"Apocalypse Ciao!" or...
Holocaust 2000 (1978)
(a.k.a. The Chosen and Rain of Fire)
E duobus malis minimum eligendum.
Mrs. Apostic and I were once having a conversation about roads not taken. She was amused when I told her I had once considered becoming a psychologist.
"You?" She giggled. "I can't see you as a psychologist. You're not the type."
"What do you mean, I'm not the type?"
"I don't know. It's just not you."
"Just not me. Then what is the psychologist type?"
"It's hard to define."
"You work with psychologists." (She's a nurse.) "Is there really a type?"
"No, not really."
"Then what does a psychologist do? What kind of personal trait would be good for a psychologist."
"Oh, I don't know. Getting people to talk by asking them questions is...."
She realized what I'd been doing during the entire conversation. I smiled. She threw a pillow at me.
You may be asking yourself what this has to do with the movie Holocaust 2000.
The answer is, nothing.
A movie this outstandingly bad doesn't deserve an introduction.
We open with a helicopter in flight over desert terrain near a shoreline. Inside the helicopter, Caine (Kirk Douglas) briefs the other passengers on the fusion reactor he is building in this area. He tells them that the whole area must be leveled. Also, lasers will be used to generate up to 300 million degrees (scale not given) for the reaction. He adds that this sort of temperature is only on the sun. One of the reporters (Agostina Belli), who has been photographing this briefing, notes that that temperature is also seen in a thermal nuclear bomb explosion. (Apparently this is some sort of poignant point; everyone pauses what must’ve been a wise observation at the time.)
On the ground, the photographer introduces herself to Caine as Sara Golan. She goes off to take a few more pictures. Caine runs ahead of her to show her something. In a nearby cave, there’s an inscription on the wall that reads "IESVS." "Jesus," explains Caine. "In Latin," he sagely observes, "there's no J." (Yeah and there’s no J in Greek or Aramaic. J was "invented" during the Middle Ages. Someone want to say who is getting the word wrong? Xripes….) She suggests that this might've been the cave of the vision of the Beast of the Apocalypse, and then describes it (per Protestant Revelations 13): Seven heads, ten horns, ten crowns. She takes a picture of Caine in front of the inscription.
Later, outside, Caine speaks to the Prime Minister (Ivo Garrani) of this mystery country (hereafter referred to as The Mystery Country™). He offers him a remote control that will set off the first explosives for leveling the terrain. The PM declines, so Caine presses the button. An explosive goes off on a small rocky hill (which we assume to be where the inscription was, and there’s not a single outraged archeologist in sight). We are treated to Omenous music, footage people suffering in poverty, multiple shots of the explosion, and the wall with the inscription splitting. Super opening credits over this sequence of explosions and misery. (The explosions will end; since there’s about two hours of movie left, the misery will continue.)
Cut to London at night. The Prime Minister of The Mystery Country™ arrives at Caine’s home. Some outrageously dressed geek protesters are picketing the entrance. Among the protesters is a man (Massimo Foschi) who is not acting weird, so he looks suspicious. (Hereafter, we will be referring to him as The Mystery Dude™; for reasons that will be obvious later, this is in lieu of his character’s name in the credits.) The protesters chant, "What do your children want to be when they grow up? Alive!" (Somehow, it doesn’t sound right when they try to shout it as an iambic.)
Inside, Caine is doing some schmoozing and greets the arriving PM. They make light talk about the protests against the project. Caine observes that technology is like a truck with no brakes; it’d be foolish to stop it, but you can steer it and hope for the best. (Apparently, Caine didn’t ascend the company ladder on the strength of his analogies.)
Outside, The Mystery Dude™ has changed into a tux. He sneaks up to the house. (Gotta love security in this place; obnoxious protesters outside and they let this guy through.)
Back at the party, Cain’s son white clad son Angel (Simon Ward) talks to his mother (Virginia McKenna). He tells her not to spoil Caine's big evening. The Mystery Dude™ passes by them.
Caine continues schmoozing while starting a conversation with his wife. She tells him Caine Enterprises won't be backing the project. He assert that everything is going well, but she points out that she controls the majority of the stock and the protests are a sign it would be crazy to continue.
While they talk, Angel watches while The Mystery Dude™ approaches Caine and his wife with a knife. Angel jumps the attacker (referred to in the credits of some versions as "Arab Assassin") from behind and grabs the knife hand. The hand slips out in the direction of Mrs. Caine. She takes in the abdomen and dies messily in her white dress.
