Tonight we decided to tackle the sequels to A Thief in the Night. I’ve got another round of Harvey Wallbangers in front of me and a pot roast in the oven (it smells DIVOON) and we’re gonna knock these out tonight. Come tackle the worst of Christian Rapture porn with me!
We’re not going to do huge mega-reviews on each movie here; it appears that very little happens in them anyway, and the major themes are ones we’ve already developed in earlier discussions. But if you wanted to know what 70s Christians thought about the Rapture, these are your movies! Bear in mind that the Christians leading all these churches and Congressional committees and “think tanks” today are the ones who grew up on these movies. These idiotic movies are what informed their opinions about the world. To me, the value they have is that they show me a little of what went into the adult fundagelicals I see grandstanding today.
We’re drinking Harvey Wallbangers today. The recipe for them is simple: 4 parts OJ, 1 part vodka, and then a little neon-yellow Galliano floated on top of the drink (it amounts to 1/2 part), all served over ice. They are freakin’ delicious and my current kryptonite. You’re supposed to use a Collins glass, but I don’t have any Collins glasses so I’m using a highball glass and it’s working out all right. I chose this drink because of how popular it was when the first A Thief in the Night came out. The highball glass was inherited along with my grandparents’ liquor cabinet–it’s vintage cut or molded glass and very pretty.
I’m wondering what sober-Cas is going to make of all this in a few hours. I’m feeling loopy. Let’s begin.
A Distant Thunder.
A Distant Thunder (1978) is the second movie in the series.
We open with a church and a hymn of people singing “We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord,” which is part of a 1960s Christian song called “They’ll Know We Are Christians.” Ironically, the song was written by a Catholic dude, apparently. I do want to mention the Miranda warning at the beginning of the movie that tells viewers that this movie is fiction and that the creators of it are not prophets. (Like yes, I think we have already figured that out!) The narrator reads out all the Rapture Bible verses.
We see that a bunch of Christians are in a co-ed bunkhouse singing this song. We zoom in on Patty–like we see right up her nose, it’s that close–and see that she’s singing but crying. Another woman in an arm cast, Linda, who used to be Patty’s next-door neighbor, implores her to “please do it,” which I guess means convert? There’s also a mid-teen woman called Sandy who says meaningless things. And a Blond Dude comes over to ask if she’s okay. I guess they’re in prison? Blond Dude asks her to pray and she refuses; her main problem is that she doesn’t buy that any good god would allow any of this Tribulation stuff to happen.
We cut intermittently to a guy in a huge hairstyle rocking a Star of David who looks super-spiritual. He eventually recites a verse from Thessalonians so I guess he’s a Jew for Jesus. Blond dude tells her the standard-issue hand-waving around the Problem of Evil and Patty responds that she doesn’t think it’s a hell of a choice, to either convert or face Hell later. Sounds good to me and I don’t know why the movie-makers put that in here because it really does undermine all their “free will” warbling. Patty’s execution happens in the morning, it seems, and the Christians in the room ask her to explain how she got in prison. The movie will apparently be her flashback.
We learn that four years have passed since the Rapture. We also learn that this movie is gonna use that Monty Python movie LOTS and that it’s based on a 1975 book called Biography of a Great Planet that is apparently about the end of the world (and in the flashback we’ll see Jenny reading from it to Patty). They interview a pastor called “Alan Reed” at the beginning and I am 100% sure he’s really a pastor and is really that crazypants. The “special thanks” screen lists a number of interesting names that I’ll revisit later–one is Leon Bates, who created the Rapture diagram they’re working off of in a sermon about the Rapture to Patty’s church where the nice Christian pastor holds forth. That exact diagram appears on this movie as well as the tract from that link. (I am 110% sure that he’s also the guy in the sermon at the 15-minute mark in this movie, the one laboriously explaining the Four Horsemen and Seven Seals.)
(What was Jenny baking? There’s egg whites and oats–what?)
Patty, Linda, and Sandy (who is also living nearby before the Rapture) prepare to go live at Granny’s farmhouse. Sideburns and Diane from the last movie show up to ask where they’re going and Patty blows them off. YAY SIDEBURNS! He swears that he and Diane would never do anything to hurt Patty, but she doesn’t believe them.
Later, the Jew for Jesus from the beginning shows up at Granny’s farm to join the girls. He instantly converts Linda.
The whole movie appears to be structured around UNITE giving Christians one last chance to take the Mark, and Patty agonizing about whether or not to do it too. The remaining Christians in the present-day sit in pews in a church setting while the UNITE dude reads names, and Patty finally decides to become a TRUE CHRISTIAN™. Blond Dude exults.
My roast smells stupendous already. Guys, if you don’t know about the magic of pre-browning, let me preach it to you now. That’s true. That’s something you can cling to.
This movie is basically a flashback to events that led
Diane Patty here–including how Sandy and Linda got arrested while trying to help a starving man in the park (who is probably who turned them in initially, though it turns out that Diane and Sideburns helped). Patty weeps in the now-time of the movie, as Blond Dude and Sandy are being led away to their fates, about how it “would have been so simple!” to have accepted that evangelist’s exhortations back when she heard that initial Rapture sermon. But now it’s too late, and now the only way she can get to Heaven is to refuse to take the Mark. As she reminisces about that sermon, her name is called along with Linda’s and they go to their fate.
