Left Behind (2014)

The Cage. Rented. No Question.

What can we say that hasn’t been already said about this proselytizing pablum of propaganda — of what is now, four films, three of which starred self-righteous douchebaggin’ bible-banger Kirk Cameron (Saving Christmas*) — except that it is awful. And that believers, aka the fans of the film, will say that we who bash the film are “anti-Christians” who simply love to hate Christians. (It’s a “pagan conspiracy,” so says the Kirkster, ye whom, once he was “saved,” then turned his cheek to assure Julie McCullough was fired from TV’s Growing Pains, once her Playboy past came to light. Which is why we remember her work in Round Trip to Heaven and not ye work in Like Father Like Son and Listen to Me. Amen.)

No, ye believers. We hate Left Behind — in spite of the presence of the Cage — for it is just bad movie making, replete with bad, well . . . everything. Especially movies that have to explain the “timeline” of their production: that this version of Left Behind isn’t a remake of the first movie, but a reboot of the first movie, and it’s based on and not a direct adaptation of the first book of the 12 novels in the series, and does not follow the book’s chronology.

Argh! This is worse than a post-George Lucas Star Wars production with all of the plot explanations in its advanced press.

If you skimmed (there’s no other way to endure it) the first Kirk Cameron version, pretty much all of the same characters from Left Behind: The Movie (2000) are in play in 2014 version — except for the Antichrist character of Nicolae Carpathia (the only intriguing aspect of those films, courtesy of actor Gordon Currie). That’s because this reboot takes a more personal, subjective approach to chronicling the effects of the Rapture through the eyes of Cage and his family. This movie isn’t about the “why” it happened, but the “how” of the non-believers surviving the chaos.

What-the-F-This-Movie-ever! Why does this movie of vanishing bodies and piles of dirty laundry even exist?

Is the film’s purpose to spread the gospel? To save souls? To frighten you — as is the case with most Christploitation films (see If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? and The Burning Hell to get you started) — into believing?

Nope. It’s to satisfy a lawsuit. So much for Christians loving one another on a unified front to bring glory and praise to God. In the end, it’s all about the money, the -sploitation, if you will, always and forever. Amen.

It turns out Christian writer Tim LaHaye wasn’t too thrilled with the Kirk Cameron-starring films produced by end-time flick purveyors Cloud Ten Pictures, so he filed two lawsuits. Those suits, in turn, effectively stopped the production of the Kirk Cameron timeline (which needed to be stopped); a timeline that ended with the third film World at War (2005). And this $15 million Asylum/SyFy Channel-esque version with the Cage — which had plans for two more reboot-sequels; productions so desperate for financing in the backwash of the bad reviews and box office returns, Cloud Ten had to go an Indiegogo campaign route — is the end result. (Upon the demise of Cloud Ten Pictures, defunct in the legal backwash, that studio’s CEO, Paul LaLonde, incorporated Stoney Lake Entertainment, which ultimately produced this remake.)

Ah, the stench of the horseman that is greed.

I, therefore ye, proclaim thy film as a new form of -sploitation: Cageploitation, that is, films that exploit Nic Cage to bamboozle us into watching a film about vanishing bodies and piles of wrinkles clothes on a plane. And for not making Left Behind: The Animated Movie or its live action counterpart series for the PAX television network (also defunct, now ION), we thank . . . well, “someone” . . . as it would be crass to evoke the big guy upstairs.

So, sorry, Nic. We loves yahs and all, but in this case: we can’t be your isle-seat bitch, for you were made the bitch of the producing Brothers LaLonde Peter and Paul.

“I want this dirty laundry off my gosh-darn golly-jeepers plane!

Be his celluloid beeach!

Yep! Cloud Ten Pictures also made these!

* Sorry, Kirk. There was no “pagan conspiracy.” You ruined Christmas all on your own, buddy — along with 19 other films — as foretold in our “Ten Movies That Ruin Christmas” and “Ten More Christmas Movies To Ruin Your Holiday” featurettes.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Mother Joan of the Angels (1961)

A priest is sent to a small parish in the Polish countryside which is believed to be under demonic possession and there he finds his own temptations awaiting.
— An IMDb slugline that doesn’t do this film justice

When Martin Scorsese selects a film for his Masterpieces of Polish Cinema series — one that won the Special Jury Prize at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival — you know that you are, in fact, watching a masterpiece. Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s seventh film (a slight resume of only 17 films across 50 years) is a film that has the ability to unnerve — like Brunello Rondi’s The Demon (where William Friedkin got his “spider walk”; only Rondi does it without wires, courtesy of Daliah Lavi’s performance), Otakar Vávra’s Witchhammer, and Ken Russell’s The Devils — while at the same time, it overwhelms you in its surrealistic beauty. It’s a film that takes an unconventional Hollywood approach to explore spiritual issues and religious megalomania, but is misclassified as a “horror film” in some quarters.

It’s also a film considered as one of the best Polish films ever produced.

Martin Scorsese, doing the Lords work, in preserving films for later generations. There are 21 films in the series across three volumes.

As with Witchhammer, Vavra’s lone foray into the horror genre, Mother Joan of the Angels is also a historical-drama concerned with brutal, religious-based inquisitions — only, instead of witches, we’re dealing with Nuns. All three films — Kawalerowicz, Vávra, and Russell — are based in the same subject matter, with Jerzy Kawalerowicz, basing his on a novella of the same title by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, one loosely based on the 17th century Loudun possessions. While Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971) depicts the trial and death of French Priest Urbain Grandier, Mother Joan of the Angels continues the story after Grandier’s death. The story concerns a spurned nun in 1634 France accusing a priest of using black magic to seduce her and her sisters and then had them possessed. After Grandier’s execution, Mother Joan takes his place after his execution.

There’s nothing, absolutely nothing, I can say of any relevance on the quality of this film’s cinematography, direction, and acting. For Mother Joan of the Angels is a film that humbles me. As a critic, I am not even qualified to write as much as I have about this film. My only goal is to you make you, the B&S About Movies reader, aware of it. For this is a film not to be read about, but experienced.

This film is simply perfect. Watch it.

There’s no U.S. online streams to share — pay, freebie, or free-with-ads — but the DVDs as a single issue abound in the online marketplace. We did, however, find a copy of Kawalerowicz’s 6th film, prior to Mother Joan of the Angels, with Night Train (1959) on You Tube. Here’s one of the many extended scenes from Mother Joan of the Angels on You Tube to enjoy. You can watch Mother Joan of the Angels in its entirety on the overseas Euro-streaming platform of FShareTV.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

The Blood of Jesus (1941)

Before drive-in exploitation filmmaker Ron Ormond found faith and made a series of films with Southern Baptist pastor Estus Pirkle (The Burning Hell), there was this early “Christploitation” classic, a low-budget concern with an all-Black cast (and crew) regarding a newly baptized, Baptist-believing woman accidentally shot by her atheist husband. Upon her death, she’s greeted by an angel who takes her to the Crossroads of Life. The story, intelligently, turns into a parable based on the tale of Blues musician Robert Johnson’s trip to the crossroads (and other Southern Baptist folk tales), as the Devil (a great James B. Jones) temps her with the sins of the big city.

Sure, the against-the-budget, student film productions values — shot for $5,000 ($91,000 in 2021) — are crude and the actors aren’t pros, but this “race film” packs a powerful punch.

The Blood of Jesus was written and directed by Spenser Williams, a black actor who got his start in the late 1920s in a series of “roadhouse” shorts. He worked his way up to a starring role as “Andy” in CBS-TV’s, 78-episode, three-year (1951-1953) adaptation of Chicago WMAQ-AM’s long-running radio comedy Amos n’ Andy (1928-1960). The radio show was, of course as common for the times, voiced by white actors. Beginning his writing and directing career at the same time he began his acting career, Jackson augmented his 30-plus acting credits as a writer of eight films and as a director of thirteen.