Cut to the funeral. (There are few smooth transitions between scenes. From this point onward, assume a sudden cut unless otherwise noted.) Caine and Angel talk about her death. As a dutiful son, Angel blames himself for his mother’s death, but Caine reminds him that he saved his life. After Angel walks away, Sara the photographer accosts Caine, but explains she's not there as a reporter. She suggests that those who try to stop the project will fail, but she didn’t mean Mrs. Caine, she meant the guy with the knife. Anyway, she gives him a picture from the cave. On the wall, there’s a drawing (not there before, of course) of a multi-headed monster.
We see The Mystery Dude™, who is dressed in white. He is surrounded by several lethargic men also dressed in white (no, it’s not a Navy formation) in a room painted (you guessed it) white. (It’s either a psych ward or the source material for the milk scene in Can’t Stop the Music (1980). Not that there'd be a lot of difference.) A doctor explains to Caine that they don’t know who The Mystery Dude™ is, but he is very withdrawn. He persuades Caine to talk to him. Into a glass booth they go with the killer.
Without looking at him, The Mystery Dude™ points to Caine and says, "That is the origin of evil." The other patients start to freak. And then the aloof assassin attacks the doctor and an orderly. (They must use some pretty weak sedatives in this place.) Caine tries to take him down, but no go. However, instead of trying to finish his earlier goal, he picks up a shard of glass from the doctor’s broken glasses, says, "From your seed comes evil," and slashes his own writs. (Ah, so this is why they put everything in white in this place; not to calm the patients, but to emphasize cheap gore.) He runs into a wall and goes down.
At an airfield (with a shot of windsock), Caine is inside speaking to Angel. His son shows him a report with some of his new ideas for the project. While they talk, Angel sees a newspaper headline declaring that the PM of The Mystery Country™ has been replaced by someone called Harbin. Caine explains that he’s making this trip to touch bases with the new PM. (Must've been in a memo that Angel didn't get.)
Caine is in a desert showing Harbin (Spiros Focás) a model of the power plant. Harbin, who is wearing a military uniform, tells him it's too dangerous. (The project, not the uniform.) "You intend to keep the heat of the sun in there." Caine counters with explanations of the independent safety features. Harbin gives him a copy of a report on his fears. It's not scientific, but philosophical. Harbin worries that a nuclear explosion here might set off nuclear explosions in neighboring countries with nuclear devices, which would "turn this world into a ball of fire." (To the credit of Caine’s diplomacy, the exasperated engineer doesn’t laugh in Harbin’s face while calling him an ignorant, pompous jackass. On the other hand, in this movie’s universe, that may be how nuclear physics works.)
At a board meeting, Caine distributes copies of Harbin's report and tells them to study it. (See what I mean about no smooth transitions?) After the meeting, Caine asks Angel for ideas. Foolproof answers will be needed for an upcoming meeting in Geneva. Angel suggests one of his old instructors, Professor Meyer, the Nobel Prize winning scientist (in this movie’s universe). (We’ll assume his expertise is in something useful to the question at hand, as opposed to literature or economics.)
Caine is on the grounds old campus (ah, The Mystery Campus™) meeting with Meyer. Angel surprises his father by coming out the same door as Meyer. The professor asks about the dangers of going too fast. He wants to use a computer to check both the power of the laser and the ten security systems. (Of course, if a computer says it’s all right, then it must be all right.)
Later, Caine goes to a silly computer set. On a big dark soundstage, they’ve got a small glass cabin with sliding doors and long, thin flash tubes. (We’ll be referring to this as The Stupor Computer™.) Dr. Griffith (Anthony Quayle) and Angel are putting in a question about the ten security questions into the computer. It freaks out; all the flash tubes go disco and the monitor reads 2V231 in block letters, where "V" is the symbol used for "square root of."
And then Caine is on a plane. He’d scribbled "2V231" on a piece of paper and is now looking at it intently. A man (Romolo Valli) in the seat ahead sees back of the paper and says it's a name not often read these days. When Caine looks at him quizzically, the other passenger, Monsignor Charrier, comes back to him. He takes the piece of paper, turns it over, and says, "I saw it this way." The reverse image of ink through the paper reads "IESVS." Caine has a flashback of the inscription in the cave.
