Editor’s Note: On June 26, 2021, we had a “Ron Ormond Day” in tribute to his films. You’ll find the links to the reviews from that day of films — and others — within this review.
This is the one Ron Ormond film that eludes the staff of B&S About Movies. Sure, Sam and I are familiar with the film, as our religious schooling and church youth group years exposed us to all of Ron Ormond’s films — including this lost, final film of the Ormond’s from, as we like to call it, their “Damascus Years.”
Out of the Ormond’s six Fundamentalist films — seven, if one includes their also-lost, hour-long “travelogue/documentary” feature, The Land Where Jesus Walked (1975) — this is the one film (two, including Land) that is not available as a vintage-resale VHS or reissues DVD. As with all of Ron Ormond’s post-salvation catalogue, The Second Coming did not play in rural Drive-Ins or indoor theaters: it was “rented out” (in this case: $100 a showing, as per the one-sheet) as a “roadshow feature” in churches and tent revivals.
The Second Coming served as the directing debut of Ron’s son, Tim. Starting out as an actor in his father’s films: he starred in the family’s secular works Girl from Tobacco Row, White Lightin’ Road, and The Exotic Ones, then the Christian films If Footmen Tire You, The Burning Hell, The Grim Reaper, The Believer’s Heaven, and 39 Stripes. Tim matured to serve as an editor, cinematographer, writer (39 Stripes, The Second Coming), and director (the lost The Second Coming) on several Ormond family productions, which also included wife and mom, June Carr, on the production staff. Tim came to his directing debut through sadness: Ron Ormond died during the pre-production of The Second Coming — in 1981 at the age of 70s — leaving Tim and Ron’s widow to finish the film. June’s other films — under her maiden, professional name in the producer’s chair and as a Second Unit or Assistant Director include not only the above films, but Forty Acre Feud, The Monster and the Stripper, Please Don’t Touch Me, and the lost “jukebox musicals” Square Dance Jubilee and Kentucky Jubilee.
During our analog excavations to find an online stream or trailer to share (we were unsuccessful), we discovered an extensive, November 2007 interview with Tim Ormond, courtesy of Mondo Stumpo: an interview that assisted us in our additional documentation of The Second Coming. (We enjoyed the staff of Mondo Stumpo referring to the genre as “Christian Gore”; if you’re familiar with the Ormond’s “Pirkle” years, you know that’s a perfect analysis.)
We’d also extend our thanks to B. Earl Sink, Jr. — the son of Earl “Snake” Richards — in assisting us in our preserving of The Second Coming. As we’ve discussed in our previous reviews, Richards starred in two of Ron Ormond’s secular films: Girl From Tobacco Row (1966) and White Lightin’ Road (1967). Richards also starred in the non-Ormond “Jukebox Musical,” That Tennessee Beat (1966), by way of producer Robert L. Lippert, who produced many of the Ormond family’s works. It was during the course of that third film review, in which we came to speak with Earl Jr., who tipped us that he (regardless of the IMBb’s incomplete credits; they also have his mother’s credits split as “Carr” and “Ormond”) also acted in The Second Coming. And, as you read on, you’ll come to learn that four generations of the Sinks appeared in or crewed on Ormond productions.
If you’re familiar with the contemporary, Christian-apocalyptic oeuvre of Cloud Ten Pictures, with their B-star-studded Apocalypse series and their better known Left Behind series, as well as the films of David A.R. White’s PureFlix shingle (Jerusalem Countdown), or the ’70s Bible-apoc progenitors of Donald W. Thompson (A Thief in the Night), then you’re up-to-speed on the end-times tale in the frames of The Second Coming. But this is an Ormond film. And it is so much better for it: for Christian-based Ormond films come from the heart and, ironically, none are the least bit exploitative, although they appear on critical lists, i.e., “Christploitation,” as such.
As in the Ormond’s previous Estus Pirkle production, The Burning Hell: we have a similar, wayward youth in love with the world coming to find salvation through dreams, i.e., visions. This time, our scoffing youth, who dismisses his God-fearing mother and the family’s pastor, dreams of missing out on The Rapture. As with any Fundamentalist Ormond production — even the ones void of the crazed “Christian Gore” tutelage of Estus Pirkle — the imaginative creativity of the images presented in the frames is the always thing: God smites a Babylonian statue with a mighty rock (in repetitive, slow motion), dead saints of the past rise up out of their earthen graves, and new saints — the proclaimed 144,000 — vanish on the spot in an eye’s twinkle; then, in a grand, stunning piece of against-the-budget filmmaking (which we’ll get into detail, later): Jesus Christ returns with a phalanx of saints on white horses in the clouds.
Of course, our wayward lad returns to Jesus. As he should: Remember, Estus Pirkle warned us that communist invaders from Cuba would ram sharpened bamboo shoots through our brains via the ear canal, then dump our bodies in freshly bulldozed mass graves. Why would anyone want to stick around for those horrors?
As with the Pirkle trilogy — and the non-Pirkle The Grim Reaper — pastors show up, of course — six, in fact — amid the narrative with words of wisdom. Of course, while guys like Jack Van Impe and Jerry Falwell are committed and honorable in the word, it’s just not the same as having Estus ranting with his statistical analysis on the exact percentages of how many people end up in Hell, daily.
Hey, we can joke about the Pirkle trilogy, but the pastor, however off-putting he may be to secularists, he was committed to the cause. The Ormond family, on the other hand, created honorable, truthful films with a lighter touch. Fans of the Ormond’s Pirkle years may miss the “craze” of those films, here, and dismiss The Second Coming as less effective. We, the cubicle warriors of the B&S About Movies digital divide, do not: we adore all of Ron Ormond’s films.