He made his directing debut with the 10-minute comedy short Hot Biskits (1931) about two-men in a high stakes golf game. He followed the hour-long The Blood of Jesus with another faith-based film, Brother Martin (1942), which concerns the life Peruvian Martin de Porres, a late sixteenth-century believer (later elevated to sainthood in 1962 by Pope John XXIII). Spencer Jackson’s final feature film (a really fun watch) is the comedy Juke Joint (1947), which follows the Amos n’ Andy model of two con men trying to turn a buck as part of a small town beauty contest.

If there is any filmmaker who demands a restoration box set of his films (at least his efforts as a writer-director) or a biographical film (not a documentary, but a dramatic film on the level of say, Richard Attenborough’s 1992 Chaplin homage to British Comedian Charlie Chaplin), Spenser Williams is it.

Make it happen, Hollywood. In fact, Will Smith, if you’re reading this: make that movie.

You can You Tube “The Blood of Jesus 1941” to discover several uploads of your choosing, but here’s one of them. I implore you watch this film. And I need to stop talking about his movie, before I start to cry.

Justifiably, this film was added to the National Film Register in 1991, as this is a culturally significant document on the beginning the the black film industry. It’s powerful, magnificent stuff. A beautiful film that crushes it. Watch it. Then watch it again. Just watching this five minute preview clip on You Tube won’t be enough.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Mary’s Incredible Dream, aka The Mary Tyler Moore Spectacular (1976)

My memories of Ben Vereen decked-out in a green sequence suit and Bowler hat like an LSD-induced Frank Gorshin from Batman . . . was, in fact, real.

And my obsession for this MTM project, is real.

Courtesy of ReelGood.

There’s nothing quite like watching an actor or musician reaching the top of their profession to relish the schadenfreude of their ego crash, burning down their career — regardless of the fact this received three Primetime Emmys (in technical fields). Such a project is this early ’70s Christian Cinema oddball inspired by The Holy Bible tales of Adam and Eve and the parable of Noah and the Flood.

Yes, step right up!

Menahem Golan’s rock ‘n’ roll take on Eve and that damned apple with The Apple has nothing on this hour-long prime time special written by Jack Good (the Monkees’ equally off-the-hut 33-1/3 Revolutions Per Minute and Patrick McGoohan’s rock ‘n’ roll inversion of Othello with 1974’s Catch My Soul) and co-directed by TV’s Jamie Rogers and Gene McAvoy (Sonny & Cher).

Does The Devil singing the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” — in full cabaret regalia — interest you? Does Ben Vereen (Gas-s-s-s in 1970, later Will Smith’s deadbeat dad in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) in a skin-tight red jump suit, his chest exposed, as he jumps around like David Lee Roth during his Van Halen-prime to the tune of “Ball of Confusion” by the Temptations do it for you? No? Perhaps Ms. Moore taking a crack at Cat Stevens’s “Morning Has Broken” — during the Noah’s Flood sequence, while she floats on God’s plaster of Paris hand — floats your boat?

Yeah, didn’t think so. But I implore you, it should.

For watching Moore decimate the carte blanche gained from The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1960s and The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s, with this disco-ballet-musical knockoff of The Wizard of Oz — with Ms. Moore as an angelic, Eve-Dorothy amalgamate — is a whole lot of fun. More fun that should be humanly allowed. As fun as Jesus returning during the disco-era to take on the Mafia in White Pop Jesus (1980)? Hey, it’s your thirty pieces of silver to spend however you want.

For a wee lad, a leggy Mary was a heartbreak/courtesy of Moviefone.

In her 1995 memoir, After All, Mary Tyler Moore explained that this special was originally going to be titled Mary Tyler Moore Explains the History of the World (Mel Brooks, of course, would do it so much better in 1981 with History of the World: Part I). Mary’s “version of the world” went down in history on Mary’s home channel, CBS-TV — and bombed — on January 22, 1976, taking Ben Vereen (who doubles as Noah and the Devil, in his TV acting debut) and lauded cajun-county fiddler Doug Kershaw (he appeared on Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Rock and Roll Restaurant” and records by Grand Funk Railroad; in the stoner western, Zachariah, and concert doc Medicine Ball Caravan; here, he doubles as Adam and the Devil), acclaimed Boston Pops maestro Arthur Fiedler (as God), and the Manhattan Transfer (angles, devils, and everything else) (who were always annoying, yet very hot before this, and not so much after this), down with the Ark.

Oh, the vanity of Ms. Moore tapping, dancing, and singing her way across the stage to a mixture of rock, pop, and classical tunes (even a good ol’ country Hair-inspired “washboard” number) in a tale about man’s creation, fall, and rebirth. Oh, but it’s not really happening . . . for it is all Mary Tyler Moore’s “dream.”

The “dream” is Mary drifting off to sleep . . . then being whisked away to the Pearly Gates — where Heaven is a giant, Westinghouse Radio (the kind Grandma kept on top of the refrigerator) to meet God (Arthur Fiedler conducting an angelic choir), the Manhattan Transfer show up with several (awful) numbers of musical wisdom, and Ben Vereen in that green tuxedo with a “666” on it, well, not since Jim Carrey in that awful Batman movie.

Does Mary become a cave girl to pull out a Flintstone-sytled bone microphone? Does a giant, plaster-cast “hand of God” save Vereen and Mary’s Mr. and Mrs. Noah from the flood, set to the backing of a Planet of the Apes-styled, waist-deep Statue of Liberty? Does Mary and a cast of Nazi dancers sport some green-glilter, Nazisplotation SS-uniforms for a softshoe? Is that stock film footage of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger making a timely political statement?

Yes to all! Yes. Yes. And, oh, my God. YES! This is Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on acid with a speedball chaser. No, it’s not a dream. Mary Tyler Moore in this ersatz collision of Hair tangled with Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar really happened . . . just like those musical variety nightmares of the late ’70s starring the washed-up cast of The Brady Bunch that left our parents snickering and us wee lads and lassies scratching our heads.

Courtesy of Mod Cinema.

Courtesy of the folks at Mod Cinema, we learn the “why” of this ungodly musical: Moore decided that the next season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (which morphed into the dramatic Lou Grant with Ed Asner) would be the last, as she was developing a variety show as her next project. And this “incredible dream” served as the (failed) pilot.

Yeah, uh, no more weekly variety show for Ms. Moore.

Well, not, not really.

During 1978 – 1979 TV season, Moore, once again, attempted the musical-variety genre by starring in two more, unsuccessful CBS variety series. The first was Mary*, which featured a pre-stardom David Letterman, Michael Keaton, Swoosie Kurtz and Dick Shawn in the supporting cast. Making its debut on September 24, 1978, it ran for a total of three, low-rated episodes (its highest ranking was 64th out of 114 shows), until its cancellation on October 8, 1978.

Then, in March 1979, a mere five months after the cancellation of Mary, the network brought Moore back in a new, retooled version called The Mary Tyler Moore Hour**. Described as a groundbreaking “sit-var” (part situation comedy/part variety series), Moore portrayed a TV star putting on a variety show. The show-within-a-show format, which starred the likable and dependable Joyce Van Patten (Bad News Bears, 1976), Ron Rifkin (Silent Running), and a returning Micheal Keaton was cancelled in June 1979 after eleven episodes. Not even guest appearances by Lucille Ball, Dick Van Dyke, and Gene Kelly — starring as themselves and appearing on the “show” within the show — could save it.

Yes, dear reader, Mary’s Incredible Dream is incredibly, epically delicious. If there’s ever a time where you NEED to waste 51-minutes of your life — at least you’re not losing 9-minutes on commercials — this is it. Watch it on You Tube . . . but I have a feeling this two minute opening of Mary adorned in a flowing, pink chiffon nightie fly upward into the heavens just may be all you need to decide if you want to spend another 51-minutes with this, well, train wreck that gives the teachings of Jesus a bad name.