Later, at the monsignor’s well-decorated place, the congenial cleric tells Caine that the Antichrist is a mirror image of Jesus. All the details are there, but in an opposite direction. Instead of a peace, it’s a message leading to destruction. Caine asks about when these prophecies are supposed to take place. Charrier says according to some prophecies, the Antichrist will be born in the second half of the Twentieth Century. (Must’ve missed those prophecies. What I get for not reading Nostradamus or The Bible Code.)
Caine asks Charrier if he believes this. The put-on-the-spot priest says he has to, or else his faith is meaningless. Caine says the only signs of faith he sees in the room are Cuban cigars and good brandy. Charrier admits he’s become more secular than spiritual lately. Then he shows Caine a big, illuminated manuscript of the Apocalypse. It has an illustration of the Beast. Caine pulls out the photo of the image from the cave. It's a match.
Back at his offices, Caine talks to Griffith and Angel about the recent weirdness. Griffith is amused. Of course, he can't explain what went wrong with the computer, but he doubts it’s gone religious on them. Angel gives Caine a copy of a report. While his father is distracted with something else, Angel gets rid of the piece of paper with "2V231" on it.
Afterwards, Caine gets in a car and drives past some protesters. Presumably, this is the same unimaginative group as before, because they’re shouting their forced iambs, "What do – your chil – dren want – to be—when they – grow up? – Alive!" Someone’s in Caine's back seat. It’s Sara. (Sill gotta love security at this place. Someone stuck his wife with a dagger not long ago, there are protesters milling about, and no one’s keeping an eye on his car.) She says that Prime Minister Harbin (from her country, the Mystery Country™) is flying in for an International Meeting of Oil Ministers. Caine knew that, but then she tells him that Harbin is going to take advantage of the occasion to stop the project. Caine calls Meyer. Meyer has disappeared, gone for last two days.
At an airport, Caine is watching a monitor. There’s a bobby standing guard, so maybe this is supposed to be Heathrow. Sara enters and tells him that Harbin is going to hold an immediate press conference, so Caine won’t be able to talk to him first. And she's lost her job.
They watch Harbin get off his plane via the monitor, which is a live news feed. The militant (prime) minister goes to the crowd, shakes a few hands, and (swear to God) kisses a baby. The wind starts to pick up, a windsock begins to extend, and a helicopter's blades begin to move in the breeze. Harbin steps away from the crowd, walking toward the chopper. Omenous music wells up. The blades on the (heh) chopper begin to rotate. One of them takes off more than a little off the top from Harbin’s head (and this is presented in a triple cut shot). (Yes, it’s messy, but it’s one of the few technically well-staged effects in this movie.)
Caine and Sara drive in a pastoral area. Romantic music cues up. They stop at a small wooded area. He has a cabin there. They engage in a silly diatribe about progress vs. nature. An animal wrangler lets loose a fawn, so we get cutesy shots of her feeding the fawn while Caine pets it. However, the endearing deer senses he is no longer needed in the rest of the movie, so he walks off.
Caine goes back to work. He is greeted by the iambic Alive protesters. He asks a guard to see to it they get some coffee. (Good idea. They’ll either come up with a new chant, or their bursting bladders will force them to leave.) He goes to his office. Angel is already there, dressing down a materials type for substandard parts. He tells Caine that they got the go ahead for the project and he has put his report on tape.
Caine and Sara set up an apartment. They make cutesy while hanging a splotchy abstract painting. The doorbell rings. It's Angel at the door. Caine introduces him to Sara. Later at dinner, Angel impresses Sara with a foofoo layered drink and attributes it to fluid dynamics. (As another application of this branch of physics, we’d like to know if this movie could displace an equivalent weight in bull manure.) After Sara steps out to do the dishes, Angel and Caine talk it over. Angel suggests this is a good thing for Caine, particularly since his mother was no prize. Caine protests that, and tells Angel something he didn't know. Angel had a twin, but the twin died. Mrs. Caine had always blamed Angel for that.
Caine’s at his office again. He starts to listen to the taped report Angel had made. It rattles off details. Seven turbines. Ten commutators. Ten automatic control systems. While the production crew lets these words loop for a while, they also loop Sara’s description of the beast. Seven heads. Ten horns. Ten crowns. Caine stares at an artist’s conception of the completed power plant. This weirdness interrupted by phone from Meyer.