The Insights of Tim Ormond on the Making of The Second Coming
“After my dad died, I came to the final scene, which was the — and the way we got around things in general — was, someone would say, ‘That’s not the way it’s gonna be,’ and I’d say, ‘Well, this happened as kind of the way this person imagined it or dreamed it: like Daniel would have this dream.’ So that’s the way we would alibi things, [just] in case a theologian would say ‘Well that’s not the way it’s supposed to happen.’
“Anyway, this particular character in The Second Coming was visualizing Christ returning on white horses; wielding the sword, His face aglow. Well, I had to stage this scene. This was, of course, before computer graphics were like they are today. And even so, the cost would be prohibitive. So, I went to Hollywood, along with my Mom, and we looked up old friends; we found the wrangler who did Little House on the Prairie [for NBC-TV], as well as some old friends of my dad who’d worked on the Westerns [with Lash LaRue and Tex Ritter]. And I began to put together a crew and a shoot in Hollywood for staging this last [Christ in the clouds] scene.
“[While this was going on], I made a phone call to my friend in Nashville, Eddie King, who had played my brother in The Grim Reaper, and asked him if he could try to put together the same shoot in Nashville, because it would be much less expensive. So, I guess, just a few days before we were ready to go into production in Hollywood — and I’m just talking about on that one scene — I talked to Eddie, and he had put it together in Nashville. So we came back to Nashville to shoot it, merely from a cost standpoint.
“So, on that particular night, we gathered at the Riverwood Riding Academy, which was a great big field out near a park, not too far from my house, and people began to gather with the horses. We had a searchlight come in from Huntsville, which could basically shine this very bright, illuminating beam of light on Christ’s face: He was wearing a reflective surface so it would reflect the light back as bright as possible. He was dressed in the red robe, all the horses were white and groomed, all of his angels were riding alongside of him wearing white robes, we had fog on the ground, we had lights, we had big blowers running to move the fog. . . .
“And the funniest thing is, right exactly next door — I’m talking about a hundred yards away, but across a fence — was the park patrol. Just sitting there in the dark watching what was going on. And we didn’t know this. They didn’t bother us, but they were talking on their scanner. And one of my crew — actually the wife of the director of photography — was listening to them, and one guy said, ‘Come on, you’ve got to come over and see this! They’re doing a commercial for the Ku Klux Klan!’ So that was kind of a funny incident. But when it was done, it turned out very well. Of course, the ground was fairly dark on purpose, and there was a layer of fog. We superimposed that over the clouds, and it does appear like Christ returning triumphantly in the clouds. Which is a pretty graphical representation of the way it reads in the Bible. So that’s that one little scene.”
The Insights of B. Earl Sinks, Jr. on the Making of The Second Coming
“Ron [Ormond] wanted me to be in the film, as he wanted a 4th generation of our family to be in the film. Of course, my mother and grandparents were in Ormond films from back in California during the Lash LaRue days, as well as Square Dance Jubilee. My mom and grandparents also appeared in Girl From Tobacco Row, while my mom also did makeups for a few of the movies, like Burning Hell, and so on.
“So, Ron had my part written for me prior to his passing. Then Tim took over [as director]. I remember staying with Tim and June, his mom, rehearsing for the role along with Rev. Martin; he was in the movie 39 Stripes, which, as you know, was the story of his life. The reverend was such a Christ-like man that, to this day, I still think of him as such a sweet soul. When we finally got to the day of shooting, I recall when a cloud would pass over, or something wasn’t right, I would hear Tim call ‘CUT’ to end the scene. So, when we were shooting another scene, and I saw a cloud passing, I shouted, ‘CUT!’ like he did. Tim was tickled by that and let me know, jokingly, that he was the only one to say ‘CUT’ to end a scene. We all laughed.
“At the debut of the opening of the film, there was a man who thought my role, my acting, was good enough, so he asked me to read for a stage [production] of On Golden Pond. However, since it conflicted with school, my parents said ‘no’ to my audition. I also has a walk-on part in Tim’s Blood, Friends and Money with Jim Varney [but not as his character Ernest P. Worrell]; as I recall, my scene ended up on the cutting room floor.”
When you follow the links to our other Ron and Tim Ormond film reviews, you’ll understand the staff of B&S About Movies are fans, not only of the Ormond’s secular films, but their Christian films, as well — and we are doing our part to expose their films to our readers and preserve the Ormond’s films for others to discover and enjoy — many for the first time.
To that end, we extend our thanks to Letterbox’d — and the anonymous uploader — who discovered a copy of the theatrical one-sheet (the only copy of the theatrical one-sheet online), as well as the film journalism efforts of Mondo Stumpo (still active, but ceased publishing in June 2012) and Original Cinemaniac for their previous efforts in preserving this lost Ron Ormond film.
And a special thanks to B. Earl Sinks, Jr. for taking the time to speak with B&S About Movies.
The Ormond’s Christian Films
Update: July 14. 2021: Courtesy of film documentarian Brian Rosenquist — who’s currently working on a feature documentary concerning the joint exploitation films of Ron Ormond and Estus Pirkle, and who was involved in securing the original camera elements for Estus Pirkle’s three films, for Nicolas Winding Refn (Only God Forgives, The Neon Demon) to complete restorations — we’ve since learned The Second Coming was, in fact, released to DVD ten years ago on a double-DVD with The Grim Reaper. You can watch an online streaming version of The Second Coming on a Ron Ormond tribute page located at the Internet Archive.
In addition to streaming the only online copy of The Second Coming, the page also offers a copy of The Burning Hell, as well as the once lost “Jukebox Musical” Kentucky Jubilee, and Ormond’s pre-Christian film, Mesa of Lost Women.
You can learn more about the restorations of the Ormond-Pirkle trilogy with the Radio NWR podcast Estus Pirkle: A Celebration.