Oh, by the way . . . if you need to know more (we know you don’t, but anyway) about Mary Tyler Moore, there’s an hour-long Reelz-exclusive documentary (well, 44-minutes, since the TV commercials are cut) Behind the Smile on Tubi.

* Mary Tyler Moore has rabid fans, so yes, you can find episodes and clips of Mary on You Tube.

** Yeah, The Mary Tyler Moore Hour is on You Tube, so take your pick of the clips or episodes.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

The Judas Project (1993)

In the world of retail, “Christmas in July” is a promotional gimmick enticing mall shoppers to stock up on decorating supplies, as well as stocking up on discounted gifts. At B&S About Movies: we celebrate “Christmas in Summer” by spreadsheeting a six-months out “Christian Cinema Week” for the first week of December: we’re weird that way.

As this week unfolds, you’ll notice we’re concentrating primarily on the films of the ’70s, which we’ll round up (at 8 PM, Saturday the 4th) with one of our patented “Exploring” featurettes; this one entitled “Christian Cinema of the ’70s” that features a plethora of mini-reviews of even more films. And it seems Santa checked off those efforts in the B&S About Movies “nice column”: he gifted us with an early, July present: a never-heard-of-it-before Christsploitation flick.

It was a lazy July weekend, as I browsed the aisles of a second-hand store. Of course, the first section I always hit is the VHS/DVD section: it’s how I scored my copy of the Richard Lynch apoc romp, Ground Rules (1997); it’s also how I got this copy of a Christian apoc romp starring Richard Herd (our ersatz Caesar/King Herod) who, if you’re keeping track, was in the secular, French apoc romp, The Survivor (1998). Also encouraging our watch, and helping us swallow the low-budget exploitness of it all: the 230-plus television-and-film-credited Jeff Corey (our ersatz Pontius Pilate), as well as iconic daytime actor and prime-time character actor, Gerald Gordon (a government assassin, aka thief, nailed on a Calvary cross, next to Jesus). Needless to say, they are, in spite of the material and the other non-thespians stumbling around them, excellent.

Regardless of its additional lack of narrative quality, discovering The Judas Project for the very first time, 28 years after its initial release, is a blessing: considering when one compiles a week of Christian Cinema films and a film named The Judas Project — tossed willy-nilly between a copy Sandra Bullock’s Murder By Numbers and James Spader’s Supernova — calls out to you. It also becomes a double-blessing when you just rewatched the production-tragic Christian rock-apoc romp Raging Angels (1995) in the same week — specifically to review it for “Christian Cinema Week.”

The Judas Project: The Review

Jesus and helicopters: load and roll the tape!

The Holy Bible is rife with parables, but not with the moral or spiritual lesson of Tommy Wiseau (The Room) and fellow, self-proclaimed auteur Neil Breen (Neil Breen’s Movie Magic) discovering Jesus and deciding to proclaim their new-found faith by making a movie together, but not just any movie: a sci-fi Jesus movie.

The “message” here is the same ol’ salvation trope: Humanity is in peril, so God sends forth his son in the form of a man named Jesus Jesse to save mankind from the impending terror that is to destroy the Earth. The plot-twist in this fictionalized retelling of the story of Jesus Jesse: it’s told as if The Holy Savior arrived in the late 20th century.

No, we are not making this up: this movie is real.

As the film spins, one notices that, while the VHS sleeve indicates the year of release as 1993, the copyright on the film stock indicates the production began in 1990; as such, the film is woefully dated in its attempt to emulate-update the “Jesus in present times” progenitors Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pilate and Others, and Jesus of Montreal. The clue the proceedings are outdated: it makes reference to the “evil Russians” by calling out the USSR, which fell on December 26, 1991 — two years prior to its direct-to-video release.

Needless to say, as with all Christ-based films: none of the films are “bad”; reviewers in the Christian press loved The Judas Project, praising its action, acting, and even the (woeful, not-so-special) special effects (The lightning! The lightning!). The less-discriminating, secular reviewers, honestly — and isn’t that what Jesus taught us: to be honest and not deceive others — pounced on the movie: for all the same reasons the preaching-to-the-choir Christians praised the film.

Uh, no. I am not breaking the Eighth Commandment for a film review.

For this promoted, “made entirely apart from Hollywood” (in Savannah, Georgia) modernization of the “Greatest Story Ever Told” is actually the “Most Abysmal Story Ever Committed to Film”: a community theater-level production that should have closed on the same day it opened — and certainly never committed to celluloid.

We meet our “Jesus” in this updated version of the first-coming of Christ, in the form of Jesse (underdog ’80s AOR musician John O’Banion): he’s a new-and-improved, radical social revolutionist savior in this Passion Play — as he speaks to a beach-wondering multitude searching for a missing boy. Tired, stressed, and hungry, he comforts the downtrodden with wisdom — then feeds their bellies with an endless supply of bread and cheese.

Yes. Not fishes. Cheese.

Jesse eventually recruits twelve disciples, all white, natch, which goes against the grain of today’s multi-racial society in which the film is set. Why, yes: Judas shows up (daytime and prime-time actor Ramy Zada) — rollin’ in a fancy car with “Money 66” license plates. Why, yes: as is the case with any Christian apoc flick from the ’70s through the ’90s: people are crucified on crosses by threat of machine guns (to get its “point” across — and it is gruesome, natch). Why, yes, the film is anti-Semitic: Jesse’s chief antagonist is a powerful Jewish religious leader, determined to kill the Christ.

Look, I get it.

Writer-director-and everything else — also composing the companion soundtrack’s all-original CCM rock opera — James H. Barden is passion-trying with the same vigor as Mel Gibson with The Passion of the Christ (2004) — more so, if you consider the soundtrack. Barden’s “What If” question of an Earth that never knew Jesus Christ 2,000-plus years ago — only to have him arrive for the first time during the planet’s sci-fi apocalypse meltdown — is an intriguing concept. Barden’s detracting from the Revelation’s Antichrist trope proliferating most of the apocalyptic Christian films of the ’90s obsessed with the Mark of the Beast (Left Behind, Jerusalem Countdown, Megiddo: The Omega Code 2, Six: The Mark Unleashed — to name a few), instead placing the actual Christ into the same context via the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is, in fact, appreciated.

However, if you know your post-’80s Italian, and their even-worse Philippine (Stryker), apoc knockoffs (sans the superior Endgame or 2019: After the Fall of New York)*, Christian apoc flicks rarely pull off their honorable, against-the-budget intentions. Check your roster of Cloud Ten Productions apoc’ers fronted by David A.R White, accordingly: then file next to The Judas Project. Maybe if this was made in the early ’70s by 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or Warner Bros. with an apoc-rugged Charlton Heston** as the “New Christ,” possibly George Peppard** as “Jesus” with a 12-wheeled amphibious battle truck*˟, we have something, here. . . .

To think protestors took to the theater sidewalks over Mel Gibson’s and Martin Scorsese’s takes on the life of Jesus. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) is the film you praise for its quality and ability to get its subtext across. The Judas Project is, by far, the far more offensive picture, courtesy of its all-white apostle brigade, women are misogynistic victims, stereotyped as promiscuous, controlling Jezebels, with Jews as the “evil” responsible for the murder of the Christ, and anyone born in the lands of Mother Russia are inherently diabolical. Can we get a little philogyny and Semitic joy up in this here church? It’s not like the Russians are Estus Pirkle’in sharpened bamboo into the ears of children . . . will someone please spin Sting’s “Russians” and let the world know they love their children, too? An entire nation of peoples goes to Hell, just because they were born there?

Ugh, Christian cinema: just. please. stop.