Meyer meets Caine at a wide, flat beach. While they walk along the water, Meyer explains that he disappeared to stop the project. Caine is mystified. Meyer is afraid. He says that pollution is choking the environment, the world is on the brink of war, and soon, all natural materials will be gone. (Note: This movie was made not long after the Club of Rome predicted all the world’s copper would be used up by 1992.) Caine suggests that new uses of thermal energy can help. Meyer says humanity has gone too far. The tide starts to come in. No, really. The water rushes in. Caine suddenly realizes it’s up to his ankles. (No, it’s not very convincing.) He runs in the water for several shots. The entire beach is under water now. He climbs some rocks to get out of the water, but he’s cut off from the shore. Meyer is gone. (Unfortunately, Meyer’s disappearance does not stop the movie.)
Caine goes home sopping wet. Sara helps him out of his wet things. He gives her a big hug. Go to obligatory love scene. (Is that a body double for Douglas? I don't know, and frankly, I'm not going to look so closely that I can tell.)
During love scene, we are treated to (or subjected to) some dream images. The Mystery Dude™ is walking in the desert. He looks into the camera and delivers his "evil seed" line again. Caine chases him while running nude. Then some protesters toss around Caine, who is still naked. Then he’s naked on a beach. (Must be one of them fancy beaches in France.) Some oversized bubbles churn the surface of the water. His power plant rises from the water while Sara's voice talks about the Beast rising from the sea and destroying mankind. Factory jump cuts to tacky rubber dragon models. The sequence finishes with stock footage of a nuclear explosion.
Caine obviously needs a checkup. In the next scene, he’s lying (fully clothed, thank God) on a transparent acrylic table while a sheet of metal curved like an upside down "U" descends from the ceiling and covers his head. On a back wall, lights indicating activity flash. (Not sure what activity they indicate, since the aesthetic arrangement of lights and its lighting pattern looks like either something from a department store or a game show.) While this, uh, amazingly advanced medical scan happens, Caine asks Griffith if he thinks he's sick. Griffith says to not worry about the nightmares, and adds that he’s always available, like a priest. Caine pauses on that, and leaves.
Griffith and Angel talk about the weirdness of the number. Griffith looks at his notebook, where he has calculated 2 times the square root of 231 (30.397368, hereafter referred to as the Decimal Equivalent of the Beast™; please note that's only as accurate as the number of significant digits selected) and decides it could be some type of particle identification number. He goes to the Stupor Computer™ to check it out.
While in the Stupor Computer™ booth, Griffith punches in the Decimal Equivalent of the Beast™. He gets a print out. After glancing at it, he calls someone to check the circuits for the medical center.
Elsewhere, Caine and Angel meet Sara at a restaurant. They make cutesy small talk. Sara has a big announcement. Caine is called away by a phone call. It’s Griffith. He has proof, and Caine must stop the project. Griffith tells him, "You have generated something that is not human," and hangs up. Caine rejoins the others. Sara’s big announcement is that she's...she's...they drag this out...she's expecting.
Back at the Stupor Computer™, Griffith is interrupted when the whole thing grinds down to a halt. He puts a print out in his pocket and tries to leave, but automatic door won't open. He tries the phone, but no good. The air conditioning control slides by self to "Off" position. He sees this, but he can't move the switch. The vents start again, sucking air out. He tries to force the doors open. Then the AC kicks up, the switch slides itself to "Med" (Mediocre?), the doors open, and the neon flash tubes start doing their thing again. He walks out the door, trips, and the sliding door bisects him. (For those who are computer science inclined, call it a "divide and conquer" algorithm)
Caine and Sara go for a walk. They make cutesy small talk. The camera pulls back and shows that they're approaching a church. Caine tries to get her to go there. He wants her to meet the priest. She stops and protests that he's agnostic, which is why Angel was not baptized. He tries to lead her there, but she freaks and runs off. After she’s gone, Monsignor Charrier enters stage right. Caine asks him what he should do.
At Charrier’s study, Caine and the monsignor look at an illuminated text of the Apocalypse again. Charrier points to a horned black sheep in the picture and says it’s the two horns of the false lamb. Therefore, the second son will unleash the Beast of the Apocalypse. The Beast is the atomic plant. Caine is not buying this. Charrier points out that those who have tried to stop it have been destroyed, but Caine is still not buying it. Then Charrier reminds Caine how Sara reacted to the church. He continues to assert that her unborn son is evil. Finally, Charrier tells Caine he must use, "these-a seven sacred daggers." No, just kidding about that one; that was something from another Omenous movie.
Caine goes home. Sara is not well. Caine asks her if she's thought about an abortion. She’s not happy with that notion. Caine makes up lame excuses for this. Sara is not buying it. Then Caine says he doesn't want it. Sara holds her ground and tells him she's going to split with the baby. He begs her to stay. She tells him he must learn to want the child.
