DVD: Holocaust 2000 / Rain of Fire / Chosen, The (1977)

May 11, 2013 | By

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Film: Good/ DVD Transfer: Very Good/ DVD Extras:  n/a

Label: Lionsgate / Region: 1 (NTSC) / Released: October 28, 2008

Genre: Theological Thriller

Synopsis: An industrialist’s plan to build a dangerous nuclear power plant may signal the coming of the anti-Christ.

Special Features: (none)

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Review:

During the seventies, writer / director Alberto De Martino had switched from Hercules and spy spoof films to more serious genres like the crime film, psychological thriller, and whatever was in vogue at the time, but his best-known work outside of Italy is probably a pair of sleek, shallow, but still entertaining theological thriller knock-offs starring several prime fading stars with international appeal.

The Antichrist [M] (1974) boasted a lot of mouth-frothing grotesqueries (not to mention an unhappy sacrificial goat), whereas Holocaust 2000 is noteworthy for a lengthy nightmare sequence (or is it pure prophecy?) where Kirk Douglas, still in great shape, runs full frontal around misty, dusty Tunisian dunes. Sublime self-confidence may have been the ultimate deciding factor for the actor who gives his role of an industrialist full gravitas, but the sequence also marks the turning point where De Martino and fellow collaborators Sergio Donati (Once Upon a Time in the West, Orca, Screamers, Raw Deal) and Michael Robson run out of plot and start aping twists and turns from superior originals.

Rebranded several times, Holocaust 2000 is essentially an Omen rip-off where Douglas plays industrialist Robert Caine, and with his son Angel (creepy, dead-eyed Simon Ward), the pair are determined to build a hydra-styled nuclear power plant which may give a poor Arab country electricity, but might also release a satanic force and turn the world into a wasteland.

Beautiful but vapid Agostina Belli (Bluebeard, Revolver) plays a reporter who weirdly maneuvers her way into Caine’s life through ludicrous coincidences, and ultimately gives birth to what may be the antichrist that shall rise and make the world go ka-boom. Romolo Valli (Death in Venice) plays the knowing priest who similarly meets Caine and gains his confidence in several improbably-staged meetings, while a supporting cast of veteran actors (Anthony Quayle, Virginia McKenna, Alexander Knox) give their tiny roles in London full sincerity. Adolfo Celi (Thunderball) walks through his part as the chief doctor of a stylish, glass-paneled mental ward, and fell Bond alumnus Geoffrey Keen (The Spy Who Loved Me) plays an untrustworthy gynecologist.

Not unlike Antichrist, it’s specific sequences that make the film, although the sheer looseness of the story ultimately causes the whole nonsense to wither away, leaving us with an open-ended finale that is less of a dramatic risk than just a hasty finale. Lacking the high-volume deaths of the Omen films, De Martino does manage to stage a few prime kills (a cranial bisection via helicopter blade predates George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead [M]), although Quayle’s demise in another sleek, glass-enclosed control room is strangely bloodless.

Similar to Antichrist, Holocaust 2000 is beautifully photographed and edited, and the set designs and costumes are more muted in style and colours – making the production much less garish than Damien Omen 2, released a year later. Interestingly, the basic plot of an industrial company being overtaken by Satan’s spawn predates The Final Conflict: Damien Omen III, where Damian Thorn uses Thorn Enterprises to bring forth an apocalypse by mass-killing a slew of potential Nazarenes. Moreover, Caine’s son Angel, being the survivor of a twin birth, also predates the teen Cain and Able relationship within Omen II’s  Damian and Mark – perhaps a sign the Omen writers were quick to borrow good ideas from a slick rip-off.

The finale in De Martino’s film feels tacked on, and one suspects there may have been several scripted endings of which the existing options were filmed quickly with little funds and time. (One continuity boo-boo in the original theatrical version stands out clearly: Douglas’ wound – a gaping tear on his left side from rabid asylum inmates – is bandaged on his right side in the final scene.)

The U.S. release was reportedly recut, eliminating some of Valli’s later scenes, and adding a handful of shots that show Douglas arriving in Switzerland with the intention to blow-up a meeting filled with Caine Industries executives determined to follow through with the nuclear power plant. It’s a cheap patch-job, and Douglas was clearly free from delivering any dialogue in footage shot MOS (all the audio’s culled from prior scenes into a flashback narration), and when Caine arrives at the board meeting, it’s a body double’s torso who opens the door, after which De Martino quick cuts to an optically rendered building explosion.

Lionsgate’s DVD includes the original open-ended finale in this decent transfer, but fans would’ve appreciated the inclusion of either the alternate U.S. cut (which did make its way to home video in parts of Europe, as evidenced by this extract from a Greek-subtitled VHS release) or the alternate finale in a deleted scene gallery. A recent French DVD features a more truncated version of the original ending, dropping the credit scroll of dancing children in the desert.

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© 2013 Mark R. Hasan

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