Enough with the bogus, “faith-based” sci-fi shilled by the likes of Loophole (about a Judas Iscariot “violence gene”), The Judas Project, Raging Angels and a David A.R. White end-of-the-world production. Please take your production cues from Alex Kendrick and his Sherwood Pictures shingle (in Albany, Georgia, by the way). Stay out of the beyond-the-low budget-indie lands of apoc-futures and stick to present-day car lots (the really fine Flywheel), football fields (the finer Facing the Giants), and spiritually-conflicted firemen and police officers (the better-than-you-think Fireproof and Courageous). Mixing Apaches with The Holy Savior sends us running away from the “Romans Road,” not towards it.

Maybe if the wise, disembodied stone head of Zardoz was quoting the gospel and commanding the Apache helicopters, we’d hit the celluloid trail to Damascus. . . .

The Life of John O’Banion

Honestly, if not for this film’s obscure rock musician angle presenting an opportunity to honor a career, we wouldn’t have gotten this far.

Radio disc jockey, TV host, and one-time lead vocalist in American jazz trumpeter Doc Serverinsen’s Today’s Children (he, once the leader of Johnny Carson’s ’70s late-night band), John O’Banion made five appearances on Johnny Carson’s show as a solo artist, as well as multiple Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas daytime talk show episodes. O’Banion also appeared on American Bandstand, Solid Gold, and Star Search (hosted by Carson sidekick, Ed McMahon; big shock: O’Banion was the ultimate winner that season).

The Star Search “win” led to his single, “Love You Like I Never Loved Before,” charting in the Top 50 in the U.S., Australia, and Canada. His biggest chart hit was Crystal Gayle’s cover of “I Don’t Want to Lose Your Love,” which reached #2 on the U.S. country charts in 1983. Signed to Elektra Records, O’Banion released several snyth-pop albums: John O’Banion (1981; his highest charter, known as Golden Love Song in the overseas markets), Close Up (1982), and Danger (1982). Finding a more receptive audience in Europe and Japan, he released the German-made White Light (1985), and appears on the Elektra-produced soundtrack with two songs for the film Legend of the Eight Samurai (1983). The Asian film led to his recording Satomi Hakken-Den (1983) and Hearts (1995) for the Pacific Rim market, where he had his greatest chart success.

During his tenure with Elektra Records, O’Banion attempted to launch an acting career with a minor-support role in Charles Bronson’s Borderline (1980), and a larger supporting role the TV movie Courage (1986) starring Billie Dee Williams (Alien Intruder) and Sophia Loren. He closed out his acting career as the Christ in The Judas Project. He died in 2007 at the age of 59 in Los Angeles from complications after being stuck by a car while on tour in New Orleans.

There’s no free or pay streams to share. There is, however, a still active website where you can purchase streams. During its initial roll out, The Judas Project aired on the Christian cable network TBN – The Trinity Broadcasting Network throughout the ’90s. The network would later finance their own Christian-inspired apoc’er with the aforementioned, Six: The Mark Unleashed (2004).

You can watch the trailer on You Tube.

This movie needs more helicopter . . . and cowbell.

* You can enjoy more ’80s apoc films with our two-part “The Atomic Dust Bin: 10 Post-Apocalyptic Films You Never Heard Of” featurette — Part 1 and Part 2. To see even more of our post-apocalyptic reviews, check out our complete Letterboxd list.

** Do we have to tell you that we are referring to the apoc ’70s “Big Three” of Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, Soylent Green, as well as Damnation Alley? Eh, no, worries! We break the apoc ’70s down with our “Drive-In Friday: A-List Apocalypse” and “Ten End of the World Movies We Love” featurettes.

*˟ We break ’em all down with our “Ten Post-Apocalyptic Vehicles” featurette.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

The Late Great Planet Earth (1978): Another Look

Editor’s Note: Sam Panico previously reviewed this Christian post-apocalyptic film as part of our January 2019 “Tabloid Week” chronicling sensationalistic documentaries. As we fill out our ever-expanding database of reviews with some of the “Christian Cinema” films from the ’70s we’ve missed, we brought this prophetic classic back for another look. To say Sam and I are obsessed by this film is an understatement. And you should be, as well. And, one day: I’ll finally sell Sam on Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Who better than family nature film purveyor Pacific International (Challenge to be Free, Mountain Family Robinson, and The Adventures of the Wildness Family) to give us a good ol’ biblical prophecy gloom n’ doomer to scare the little ones into believing in Jesus? Hey, like the film tells us: 70 percent of The Holy Bible‘s predictions by the prophets of old have come true. So, if those predictions did, it follows the other 30 percent will happen in our lifetime.

Are you rejoicing in the light, yet?

Prior to the film breaking box office records, the 1970 book of the same title, penned by eschatologist (a theology concerned with the final events of history as told in The Bible) Hal Lindsay, competed for the title as one of the decade’s bestsellers (and with his first book!) against Erich von Däniken’s 1968 tome, Chariots of the Gods?, itself turned into a 1970 film. By the early ’90s, The Late Great Planet Earth sold 30 millions copies.

Initially, the book was produced as a prime-time documentary special in 1975. The ratings response was so favorable, a new, theatrical version narrated by Orson Welles was rushed into theaters. In addition to Welles’s voiceovers and occasional pop-ins on camera, Lindsey appears to weave his theories about the Earth’s future based on the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah, Ezekiel and Amos in foretelling the arrival of Jesus as the Messiah.

While many of Lindsey’s projections — both in book and on film — are dated, and some proven wrong in our modern world, credit is due to Lindsey’s non-fire and brimstone approach (say, as opposed to Pastor Estus Pirkle’s approach in a series of Ron Ormond films, starting with If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?) in speaking calmly and reasonably correlating The Bible in a realistic, contemporary content — such as reasoning the weird creatures spoken of in biblical prophecies to modern-day war craft.

That is until those scenes . . . of a computer analysis calculating if Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, or Ronald Reagan (the whole “666” thing), is the Antichrist . . . wow. That’s a hard swallow. Then there’s our “final judgement” by way of a 10-nation confederacy (i.e., Daniel’s 10-horned beast), which Lindsey sees as the European Common Market, going into battle with Russia (aka, The Bible‘s Magog), which will happen in 1988. But not before the gravitational pull of “The Jupiter Effect” in 1982 stirs up the sun and scores the Earth as warm up for the end times. And, if all else fails, another educated talking head tells us that man will never make it past the year 2000.

Believe it not, as goofy as it all may sound, before Lindsey brought a soupçon of common sense to the discussion, the pastors and preachers I dealt with in my youth actually believed in literal, “wild and mysterious creatures of multiple heads and multiple horns with tails of scorpions,” cooked up by Satan himself, would run loose on the Earth. Pure insanity. And we believed it. And it scared us stiff.

Whatever. As you can see, we’re still here.

Sure, we can scoff now, but this flick scared the shite out of us wee lads, leaving us a paranoid mess ripe for a “Friday Night Activity” evening at the local Baptist indoctrination center. I mean, come on, what little kid wants to not be called up in the Rapture and left to suffer on Earth, then go to Hell, afterwards? Seriously. Talk about child abuse. Youth pastors telling you Communist minions will force you to watch your mom and dad being executed. That you’ll be beheaded if you don’t allow yourself be “marked” by a red-hot “666” branding iron.

Anyway, Lindsey has since written 14 more books. When his fifth book, 1983’s The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon became a runaway best-seller, luckily, it wasn’t made into a sequel film. Once again, he predicted the Rapture would happen at the end of the ’80s. And we are still waiting for Russia to attack Iran to gain control of the oil supply, with China not letting Russia get away with that nonsense — and all hell, literally, breaks loose — sans the multi-head and horned beasts (we hope).

Oddly enough: No predictions about a cyberattack on U.S. oil pipelines. Nothing about bat-born viruses cooked up in labs. Nada about social-media backed CHOP and CHAZ warriors overthrowing whole police precincts and running Walgreen’s out of business and out of San Francisco — none of that reality made it to either of Lindsay’s books or the film. And so it goes, as the prophetic wheels of fate, spin. . . .