Later Caine freaks out during a board meeting. He's ranting that the project is not safe. After he leaves, Angel suggests to the others that Caine is worn out. One of the board members suggests it's time to say what they've been thinking.
Caine takes Sara to an ob/gyn. They meet the doctor, but everyone is quiet and awkward. They lead her back to an examining room, but Sara is unsettled by their choice for Muzak. Oh, my mistake; there’s Omenous music in the soundtrack. As soon as Sara goes into the examining room and the door is shut, Monsignor Charrier comes out of another door. He says to Caine, "This is God's will. You must be strong."
In the examining room, Sara sees all the tools and starts to get nervous. She begins to disrobe while they pull a bunch of hemostats out of a sterilizer. The nurse preps a syringe. Sara figures it out. She freaks and grabs a scalpel. Caine comes in, and Sara slashes at him, catching him on the wrist. She runs out. Caine runs out to find her, but she's gone.
After giving up, Caine looks at the notes left behind by Griffith while talking to Angel about Sara. Angel is worried about the project. It's not progressing as it should. Caine suggests this may be a good thing and says he wants out because of his fears. He starts ranting, "We must fail." (The movie is doing that just fine.)
Caine goes to the Stupor Computer™ room. (No police line markers.) Using Griffith’s notes, he keys in the Decimal Equivalent of the Beast™. The printer spits out a picture of Angel, which is attached to medical file number 30.blah blah blah. And then a recorded message from Griffith begins. Angel's medical scans show neither brain activity nor a heartbeat. (Heh. Funny how no one has ever noticed this before.)
Angel arrives at home. While he pours a drink, Sara gets up. She's been staying there, where Angel has been hiding her from Caine and also been generally encouraging and helpful. She also looks like she’s approaching her due date. (Either this movie has an infuriatingly poor sense of time passage, or this is one of the miracle births with a very short gestation period. We suspect the former.) Angel already has a place for her at a clinic.
While Monsignor Charrier is giving Caine a ride, Caine explains that Angel is technically the second son; his umbilical cord strangled his twin brother. Charrier agrees with this interpretation. Caine is still not sure. He needs to confront his son about all this. As he gets out of the car, Caine gives Charrier a letter calling for a halt on the project. He tells the monsignor if something happens, make sure the letter gets to Geneva.
Caine goes to his office, but he seems oblivious to the Omenous Muzak. Angel is in the office, sitting at Caine’s desk. Caine asks him who he really is. Angel tells him he’s the son of a man who must leave his post with a severe nervous breakdown. Caine reasserts that the project must stop. Angel protests that to stop now would be bad for those who are suffering in poverty. Then he explains his reasoning; the great holocaust will purify everything. (Hey, works for me. For one thing, it’d wipe out the collected works of Jim Carrey.)
Angel tells Caine that his son will be born at St. Justin’s. Caine asks will he strangle his brother too? Angel says he will – at the right moment. Caine leaps on Angel and tries to strangle him. Several suits run into the room, and one of them hits up Caine with a syringe full of happy juice. They take him away in an ambulance. Charrier watches the ambulance leave.
Sara delivers her baby. While still exhausted, she keeps asking for Caine.
Caine is in straightjacket and strapped to a gurney. The door opens. Caine tells the doctor to let him loose. Unfortunately, it's not the doc; it's the Mystery Dude™. He jams a rag into Caine’s mouth and wheels him out of the room. He takes him past orderlies (who don't seem to notice) to a padded room. He closes the door and unstraps him. "Now you can scream," says the Mystery Dude™. "And nobody will hear." He dumps Caine off the gurney.
Caine looks up. Several other patients are in the room. They giggle while giving him a private mosh pit. The Mystery Dude™ watches while they beat the crap out of him. Somehow, Caine manages to fight them off. Then he pulls a plank loose from the gurney. "He must die!" shouts the Mystery Dude™. Caine beats his head in. The other patients back off.
Later, someone gets on a small plane during a rainstorm. We can’t see who it is, but he’s greeted as Mr. Caine. Then it's revealed to be Monsignor Charrier (who is severely out of uniform). (Gee, this guy is on the way to stop the project; what could happen next?) As the plane speeds down runway, the controls become jammed. They can’t get any lift. Charrier looks at a cross in his hand while the plane crashes into a wall and explodes.
