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The Godfather's Goo
on January 14, 2007
In the wake of "Deep Throat", the Peraino family was swimming in cash and looking for a way to give it that squeaky clean shine. You see, the Perainos were members of the Columbo family, and odd as it seems to those of us raised from the Eighties onward, porno flicks and the storefront loops that preceded them were very much an illegal commodity to produce. So, Louis "Butch" Peraino headed west and decided to open his own production and distribution house called Bryanston Pictures. Bryanston made quite a name for themselves by distributing material that other studios wouldn't touch, like "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein"; the still unavailable-on-DVD "Coonskin"; and their crown jewel, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". A D.A. in Memphis, eager to make a name for himself, indicted Peraino and other members of his family, and soon after their conviction in April 1976, Bryanston's west coast office closed for good. A much more detailed version of this story is contained in Legs McNeil's wonderful book "The Other Hollywood", which I can't recommend strongly enough. So you came here looking for a description of melting satan worshippers and not a history lesson, eh? Well, it's coming, just let me finish ;) The reason for the spiel about Bryanston is that "The Devil's Rain" just happens to be one of the last films they handled. And among such stiff competition as "Frankenstein", probably the strangest.
"TDR" can get confusing, but the basic story goes something like this. 300 years ago, Puritans caught wind that there was a group of the devil's minions in their midst. Now, this was a strange scene, kittys, seeing as how they were lead by Corbis (Ernest Borgnine in Pilgrim garb) and counted among their number William Shatner. Ol' Billy's wife takes Corbis' big book full of blood pledges to Lucifer to the Puritan chief, and bam, we've got a full scale stake burning. Flash forward to the present day, and either Corbis or his descendant (it's never made clear) is after that book, and the Preston family that harbors it. Sounds fun, huh? Well, where else can you see Shatner crucified upside down? Or Borgnine hamming it up in goat makeup? Heck, "The Devil's Rain" cornered the market on melting the enemies of God six years before "Raiders of the Lost Ark"!
Anton LeVay was some sort of consultant to the producers, and even makes a cameo during the black mass. I guess he had a sense of humor. Director Robert Fuest is better known for the two "Dr. Phibes" films he made with Vincent Price, and the critical and commercial reception to this picture relegated him to television movies. Even so, "TDR" had an impact on the history of horror films well beyond what anyone could have imagined at the time. Check out Shatner's face after he becomes an eyeless zombie. Look familiar? That mask would become very, very famous a few years hence.
Time to upgrade, folks. Dark Sky makes the previous DVD edition obsolete. This new transfer from the 35mm negative is stunning by comparison. The extras include an audio commentary with Fuest, which I had a rather difficult time paying attention to, probably because both Fuest and the moderator have very dry, soft British voices. There's a short black-and-white clip of LeVay performing a marriage ceremony, the film's trailer, some production stills and a Dark Sky catalog. Turn off your mind, don't wonder why the Prestons haven't simply destroyed the book, and this might make a good beer and popcorn flick. It's very much of the mid-70s, which may be a good or bad thing depending on your particular perspective.