You can watch The Late Great Planet Earth on the Internet Archive.org. You say you want your own copy? See, we told you an obsession for it would happen. The fine folks at Scorpion Releasing issued the film on Blu-ray available at Diabolik DVD.

You need more “Jupiter Effect” in your films, you say? Well, then, you need to check out our review for The Spirits of Jupiter. More predicted destruction of the Nostradamus variety? Then check out Japan’s inversion of an Irwin Allen flick with 1974’s Nosutoradamusu no daiyogen.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973): Another Look

Editor’s Note: Sam Panico previously reviewed this Christian-leaning extensional film as part of our February 2020 “Box Office Failures” theme week of reviews. As we fill out our ever-expanding database of reviews of “Christian Cinema” films from the ’70s that we’ve missed, we brought this film back for another look.

Sam and I are split on this film. But he hasn’t outcast me, as was Jonathan, from the B&S flock. For we are still united in our love of Godfrey Ho and Bruno Mattei films. And there will always be The Astrologer, right Sam?

And what does this all have to do with the “Jesus Rock” movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s? Read on, brother.

The September 17, 1981, cover of Rolling Stone #352, with a picture of Jim Morrison emblazoned on the cover, proclaimed: He’s Hot, He’s Sexy and Dead. In the early ’70s, the same could be said about Jesus Christ, for the Son of God ruled the airwaves and theater screens.

To set up the “why” of this tale of existential seagulls (as well as the “hippie Jesus” romps Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar), we need to look back to the positive message of the “Jesus Rock” movement born out of the disillusioned “Summer of Love” of the late ’60s.

At the time, as Sam Pacino pointed out in his review of the Christian apoc-documentary The Late Great Planet Earth*, the hippie occult generation’s dreams flamed out at Altamont and was annihilated on Cielo Drive. I have to add that, the hippies, whether they accepted it or not, were long since assimilated by Madison Avenue. There was still money to be made at the expense of the “Summer of Love,” for it was no longer an ideal, but a marketing campaign.

Enter Brother J. to breath new life into a down-the-tubes advertising crusade.

The short-lived “Jesus Rock” genre (for a contemporary context: think of the 36-month run of the Nirvana-driven Grunge era) hit its peak in 1972 when the Doobie Brothers scored a Top 40 hit with “Jesus Is Just Alright.” Other bands topping the Billboard charts were the Stephen Stills-led “supergroup” Manassass (with Chris Hillman of the Byrds) and “Jesus Gave Love Away For Free” (1972) (remembering the Byrds started the genre with their 1969-version of the Doobies’ later hit), the folk-rocking “Now Be Thankful” by Fairport Convention (1970), “Jesus is a Soul Man” by Lawrence Reynolds (1970), Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the the Sky” (1970), Charlie Allen and his band Pacific Gas & Electric with “Are You Ready” (1971), Sweathog with “Hallelujah,” “Put Your Hand in the Hand” (1971) by the Canadian band Ocean, “Joy to the World” (1971) by Three Dog Night, and “If You Wanna Get to Heaven” by Ozark Mountain Daredevils (1974). Pop music fans forget that Top 40-meister Tommy James of the Shondells followed up his early, playful hits of “Hanky Panky,” “I Think We’re Alone Now,” and “Mony, Mony” with an album that professed his faith, his second album, Christian of the World (1971); that “Jesus Rock” entry scored two U.S. Top 40 hits with the songs “Draggin’ the Line” and “I’m Coming Home.” (No, the prior song isn’t about cocaine use (“doing lines”), but about the futility of man’s efforts under God.)

Myrrh Records, a leading Christian music label, had their catalog distributed via A&M Records, which brought Petra (a Southern/Country Rock concern) to a national stage. Ohio’s Glass Harp (friends with the Eagles’ Joe Walsh, then of the James Gang), signed with Decca, and the Resurrection Band broke new ground with their Zeppelin/Sabbath “heavy blues” take on the genre. The smash hit, Broadway “Rock Operas” Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell were adapted into films; their respective cast albums and soundtracks topped the charts, with singles from each becoming Top 40 hits for Murray Head, Yvonne Elliman, Helen Ready, and even Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan.

So, with Columbia and Universal releasing their competing films versions of Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar in 1973 (in March and August, respectively), the odd-studio out, Paramount, wasn’t missing the “Jesus Rock” boat. So they optioned writer Richard Bach’s 1970 best-selling novella, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. And since the book — as did the two stage-to-films that inspired its production — didn’t come with a soundtrack, Paramount, through Columbia Records (his label), contracted Neil Diamond to write a companion piece to the book/film. Yes, Neil Diamond, the bane of many’s musical existence (not me), made a “Jesus Rock” album — and topped the album and singles charts.

Jonathan (aka Jesus Christ, voiced by James Francisus) tires of the boring life in his sea-gull clan. So he experiments with new, always more daring flying techniques (putting way the flesh and finding his spiritual side). Since his spiritual quest goes against the communal grains, the flock’s elders (Hal Holbrook) expel him from the clan (as was, if you know your Bible, Jesus). So Jonathan sets out upon the Earth to discover wisdom, find disciples, and a higher reason for being.

Needless to say, the general public had a hard enough time comprehending spiritually conflicted, sentient computers and alien interpretations of heaven as an all white-luxury hotel suite, as an astronaut traveled his “inner space” in 2001: A Space Odyssey. So, most — film critic Roger Ebert infamously walked out of the film — weren’t going for intelligent seagulls backed by a Neil Diamond soundtrack.

The seagulls, of course, do not actually talk; you’re hearing their “thoughts,” as it were, courtesy of a voice cast rounded out by Juliet Mills and Richard Crenna. You have to give Hall Bartlett credit, who, without the benefits of CGI or animation, somehow managed to film seagulls and frame it with dialog to give us an impression the gulls, in fact, talk.

If Roma Downey and her husband/producing cohort Mark Burnett (who found great success with their The Bible miniseries and 2014’s Son of God) remade this, courtesy of technology, the gulls — as do all of the animals in today’s films and television commercials, would actually, “talk.”

But let’s let this one be.

If you enjoyed the book — which many (criminally) dismissed as metaphysical drivel and thus, hated the movie — you’ll love the movie, a movie that is of its time and place: a time when seagulls could talk and Jesus was, in fact, “hot, sexy and dead.”

You can enjoy the soundtrack, in its entirety, on You Tube. The film is easily found on multiple PPV streaming platforms.

* We’ve also taken a second look at The Late Great Planet Earth, this week. We also explore thirty-plus faith-based films — and reference many more precursors — with our “Exploring: Christian Cinema of the ’70s” feature.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

The Cross and the Switchblade (1970)

There is no better film to start off our “Christian Cinema/Christploitation Week” of film reviews than this faith-based trailblazer distributed, in part, by 20th Century Fox. Its success resulted in a shift for Christian and faith-based films that took their battered, film-canistered reels off the roadshow circuit, out of church auditoriums and revival tents, and into mainstream, secular theaters*. The gambit paid off, as the once beleaguered production was not only a box-office success in the states, but a hit in over 150 countries where the film was translated into 30 languages.

The original theatrical one-sheet. The film was produced by Billy Graham associate Rick Ross and written and directed by actor Don Murray.

Not bad for a paperback copy of a book catching the corner of Pat Boone’s eye at an airport newsstand on the way to Mexico City. In interviews, Boone stated he was immediately engrossed in the life story of Pentecostal pastor David Wilkerson, which he called “a modern day sequel to the New Testament’s Acts of the Apostles.” So he optioned the book to transform it into a movie. . . .

Easier said than done.

Less than a dollar for a best-selling book that sold four million copies by 1968; by 1975, adapted into 30 languages, the sales blossomed to six million.