Elsewhere, at a clinical nursery, a nurse prepares some bottles of formula. She sets a bottle labeled "Vitamin Drops" next to an identical bottle labeled "For External Use." (Feel free to roll your eyes in time to the Omenous Muzak.) The lights flicker, and the nurse grabs the wrong bottle to prepare some formula.
Outside, Sara looks through the glass at her baby. She goes in. The nurse tries to stop her, but she allows it anyway. "Bring the baby back soon," says the nurse. "It's feeding time." Sara carries her baby out.
We’re not sure how this scene works. It looks like the nurse distributes the bottles to the babies rather than feeding them individually. (You can see it coming, but they don’t bother making it look credible as it comes.) Caine arrives, and he’s all cut up and bruised like he went two rounds with Mike Tyson. Ok, maybe a Tyson chicken. Sara gets nervous and holds her baby protectively. Some other mothers take this opportunity to look through glass at their new kids on the (chopping) block. Caine asks Sara if he can see him. "See her," she says. It's a little girl. They hug. Screams and panicked rushing come from the nursery. Caine and Sara leave immediately (and presumably AMA).
Caine and Sara are at a humble Middle Eastern looking dwelling. Some time has passed. Caine has a beard and some scars from his discussion with the Mystery Dude’s™ entourage. He kisses Sara while holding their remarkably quiet baby and hears a voiceover of a bad memory; it’s that blasted "alive" iambic.
A Swissair plane lands in Geneva. Caine travels through the airport. He has a tagged briefcase. He keeps hearing voices, including Monsignor Charrier telling him, "You must stop the project." His pace quickens.
Angel enters a board meeting. He's in a dark suit for a change. He announces that as president of Caine Enterprises, he wants to commemorate this moment to his father, who died in a plane crash. (Took his time about it.)
Elsewhere, someone is inserting blasting a cap into a stick of dynamite or TNT or whatever. It’s Caine. He’s prepared a lot of these sticks, which are lining the inside of his suit jacket..
Back at the boardroom, Angel announces the project will be done on his thirty-third birthday. The door opens. Angel looks up. We see the explosion from outside the building. Roll credits.
This movie uses a lot of symbolism associated with Biblical themes, and to their credit, the filmmakers don’t stop to explain them. They assume the audience is already familiar with the concepts of the Antichrist and the Beast of the Apocalypse. They also include other themes, like evil masquerading as an angel of light and mass killings of innocents. As noted near the end of the plot description, Angel intends to have the plant operational on his thirty-third birthday; by tradition, Jesus was began his public works at that age.
Not that the symbolism is tight. For example, Angel arranges the birth of his sibling at St. Justin's Clinic. Since they bother to name it, it's either a reference to an actual clinic (and I’m sure they'd be pleased with the advertising – not!) or there should be some significance associated with the name. Assuming a Roman Catholic set, as opposed to the Church of England, there are two St. Justins. The more popular one, also known as Justin Martyr, was an apologist for early Christianity who was beheaded. The other, also known as Justin de Jacobis, was an evangelist that worked in Ethiopia and ran afoul of the Coptics in Egypt. Neither seems especially appropriate to the story. Justin Martyr might fit for the association with his demise, but he is the patron saint for lecturers and philosophers. An old favorite like St. Nicholas (patron of children), St. Jude (lost causes), or St. Benedict (poison sufferers) would make more sense. St. Raymond Nonnatus (expectant mothers and the falsely accused) would've been dead on. (There is a Ste. Justina who converted a Devil worshiper, but they said Justin, so we'll go with that name.)
The story plays out like a nightmare. Caine is put into a situation where he must measure his sense of right and his goal against supernatural signs. As the story progresses, his perceptions of the situation become more desperate, and his decisions become tougher. As a man who embraces technology in a mystic conflict, he's put into a no win situation. Some of the subjects, like the mass deaths in the nursery, are downright disturbing.
Although Caine doubts his own sanity, the story might've been more effective if we (the audience) doubted it, too. We could have been shown what Caine saw and had a chance to doubt the accuracy of those perceptions. (Cf. The Rapture (1991))
It's obvious we're dealing with a rip-off of The Omen here. The only thing missing is fun with six hundred, three-score, and six. Making it a nuclear nightmare variation temps comparison to The China Syndrome, but that film wasn't released until a year later. However, it does try to cash in on the nuclear fears in Europe that were so popular in the late '70's.
