Joe’s Blog

Holocaust 2000 (1977)

June 1, 2009 7:34 am

holocaust 2000 poster

 With Hollywood seemingly on a mission to remake every single film of the past 30 years, it’s nice to remember those more innocent times when smaller nations would shamelessly just rip-off the latest big budget blockbuster with little or no concern for international copyright law.

Whilst the Turkish variants of Star Wars and Superman are now the stuff of post-modern, kitsch legend, the kings of the rip-off were undoubtedly the Italians. usually they would just make a cheap knock off of a hit and stick a ‘2’ on to it’s title, until the lawyers came-a-knocking and they’d have to come up with something a bit more original (Alien 2 aka Contamination, Terminator II), or simply churn out their own variants of popular genres, such as the Dirty Harry riffing Mark the Cop series. Even the spaghetti zombie craze of the late 70s/early 80s was a response to the success of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (titled Zombi in Italy, Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters, was known as Zombi 2 in its homeland… try and keep up).

“Alright, smart arse, what’s that got to do with Holocaust 2000?”, I hear you murmer. Well, perhaps the king of Italian rip-offs is one Alberto De Martino, the man behind Operation Kid Brother (aka OK Connery), Blazing Magnums and The Antichrist. It shouldn’t take long to work out the uncredited ‘inspiration’ behind those films. For it is he who also directed the film under consideration.

Consider the following: American industrialist, played by Hollywood has-been, lives in London; he has a rather odd son; he receives ominous, religious-flavoured warnings about the end of the world; several British character actors die in ridiculously contrived accidents… any of this sound familiar?

OK, one more clue: his son is in fact the son of Ol’ Nick himself!

Yes, it’s Omen 2! Except they couldn’t call it that because 20th Century Fox were already making that, so instead we get the Tesco Value Omen 2, Holocaust 2000.

Kirk Douglas plays Gregory Peck, an American in London, who has married into a rich family business. We’re not quite sure exactly what they do, but currently they are planning a large nuclear energy making machine in an unspecified Middle eastern country, that looks like Tunisia (very popular location at the time), but isn’t.

Just before destroying large swathes of the landscape, Kirk shows a sexy photographer an inscription, “IESUS”, in a cave, that has been there for over 10,000 years. Then blows it up. There’s the suggestion that this is all very ominous, thanks to one of the more barmy Ennio Morriconne soundtracks (much of which sounds like it was rejected from Exorcist 2 for being slightly OTT) , but this pre-credits sequence chucks so much at you in five minutes, that you’re not sure what’s important and what’s not. It is vital to remember how Kirks sexy new reactor will work to create the heat only found at the centre of the sun: “combining atoms and laser beams”. So that’s how it’s done.

Back in London, Kirk holds a banquet for his investors, whilst some anti-nuke interpretive dancers protest outside. Mrs Kirk decides she doesn’t like his project anymore (maybe it’s a bit late for that), and as, technically, it’s her company, there’s nothing he can do about it. Luckily for Kirk one of the protesters (bearing a spooky resemblance to General Zod from Superman 2) has crashed the party simply by putting on a tux and lighting a cigarette. He mumbles something about Kirk being evil and tries to stab him. Kirk’s grown-up creepy son (Angel, groovy name… or is it?) intervenes, only for Mrs Kirk to receive a gloriously gory shivving instead. So Kirk’s back in business.

This pretty much sets the tone for the first half of the film.  An obstacle is put in Kirk’s way, the obstacle is overcome by the intervention of a gory special effect. The best example probably bestowed on the military dictator who takes control of Madeupistan and decides to oppose the building of a giant bomb machine on his doorstep. He falls victim to one of the squishiest beheadings in film history (incidentally, this is far better than the much-loved version in Dawn of the Dead released the following year).

Within about two minutes of Kirk’s wife’s passing, he shacks up with the saucy photographer from earlier. Creepy son seems to positively encourage this. There is a truly jaw-dropping sequence where the two go to Kirk’s country retreat for a weekend of rumpy, which is preceded by a five minute sequence of them cooing over a deer. It’s like a catalogue photospread in movie form, made all the more insane by Morriconne’s music, which sounds like a rejected Emmerdale Farm theme.

holocaust 2000... Jesus!

Kirk says what we’re all thinking

Now things start to get a bit bonkers. There’s really far too much to go into everything, so here’s the edited highlights… A supercomputer testing the failsafe systems keeps churning out the number 2√231 (IESUS backwards in this film’s logic). The design of the reactor bears a ‘strong’ resemblance to the description of the beastie that will destroy the world in the Bible. Anyone who opposes the project meets a swift end (including one that was, believe it or not, ripped off itself in Omen 2). Kirk has a nightmare that spells out all the plot points in BIG BOLD LETTERS in case we haven’t got it yet… and gets his arse out. Yes, Kirk Douglas’ arse. It’s certainly the scariest thing in this film.

Through some exposition that I wasn’t really paying attention to, it transpires that Kirk’s second son is the son of the devil. As his new girlfriend is up the duff, this comes as a bit of a shock, and he spends the next 20 minutes of the film trying to trick her into an abortion. Then he remembers that earlier in the film he’d told his girlfriend that Angel had been born a twin, but his umbilical cord had strangled the other twin and it died at birth, so… DUN DUN DUUUR! Do I need to spell the rest out?

The final, delirious half an hour includes Kirk bashing his wife’s murderer’s head in with a wooden pole, a ward of babies being poisioned by a miopic nurse who keeps vitamin drops and bleach in identical bottles, and one of the most anti-climactic non-endings I’ve ever seen.

(NB: It’s here I should point out the various versions of the film. Apparently in Europe, the film has an open-ended climax where you don’t know what is going to happen re good vs evil. In the States an additional ending was filmed and clumsily tacked on to ensure you know who wins. Details of this ending can be found the imdb message board for the film. Incidentally, many reviews mention Kirk stomping the murderers’ head, but in the version I saw, entitled Rain of Fire, he definitely smashes it with a pole.)

And I still haven’t mentioned the Kubrick-a-like mental institution, where the inmates are bunched together in perspex boxes, the oh-so-subtle religious symbolism, or the terrible sight of actors like Anthony Quayle having to do this kind of nonsense to pay the rent.

What’s perhaps most suprising, apart from Kirk’s arse, is the fact that this was co-financed by a British film company. At the arse-end (pardon the pun) of the 70s there was very little British film industry to speak of, so you can’t help but wonder if they had the kind of money to spend on toss like this, what films they could have been making.

Toss it may be, but it’s entertaining toss if you are so inclined. Kirk gives a very enthusiastic performance, and doesn’t look anywhere near as embarassed as he could be. The set pieces are handled well and it’s rarely dull. It is appallingly written though. Scenes begin and end at arbitrary moments, there are plot holes so big you expect the film to be sucked inside out, and ultimately it makes little sense. Purveyors of bad movies will lap up every bonkers second of it.

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