Boone said in interviews at the time of the film’s release that all the major studios passed, with the opinion that “religion is poison at the box office.”** So began Pat Boone’s five-year journey to get the film made.

Ugh. Studio executives. Hey, aren’t you the same guys that gave a greenlight to Skidoo and Myna Breckinridge, and gave Russ Meyer the keys for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls?

Luckily, Rick Ross, who made films for fifteen years with the Billy Graham Organization, and with the help of the Pennsylvania-based American Baptist Convention, production began on location in Harlem in October 1969. The script was penned and directed by actor Don Murray. Murray had already penned two, long forgotten, faith-based films: The Hoodlum Priest (1961), in which he starred in the true story of street minister Friar Charles Clark, and Confessions of Tom Harris (1969), in which he starred with Linda Evans in the true story of Tom Harris, an alcoholic ex-GI and loan shark debt collector who experienced a religious conversion and became a drug counselor (Harris was also a Golden Gloves boxer and future Hollywood stuntman).

Christian and secular audiences responded positively to The Cross and the Switchblade, making it a modest box office hit against its slight budget. The film’s detractors, of course, didn’t take the film’s production values to task nor its script or directing by actor Don Murray: their main rub was that Pat Boone starred — and was “unconvincing” in the role.

Ugh. Whatever, you uppity-degree, English literature critics who failed as screenwriters. Hey, are you by any chance related to the studio executives that said the film would never be a hit?

Also adapted into a comic book by iconic artist Al Hartley, the story begins as Assemblies of God pastor David Wilkerson reads a 1958 issue of Life magazine about the lives of seven Brooklyn teenagers who are members of a criminal gang. From that, Wilkerson receives a calling to minister to the city’s gangs — and steps into the middle of a gang war between the Mau Maus — led by Nicky Cruz (a fine Eric Estrada, forget the critics) — and the Bishops. And both gangs scoff at the pastor’s plans to hold a youth rally to invite all of the gangs and drug addicts in New York.

At first, Cruz conspires to get “rid of the preacher man” by using Rosa, his heroin-addicted girlfriend in his plans. In time, the pastor, though Christ, melts the gang leader’s heart — and he brings a truce among the gangs. Nicky Cruz then becomes an ordained minister and, with David Wilkerson, they start a teen center, Teen Challenge, to help other, trouble youths.

Sound hokey? Well it’s all true. It happened. Sometimes, real life — and the best things in life — are corny.

Al Hartley, who worked for Stan Lee and Marvel comics drawing Spiderman, The Hulk and Ironman, received Christ as His Lord and Savior in 1967.
Al Hartley now has many of his secular and faith-based titles — including his Archie-verse — available as Kindle Digitals through Amazon.

A sequel, which concentrated on the post-salvation life of Nicky Cruz and his own ministry, was to be produced by the team behind Erik Estrada’s second Christian-based film, The Ballad of Billie Blue (1972). Sadly, that film was never realized, and Estrada’s chance to have his name, alone, on the top of a marquee, was lost. He’d go on to co-star with George C. Scott and Stacy Keach in The New Centurions (1973), Airport 1975 (1974), and Midway (1976). He then booked his iconic role on NBC-TV’s CHiPs (1977 – 1983): a blessing that made him a star, but derailed his theatrical potential.

You can enjoy this simply wonderful movie courtesy of the Vision Video You Tube portal; it’s an ad-supported steam with the ability to skip through the ads. The studio shingle also offers the film as a 50th anniversary DVD via their website. You can also watch it on Christian Cinema auteur David A.R. White’s (whose name you’ll see mentioned, often, this week) PureFlix platform. You can sample the trailer on You Tube.

The Cross and the Switchblade is a stellar, inspirational film filled with a lot of heart. Boone and Estrada are fine, and Don Murray’s script and direction — considering the budget and the long journey to the get the film made — is an engaging, entertaining watch.

So watch it.

* One of those later, well-received, mainstreamed faith films was 1978’s Born Again, Frank Capra, Jr.’s biographical film on the life of Richard M. Nixon’s Special Counsel and Watergate co-conspirator, Charles Colson. Colson converted to Christianity while in prison and came to incorporate the Prison Fellowship Ministries.

** In 1955, screenwriter and director Henry Koster, who achieved critical and box office acclaim with his 1953 biblical epic, The Robe, met with equal acclaim for A Man Called Peter. A chronicle on the life of preacher Peter Marshall, who came to serve as Chaplain of the United States Senate, was adapted from a 1951 best-selling biography written by his wife, Catherine. Another of Catherine Marshall’s best sellers, 1967’s Christy, based on the life of her mother, a school teacher who taught impoverished Appalachian children, was adapted into a 1994 CBS-TV movie and television series.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Mayflower II (2020)

There are movies that pleasantly surprise you. Then there’s this third feature film by the Lammiman brothers, Dallas and Greg: Greg’s the writer; Dallas is the director. The “surprise” behind the film: it eschews the usual apocalypse trappings of man battling the prophesied Beast of Revelations.

Instead — with an influence of such Young Adult Films as The Hunger Games and Divergent franchises, but with the scrappy-inventivness of a Roger Corman ’80s space opera, e.g., Battle Beyond the Stars — we get a science fiction updating of the tale of the Mayflower. That fabled vessel and its passengers left England in 1620 to separate themselves from the Church of England, so as to find religious freedom; they eventually ended up in a “new Promised Land” in America, where they established the Plymouth Colony on the coast of Massachusetts.

The first Mayflower carried persecuted believers to the new world. The second Mayflower carries them to space.

Now, the new Mayflower II will transport persecuted Christians to an established utopian colony on Mars. However, as with most secular science fiction films dealing with “utopias” — for me, since I recently reviewed it, the Italian sci-horror import, Crucified (2021), comes to mind — that “promised land” is more corrupt and oppressive than the land the downtrodden left behind: this one overlorded by a defacto-styled Antichrist named Nero.

The questions the film ponders: As a believer, where do you stand with God? Faced with persecution for your beliefs, will you chose to follow the authority of man or rise up in revolt and remain faithful to God? Which is the greater fear in your life: God or man?

The Lammiman’s “Christian Sci-Fi” production from 2012, set in the future of 2050.

Needless to say, we are up against-the-budget, here, so, as with most Christian films: the main goal is to spread the world of the Lord, while providing wholesome, alternative entertainment for those off-put by secular science fiction films. As such, and referring back to films such as the Kendrick brothers’ (of Sherwood Pictures fame) really fine Flywheel: we’re dealing with a lot of first time actors and crew members, some professional; others volunteers, so the acting is rough in spots; some thespin’ better than others.

There’s very little in the way of shot-in-camera practical effects (what film today really has them), and what practical effects there are, well . . . the weapons look like (expertly) retrofitted Nerf rifles and pistols — and probably are (the lightning-bolt disruptor rays are decent, as are the holograms and touch screen controls; the surveillance drones are production-solid). There’s not much in the “futuristic” costuming department, but what little there is — in the way of the old, retrofitted hockey-motocross geared-up soldiers gag, and the off-the-Nutcracker-costume-rack military dresses — it looks just as good as any VHS’er of the video shelf ’80s or the Syfy Channel (before the double “y”) direct-to-DVD romps of the ’90s. The space ship interiors aren’t as effective as an old Roger Corman ’80s space opera, but certainly better than, and not as goofy-chinzy as, an Alfonzo Brescia ’80s Star Wars rip (Star Odyssey). The CGI work, however, while not exactly Star Trek: The Next Generation — but wants to be — is (very) effectively close to the style of that series.

As for the story . . . well, if you’re into secular science fiction, and appreciate obscure, low-budget productions (such as my recent “Outer Space Week” reviews of Hyper Space and Space Chase, for example), you may be willing to watch. But even I have to agree: the woe-is-me, Christians-are-perpetually-persecuted plotting is a bit hokey-to-swallow. But we are dealing with the tale of the Mayflower meets the prophecies of Revelations, and, as far as Christian believers are concerned: that future threat is real and they’re committed to that belief. And you have to respect that spiritual focus.