In fact, they were in such a hurry to copy themes from The Omen that they forgot to include plot justifications for some actions. For example, evil mystic forces work toward killing Caine's newborn child. In The Omen, there's a reason for this; Damien cannot have any rivals while growing up. However, in this movie, a newborn poses no threat to the already adult Angel. It could've been the case, but the story does not explain why. And saying that Angel is behind it because he's just plain evil isn't acceptable because Angel represents intelligent evil. He's about to wipe out the whole world. What does he (or the malevolent forces backing him) get for a single murder?
To this movie's defense though, the "death by helicopter blade" scene may look like a rip-off from Dawn of the Dead, and it's not like Italian films haven't retold that one several times. However, please note that both of these films were released in the same year, which makes it unlikely either film was borrowing from the other.
Since this story is told by and for people who are anxious about technology, the subject of these concerns are poorly presented. The computer set looks more like an oracle than a control room for a large computer. The medical scan scene is particularly goofy; this is credible for people who think technology must have flashing lights and look futuristic.
I am reminded of a death ray style weapon from Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker" series. The background on it was that two people designed it. One person designed the remarkably compact and effective internals. The other, who had no understanding of the internals, made the outside look big, impressive, and dangerous. The people who made this movie fall into that latter, technology declined, style over substance category .
To be fair, though, they did attempt some research. For example, the idea of using lasers for a fusion reactor was a relatively new concept. Matter of fact, they should be credited with knowing the difference between fusion and fission, as opposed to just plain old evil nuclear. When Griffith suspects that an unusual number might be a "particle identification number," it's almost acceptable. That's "almost" because there is such a thing used in particle simulations, and they can be decimal fractions based on position, but the story doesn't justify the use of the term. They just use it without explaining how such a thing would be involved with the calculations they were allegedly doing at the time.
As noted in the plot description, individual sequences jump from one to the other. There is no sense of transition from scene to scene, and passages of time are poorly handled, and it is unclear where some scenes are taking place. Although one could argue that this contributes to the story's sense of nightmare, the actual effect feels more like poor storytelling.
Several good actors are wasted in this film. It's really painful to see talent like Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quayle, and Simon Ward slum around a piece of junk like this. Even the supporting cast is abused star power. For more information on this, see Notes on Cast and Crew below.
Alberto De Martino (Director, Writer) had previously entertained our world with the Bond wannabe Operation Kid Brother (1967) and Exorcist rip-off L'Anticristo (1974), and would later, uh, thrill us with L'uomo Puma (1980, a.k.a. Puma Man). He'd made better movies before, and he'd make better ones later.
Sergio Donati (Writer) also had some better things in his background, like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1969). Later, though, he'd help to bring to the screen Orca (1977) and Screamers (1979).
Kirk Douglas (Caine) needs no introduction here, but an important note should be added. The late '70's through early '80's were not what you'd call apex of his career. During this period, he was in DePalma clunkers The Fury (1978) and Home Movies (1979), a cartoon gone terribly wrong called The Villain (1979), and, well, Saturn 3 (1980).
Likewise, Simon Ward (Angelo) had been in better movies, too. Early in his film career, he did an excellent bit of work as a youthful statesman in the making in Young Winston (1972) followed by the Duke of Buckingham in The Three (and Four) Musketeers (1973). In a few years, though, he was playing in silly stuff like this one, The Monster Club (1980), and Supergirl (1984).
Romolo Valli (Monsignor Charrier) didn't have an outstanding career, but he was in some noteworthy bits of surrealism like Morte a Venezia (1971) and What? (1973), but was slumping already in Bobby Deerfield (1977) and in this moive. He's surprisingly likable in this movie, and that's a real shame; he died in a car crash shortly after it was released.
Anthony Quayle (Griffith) had been in Hitchcock's The Wrong Man (1956), Ice-Cold in Alex (1958), The Guns of Navarone (1961), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
Wasn't Virginia McKenna (Eva) in better stuff? Yup, her too. Let's see... There's The Cruel Sea (1953), A Town Like Alice (1956), Born Free (1966), and Ring of Bright Water (1969). In this one, it looks like someone sucked the life out of her. Sad, really.
And add Alexander Knox (Meyer) to this list. In the 40's, he picked up a Golden Globe and a Academy Award nomination for his work in Wilson (1944), and a few years later he wrote and starred in both the medical boipic Sister Kenny (1946) and the midlife crisis fable The Judge Steps Out (1949). By the 60's, though, he had been reduced to playing caricatures of upper class British types in a string of lukewarm action-adventure movies.