Nothing’s particularly happened yet that is narratively important. The pack of 4 of them are put into white shifts and black blindfolds and escorted out of the church to be executed. They are told to remove their blindfolds, at which time they see the guillotine set up. Sideburns and Diane show up along with Sandy, who’s taken the Mark. Sandy turns out to be a mole–she’s been with UNITE ever since they were captured. Linda is asked to reject her faith; she refuses. The screen goes black to a title card of John 3:16 and the movie ends abruptly right there, so I assume Linda was executed.
Seriously sick of this movie series for setting up tons of female leads who cannot be distinguished except by hairstyle.
What’s Happened So Far: Patty, Linda, and Sandy (a very young woman, mid-teens) leave to go live in Patty’s grandma’s farmhouse, where they take care of Granny’s horses and study the Bible and do puzzles. Eventually they are betrayed by at least three people and captured to be forced to either take the Mark on their hands or foreheads, or else get executed. Linda is executed. Sandy has taken the Mark. Sideburns and Diane turn out to be evil. Only Patty’s left.
Oh, and apparently the filmmakers decided that right-hand Marks were okay because that’s where people have gotten the Mark so far in this movie.
Image of the Beast (1981).
The third movie is Image of the Beast. Taking bets now for fascinating narrative developments.
We open with another title card, this one leading to an A/V desk screen and a really really 80s font for the movie logo like it’s from TRON. I was glad to see familiar names on the cast list at the start. (Jewish Missionary is here too. He’s played by Ty Hardin, whom I’ve never heard of.) The intro credits also tell us that there is “Research Material” here, both from Biography of a Great Planet by Stanley Ellisen, and some contributions from Manfred Kober, a Professor of Theology at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa (ZOMG! Iowa connection again!). The ending title card tells us that the Christian god’s love is so great that it exceeds even his capacity for judgment. (Citation needed?)
The movie takes up right as Linda’s been executed. Her body is taken away by guards as Patty watches in horror. Patty tells Sandy that she’s not even human anymore because she’s taken the Mark. (Also we find out that Linda and Sandy are sisters.) Sandy implores Patty to take the Mark but Patty refuses and is dragged up to the guillotine. We flash back briefly, btw, to Patty working as a checker in the post-UNITE world at a grocery store, checking out a couple (man with pregnant woman) buying a book called Computer Prophecies that is apparently about the Rapture.
And I’m thinking here, okay, a miracle will save her! The clouds gather ominously and everything. The sky goes dark. Sideburns and Diane watch in amazement. Patty asks for the Mark as the earth begins to crack but the guards run away in fear. Patty cries out in terror in the earthquake. The guillotine seems unaffected by the earthquake and darkened sky, but as Patty fights to free herself from it, the blade falls.
Yes, Patty’s been killed. RIP Patty.
Two other women–one in a pre-execution shift and one with a toddler, maybe from the last movie–have hidden themselves, only to be found by a guy pretending to be a UNITE soldier. He’s Christian and hasn’t taken the mark (the lady in the shift smiles at him). They all hide while the darkness continues while the Christian guy flirts with the Shift Lady. The lady with the toddler turns out to be the pregnant lady from the beginning of the movie. Shift Lady gets shot as the trio escapes. Christian Dude checks on her, but he thinks she’s dead.
In the morning, the toddler runs off to find Matthew Turner, who is a preacher who owns a farm. He invites the mom (Kathy) and David Michaels (the Christian Dude) to breakfast. The preacher is probably the Nice Christian dude from the first movie who preached the wrong things and didn’t buy into the Rapture. A big part of this sequel is taken up with Turner explaining his wall-sized Rapture diagram to his guests.
Christian Dude thinks he can make a fake Mark. Kathy isn’t sure about this but he says it’s about survival.
After an extended sermon from the reformed Nice Preacher Matthew Turner featuring the weirdest beastie yet out of any Rapture fantasist, we see bombs and missiles flying.
So basically this movie’s plot runs thusly: Christian Dude David meets and falls for Leslie while helping her and Kathy (and her son Billy) escape UNITE. Leslie is shot while escaping but survives–barely–but is left behind by the rest. David, Kathy, and Billy live with Reverend Turner for a bit. David and Kathy use a calculator to figure out a way to make a fake Mark. Then they are discovered. Kathy is on the run; her son is captured; David is captured; Leslie turns out to be alive and she smooches David before they’re captured. Turner is killed. A giant scorpion does a lot of damage. Billy converts; Leslie and David are executed. As far as we know, Billy is allowed to go free. Also as far as we know, nobody is alive at the end of this except Billy and Sandy. Oh, and we see the Antichrist sitting on top of the Ark of the Covenant with his widdle sockies showing above his shoes, looking for all the world like Veruca Salt in that iconic song “I Want It Now” in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Mr. Captain: “Make sure you note that God is jerking off with the tears of the innocent at the end of this movie.”
Okay, honey. Done.
The Prodigal Planet (1983) (Also: Very Few Thieves in the Night).
The last movie is The Prodigal Planet. I’m losing steam rapidly so we’re going to do that one next Saturday. I’m not expecting much but there is no way I can sit through a two-hour movie tonight. I’m going to toddle off to bed in a minute here and feel confused and weirded out that these movies exist.
The Unseen Bureaucracy of Evil: 1/10 (who knew there was this much paperwork?)
Efficiency of the Antichrist: 2/10
The Hidden Power of Calculators: -8/10 (who knew batteries would be this much of a game-changer?)
Number of Backspaces I Made To Make This Post Coherent: hahah you’re kidding right consider this near infinite
Iowa Connections: also near infinite
Sober Cas: Can’t save you now.