And this film from the Lammiman brothers is an equally committed film. And a commendable one at that. And I appreciate their focus on creating wholesome, yet relevant, entertainment. I am glad I discovered Mayflower II, by accident, as I descended down a Tubi rabbit hole. I enjoyed watching it and I await the Lammiman brothers’ next, ambitious production.

You can watch Mayflower II on the Christian Movies You Tube portal or on Tubi. You can also stream it ad-free on Amazon Prime’s Dove portal. We love it when those who worked on the film find our heart-felt reviews and enjoy them — and clear up the bad web-Intel. Thanks, Lyndall!

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Raging Angels (1995)

“Between the worlds and music, something evil was tearing them apart.”
— Vidmark’s alternate, copywriter hornswogglin’

As the televangelist-inspiring carnival barkers of old once said, “Step right up! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

So, if you are keeping track of your rock ‘n’ roll flicks, and we know you are, you know that Michael Paré (Moon 44) and Sean Patrick Flanery (Boondock Saints, forever!) each made two of them: Sean Patrick Flanery made this, and the even more obscure grunge chronicle, Girl (2000), while Michael Paré made this, and Eddie and the Cruisers.

In Girl, Flanery was an ersatz-Cobain who becomes the love interest of a wayward, college-bound high school girl. In Eddie and the Cruisers, Paré was an ersatz-Jim Morrison who faked his death.

Here, Flanery’s aspiring, oh-so-not-metal rocker (which a film of this genre needs: metal) runs afoul of Paré’s, well, faux-Tom Cruise — if his Stacee Jaxx from the abysmal Rock of Ages was running Scientology and brainwashing teens into hard rock zombies, like Damian in Black Roses. Oh, only if this film were as cool as that last sentence. . . . If this film was as cool as American Satan.

Of the many foreign and domestic VHS and DVD sleeves issued. The original, disembodied floating-head design trope, wins . . . at least this time.

I just don’t know how to describe Raging Angels . . . this political sci-fi rock n’ roll heavy metal horror romantic musical (Phew!). I don’t know how to assume the “Christian” intent of the film, if any . . . what was its spiritual inspiration? And with five screenwriters (well, two on “story” and three scribes) — and with our fair director taking an “Alan Smithee” credit (plot spoiler: It’s Asian actress Hisako Tsukuba aka’ing on the writing front as Chako van Leeuwen; this is a “Chako Film International Production,” after all) — there’s no way to know whom is wholly responsible for this biblical-plot plethora pathos of analog schadenfreude. (One of the scribes taking a pass on it was Kevin Rock, who worked on sequels to The Howling, Warlock, and The Philadelphia Experiment, as well as Roger Corman’s rights-holding tax shelter, The Fantastic Four.)

Imagine Menahem Golan’s biblical tale of the Book of Genesis‘ Adam and Eve colliding with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust in The Apple, with its subplot regarding the power of love and music . . . and you thought producer Richard Zanuck greenlighting Russ Meyer, an independent X-rated filmmmaker, and Roger Ebert, a first time, inexperienced screenwriter, for a 20th Century Fox “sequel” with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was a weird picture, with its cautionary tale of innocent hopefuls chewed up and shat out by the Tinseltown music industry.

I just don’t know. . . .

No matter how you pack it . . . see what we mean?

Did the tape of Jon Mikl Thor’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare end up inside the VHS sleeve of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead on Hisako Tsukuba’s personal home video shelf? Perhaps, after watching Keanu Reeves in The Devil’s Advocate — and taking into consideration his work as a metal head and musician River’s Edge and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure — Tsukuba decided to re-imagine Al Pacino’s Lucifer-as-a-lawyer as a cult-leading rock star? Perhaps it was one too many spins of the likes of ’80s Christian (aka “White Metal”) bands Stryper, Believer, Deliverance, Holy Solider, Messiah Prophet, Whitecross, Trouble (okay, settle, they’re “Doom Metal”), and X-Sinner? (If only I just rattled off the soundtrack listing with that sentence, but alas, I have not.)

Oh, the majesty of it all, with this film’s pinches from Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise (Gramercy’s concert hall headquarters; the concert assassination), They Live (recruiting the wayward homeless to boost their ranks), and John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (conspiracy, subversion, and government overthrow).

The beauty of Raging Angels is that it is inherently meta: The filmmakers (well, again, Asian actress Hisako Tsukuba, who co-produced Joe Dante’s Piranha, as well as ALL of its sequel/remakes) are using film to push what is best described as a (Tsukuba’s) socialism viewpoint; that a united, one-world welfare state under a supreme leader is the only way for the world to succeed in perpetual peace — which is the very message pushed by the film’s rock star-cum-celebrity spokesperson, Tom Cruise, er, Colin Gramercy (Paré). Ah, it turns out, Gramercy (in a plot twist), isn’t Satan-as-a rocker; he’s been brainwashed by Satan (a George Soros-styled billionaire philanthropist) as the chief advocate for a dopey, 501 c3 tax-evading pseudo-religion masquerading as a “self-help” book and tape-schilling amalgamate.

Like Daddy Rich pimpin’ his prosperity theology says: “There’s a good place in this world for money, and it’s right here in my pocket.”

Yes, praise Green Jesus! By watching this film . . . you will see the light! For watching Raging Angels will quell the “raging angels” within. This film will lead to your spiritual enlightenment . . . as you will learn how to be “your own god.” Yes you can! Just like “prosperity gospel” (i.e., “money gospel”) megachurch overseers Joel Olsteen and Creflo Dollar whom “God tells” to pick the pockets of the flock to buy the Houston Astrodome (to turn into a church; get those flood victims out of here: this ain’t no horse stable with mangers) and private 747s (fitted in real gold-plated fixtures, natch) to “spread the good word.” Hey, God can’t live or fly in junk, dear flockster. Hey, there, Lamor “Brooklyn Bishop of Bling” Whitehead (finally caught by the F.B.I). So, forget that utility bill and tithe to Gramercy: for “God” will provide the water, light, and curb-side pick-ups. The Coalition for World Unity will provide the room and board and you’ll never have to work again . . . as long as you “obey” the word. OBEY!

Eh, sorry, Ol’ Scratch, for I’ve stopped believing. Your attempt to brainwash me into socialism via a bad movie . . . you created a recruitment video for atheism. Besides, your film doesn’t even have backmasking? How can you make a movie with this subject matter and not have someone playing records backwards!

Anyway . . . our not-so-metal-warrior, Chris D’Amico (Flanery), is an arrogant, temperamental rocker on the way up who believes in his hype; and with his alcohol abuse out of control, his band sacks him. And the band he fronts is . . . none other that the aforementioned Holy Solider — ripping through Ronnie James Dio-era Rainbow with “Gates of Babylon” (on screen; here’s the clip), which is this film’s lone high mark (on the soundtrack we also hear their original, “The Pain Inside of Me“). And Chris ends up like Pete Best and Chad Channing (know your Nirvana heritage), as Holy Soldier nets a deal and achieves great success . . . as a metal band . . . during the height of the grunge era (put a pin in that, for more, later).

So, our now penniless rocker, who has beat the bottle and stowed the cockiness, needs a gig. He and his musician-girlfriend, Lila Ridgeway (ex-daytime TV actress Monet H. Mazur, in her feature film debut), audition for gigs in Colin Gramercy’s new, worldwide satellite-cable concert (Paré, unlike in his star-making turn as Eddie, actually sings here, with “The Hunger”). And Colin wants Lila as a back up singer, who quickly falls under the cult-rocker leader’s spell (for all good televangelists have that enclave of chicks to help work through those sermons), but not Chris.

