rain for all that long. Bleeding green goop out of his eyeless skull is essentially the extent of Travolta’s role, but there were plenty of other names of interest attached to the project as well: William Shatner, Ernest Borgnine, Tom Skerritt, and the director of The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Robert Feust. Despite all these recognizable Hollywood personalities, however, the most notable contributor to the film was an occultist author & musician Anton LaVey.
Anton LaVey is credited in The Devil’s Rain as the Technical Advisor, a job he landed through his real life credentials as High Priest of the Church of Satan. As briefly mentioned in our Swampchat on former Movie of the Month The Masque of the Red Death, LaVey had achieved a sort of celebrity status by marketing Satanism (which more celebrates materialism & individualism than it does The Devil proper) to California hippies in the 1960s. He is credited as a “technical adviser” in The Devil’s Rain to give the film a sense of credibility, but the film’s Satanic rituals feel way more cartoonishly “Satanic” than what idealistic hippies were most likely up to in reality. The film features such clichéd (but totally rad looking) Satanic cultural markers as red hooded robes, voodoo dolls, stained glass pentagrams, and high priests with magically transformed goat heads. Its most ludicrous stab at credibility, however, is its insistence on saying “Satanus” instead of “Satan”, because I guess it sounds more authentic in Latin. I was lead to The Devil’s Rain by a documentary profiling one cult (of which to this day Travolta is still a member) and instead found the phony beginner’s version of another.
The Devil’s Rain’s most punishing flaw is in its glacially slow pacing. a fault mostly due to a downplayed score and a meandering plot. Although the Satanic imagery is fun to gawk at, the movie does get frustrating in its refusal to be in a rush to entertain you. However, if you yourself are not in a particular rush, it’s an interesting lazy afternoon viewing experience in which goat people worship Satanus and get their heads melted (a young Travolta included), their bubbling skin oozing a disgusting green. The Devil’s Rain is a memorable film through the campy virtue of its oddball cast and the legitimate strengths of its Satanic imagery alone. Anton LaVey may not have provided the film with a feel of Satanic authenticity or saved it from its own miserable pacing, but he did afford it enough memorable images to make it worthwhile for a casual cult film fan who isn’t in any particular rush to be wowed.