There's a lot more, but in the interest of space (and because this breaks my heart), the others will not be included.
There have been several films and books based on the prophesies in the book of Revelations (or the Apocalypse if you prefer). For those unfamiliar with eschatology (the branch of theology that deals with final events), the interpreted events describe the Rapture (all Christians alive suddenly go elsewhere), followed by a seven year Tribulation (three and a half years of relative utopia, followed by three and a half years of antireligious dystopia), The Second Coming of Jesus and the battle of Armageddon, and a thousand years of peace on earth (The Millennium).
The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945) – The angel Athanael (Jack Benny) comes to Earth to sound the final note on his horn, but two fallen angels try to stop him. That's the plot within the plot. Come to think of it, where's that copy of Dogma (1999)?
Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey (1970) – Description of the book of Revelations (and other prophesies from the Bible) and how they may describe (then) current events.
666 by Salem Kirban (1970) – Novel about people living during an increasingly oppressive and dystopian Tribulation. (Think Rome during Nero; now move it up to the near future.) You usually saw this book on the shelf next to Late Great Planet Earth. Very much like the Mark IV series of movies (A Thief in the Night, et. al.). Followed by the sequel 1000.
A Thief in the Night (1972) – Low budgeter about a woman who dreams she is left behind during The Rapture, but wakes up and finds.... Played the circuit (and did well) in the Bible Belt.
The Omen (1976) – Mainstreamed the Antichrist prophecy concept for the film markets. Often imitated, rarely equaled. And for a not-so-great movie, "rarely equaled" is a bad Omen for the imitators. At the time it came out, many called it "Rosemary's Boo-Boo." After so many poor copies, this one looks like a classic.
God Told Me To (1977, a.k.a. Demon) – Serial killings by proxy begin when an antichrist (?) starts possessing people. Where's Lance Henriksen when you need him? And where else can you see Andy Kaufman go on a shooting spree?
A Distant Thunder (1977) – Sequel to A Thief in the Night; followed by The Image of the Beast.
Damien: Omen II (1978) – That kid with an anti-destiny goes to school.
The Number of the Beast (197?) – Crew in charge of an underground super computer is trapped by a cave in. During their solitude, they learn they've been working for The Beast. (Note: I saw this movie several years ago, but I cannot find any other information about it.)
The Number of the Beast by Robert Heinlein (1979) – The key to travel to parallel dimensions is three sixes, but it's not the three sixes anyone was expecting. Heinlein used the parallel world theme in most of the rest of his novels; he used it with Candide bent religious effects in Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984).
Fear No Evil (1980) – OK, another kid with an anti-destiny goes to school.
The Apple (1980) – In the near future, the Antichrist is...a record producer? Kind of. Sort of.
The Final Conflict (1981) – Allegedly final attempt to cash in on The Omen series. Unfortunately, that K-Mart quality Jesus at the end couldn't stop the next installment (see below).
Image of the Beast (1981) – Guerillas try to survive a dystopian future ruled by The Beast.
The Prodigal Planet (1983) – Follows Image of the Beast
The Seventh Sign (1988) – If a woman gives birth, the world will end, but this time, it's not the Antichrist.
Child of Darkness, Child of Light (1991) – OK, this time we get two, count'em, two virgin births; one is a child of God, and the other is has nepotism on the other side. Unfortunately, no one seems to know which is which.
Omen IV: The Awakening (1991) – Made for TV resurrection of the franchise. On a par with Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby (1976). (Uh, that's not a compliment.)
The Servants of Twilight (1991) – Based on the book by Dean R. Koontz. Private detective tries to protect a boy who is accused of being the Antichrist.
The Rapture (1991) – Marginally deranged woman jumps from sinner to saint, and then all bets are off for what will happen next.
The Bible Code by Michael Drosnin (1997) – Back in the '70's, numerology was popular for deciphering 666. Now we have this. Progress? You decide.
The End of Days (1999) – The Second Coming of...Satan? And 666 is a messed up version of 1999? Gimme a break! The Seventh Seal (1957) this ain't. Perhaps if Schwarzenegger and Byrne had had a game of chess....
Man building a fusion reactor discovers he's building the Beast of the Apocalypse and he's also sired The Antichrist. Confused, rough, rambling rip-off of The Omen with self righteous anti-nuclear admonitions thrown into the mix. Features an all-star cast who'd seen better days. Recommended for technophobes who get their news from the National Enquirer.
Published 9 January 2000