Uh, oh . . . but Lila is changing. She’s not the same girl, anymore. And the drinking didn’t make Chris wreck his car, it was Satan (literally; a ghostly image appears in the windshield). But Lila ain’t buying the excuses, anymore. She dumps him on Gramercy’s word.

Cue Chris’s Grandma Ruth (Shelley Winters!), who, thanks to her horrific dreams and visions (that screws up his new band’s audition), starts with the nagging warnings that “Chris is in danger.” Well, the demons won’t have any of that. Let the demon attack begin. But not before our dead Grandma recruits the eccentric, religious-psychic-preacher Sister Kate (Diane Ladd!) to save Chris and Lila’s souls from eternal damnation. The demeaning of Jesus Christ down to evil-warding, biblical-verse spells and religious trinkets, ensues.

Eh, on the upside: everyone is trying. Grandma Shelly and Aunt Diane are going at it with gusto, and Sean Patrick and Paré always sell the drama — no matter how awful it usually is, as is the case with most of their films.


Yes, the final good vs. evil showdown we’ve been waiting for at Colin’s global, subliminal worldwide satellite concert, is here — the concert that will transform the citizens of Earth to the Coalition for World Unity way-of-life once and for all! Well . . . I think it’s best you watch the clip of the final battle, for the rest of the story.

(Sorry video embed elves, not this time;
we’re hyperlinkin’ the final battle clip.)

See what we mean . . . did you click through?

Where’s Jon Mikl Thor when we need his bare-chested, bad-ass metal warrior self? Where’s Billy Eye Harper, Lynn Starling and Headmistress with the epic concert show closer? Ah, now I see why the CWU needs to subliminal message their concert: because the concert, with their screeching Christian symphonic rocker signing, Mozart (“One World”), and Colin Gramercy’s “life changing” epic, “The Hunger,” is — as is any Christian “rock concert” held in a church’s chapel-cum-gymcafeditorium that I’ve been too — absolutely, utterly awful (and when you realize the music sucks, they “kidnap” you by blocking the door and will not let you leave before the show’s over . . . and not even then. Screw you, One Bad Pig. Your Red Hot Chilli Peppers-for-Jesus schtick, sucked. At least Ronnie James Dio didn’t abduct me and force me to listen and indoctrinate me).

And that is what is ultimately missing from Raging Angels, the one thing that would have taken this Satan-steals-souls-with-rock-music mess over the top: a soundtrack on the level of the “No False Metal” classic Black Roses. For Raging Angels needs the likes of Lillian Axe, Lizzy Borden, and Carmine Appice’s King Kobra masquerading as the faux bands of the film. This film needed Metal Blade Records’ Brian Slagel as its music consultant to transcend it as the “No False Metal” classic it so wants to be . . . and utterly fails to be.

Granted, Sean Patrick Flanery impresses here (yes that is him singing, with “Come In My Mind“; in fact, here he is belting “One Step Forward” in Girl), but for as much as I enjoy any film with the ‘Flan, his character and the related songs are a bit too — through no fault of his own — douchy to pull off the demonic side of the proceedings. The rest of the soundtrack’s mostly B-Side castoffs — faux-Led Zeppelin’ers Kingdom Come (“What Love Can Be”), Golden Earring (?) (“Twilight Zone”), Boston (“Livin’ for You”), The Mission U.K (“Wasteland”), and well, what do you know, the aforementioned Stryper (“To Hell with the Devil”), and Sweden’s “dance rockers” Army of Lovers (“Supernatural”) (a big deal in Europe, but not in the U.S.) — just aren’t lathing the grooves on my vinyl. And, yes, shockingly, that snippet of “Arrow” by a band called Candlebox is the very same, we-relocated-the-band-to-Seattle-to-be-a-grunge-band, Candlebox. (Odette Springer, who scored Cirio H. Santiago’s Mad Max-rips Dune Warriors and Raiders of the Sun, scores here, as well as co-writing, with Hisako Tsukuba, Monet Mazur’s character’s vocal showcase, “I’m Crying Out for You.”)

And if the lack of metal in this Satanic music flick ain’t cuttin’ it, then, chances are, neither are the not-so-special effects.

When was this made? Well, based on the dated-soundtrack, certainly not during the post-1990 grunge-era. Raging Angels reeks as a film shot at some point during the hair metal ’80s — courtesy of its à la Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare, practical-sfx rubbery monsters (taking into account that film’s epic “Plan 9 from Outer Space” Satan vs. Angel battle) and burgeoning-technology CGI. Yeah, the dank n’ moldy aromas of years-languishing on the shelf — as most “Alan Smithee” films do — to then be thou looseth on the shelves of oneth’s local Blockbuster Video, permeates.

In the end, what we ultimately have in the frames of Raging Angels isn’t a errant, “No False Metal” heavy-metal horror film: we have an evangelical Christian Cinema precursor to the rash of low-budget, direct-to-video evangelical Revelation/Apocalypse films triggered by Christian author Tim LaHaye’s mid-’90s end-of-the-world Left Behind novel series. Those best-sellers were, of course, produced into a tetraology franchise by Canadian’s Paul and Peter LaLonde Christian-based Cloud Ten Pictures, which specializes in end-times films.

So, forget about the Black Roses and Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare analogies. The true spiritual cousins to Raging Angels are those proselytizing flicks starring past-their prime actors, such as the Apocalypse tetraology (1998 – 2001) with Gary Busey, Corbin Bernsen, Jeff Fahey, Margot Kidder, Mr. T, and Nick Mancuso, Six: The Mark Unleashed (2004), with Eric Roberts and Stephen Baldwin, David A.R White’s dopey Rapture-flicks, such as The Moment After (which rip off Schwarzenegger’s End of Days to lesser-and-lesser effect), and the biggie of the bunch: The Omega Code starring Casper Van Dien and Michael York. Raging Angels is all of those premillennialist flicks — only with a Satan-recruits-with-music plot device, and worse production values.

Eh, whatever, ye leaders of the CWU. If douchy music from tapered haircut and scruffy soul-patched dudes is the way to global peace, then give thee chaos. At least Satan has better music to-be-brainwash-by. At least I learned that the way to rock is to sling my axe behind my back and wear glittery tank tops.

Here’s the trailer to check out. As for the VHS tapes: they’re out there, but watch out for those DVDs, they’re grey DVD-r rips. And while they look really good, I am still not jammin’ on those Euro Region 2 copies, either. Emptor the caveats and know your regions before you go hard digital, kids.

In all of my years coveting this film for the VHS collection, I never found a copy. Sure, I could easily buy a copy online these days, but, well . . . it’s just not the same as discovering a copy in a video store’s cut out bin — or at today’s library book drives or second hand stores, is it? For the joy is the thrill of the analog chase and the celluloid discovery . . . and then having your expectations deflated as you struggle to get through the movie, and then apologize to your VCR.

Eh, I’ll just free-with-ads stream it on Tubi with ya’ll.

Hey, Scorpion Releasing! You need to do for Raging Angels what you did for The Apple and get this out on Blu-ray. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. . . .

Jesus, I mean, Jessie . . . and helicopters!

Coming the first week of December. . .

See the light!

We’re reviewing a week of classic — and heavy-handed — early ’70s Christian films with our upcoming “Exploring: Christian Cinema of the ’70s” featurette. So, join us on Wednesday, December 1 through the Sunday, December 5 . . . “join us . . . join us. . . .”

Don’t fear Satan! Hail Sammy Curr! No False Metal!

There’s more fake rockers of the Chris D’Amico and Colin Gramercy variety to be discovered with our “Ten Bands Made Up for Movies (and a whole lot more)” featurette. You want more, real band cameos? Well, check our out “Ten Band Cameos in Movies” featurette.

All of the Italian and Spanish “Satanic Panic” movies you can handle.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.