Cataclysm is a 1980 American horror film directed by Phillip Marshak (here spelling his Christian name with only one ‘l’), also known for Dracula Sucks. The movie stars Cameron Mitchell, Marc Lawrence and Richard Moll.
The film has many of the hallmarks seen in low budget American cinema of the period, scant on quality and script but featuring at least one recognisable actor to help sell the film. Such is the fractured nature of Cataclysm that a brutally edited version appeared as just one of the segments of the Night Train to Terror (1985) anthology, also the work of Marshak.
Author James Hanson (an alarmingly coiffured Richard Moll, also in Evilspeak and House) has written a book firmly nailing his personal views – God does not exist: ‘God is Dead’. Less than supportive is his shrewish, Catholic wife, Claire (Faith Clift, ironically from another train-based horror film, Horror Express) who acts atrociously and moans ineffectively throughout the film.
Elsewhere, Lieutenant Stern (the hard-to-avoid Cameron Mitchell, also in Blood and Black Lace, The Toolbox Murders) reluctantly agrees to help his friend Mr. Weiss (Marc Lawrence whose packed career stretches from the early 1930s via Pigs until From Dusk ‘Til Dawn), an aged Holocaust survivor, now hunting Nazis, who is sure he’s spotted one of his Third Reich persecutors from the Second World War recently, not having changed a bit. Indeed, the chap in question, Olivier (Robert Bristol), has been around for centuries… as he’s the Devil!
Odd then, that much of the action takes place in a disco – a filmic version of what a disco is/was – modest sound levels, people going crazy for clearly rotten songs, everyone getting a good six feet of space to dance in. Anyway, a disco is where Olivier sees fit to run his operation, a surprisingly low-scale affair that sees him sat on a grand chair surrounded by lovelies – not at all threatening.
This is at odds with Lt. Stern who along with Weiss actually spend some time acting. Like much of the film, the two worlds don’t marry together at all well but despite the almost universal derision for the film, all the elements are individually quite intriguing, perhaps because, for a movie of such small financial backing, the ideas are quite grand, whilst mixing in the very real atrocities of the Third Reich.
The killings, which are few, are mostly referred to than seen, the idea of someone having their face ripped off is far more ghoulish than the effects we are left with – admittedly brief flashes and popping eyes and the synthesised throbs which accompanying them are effective enough but, again, more fitting in an entirely different film. Little in the film makes much sense, plot-wise; a stalking monk regularly walks onto set, though serves no meaningful purpose; the coupling of a devout Catholic and an atheist husband may be a good device but adds no credibility; the film’s Devil is one of the most ineffective threats in any film (though clippings of him in a variety of historical massacres is a nice touch which would have worked well if developed further).
The frantic end to the film rather leaves you with a satisfying taste in the mouth that is in truth little deserved. It is fascinating though overall badly acted, shot and most especially edited. This messy film can best be exemplified by the fact that the rotten camera and editorial work is by Bruce Markoe, now one of the post-production editors on the current wave of Marvel superhero movies and the script is by Philip Yordan, famous for the screenplays of films such as El Cid and Battle of the Bulge. There’s probably a decent film in this mess somewhere but the delivery is bafflingly incoherent.
Daz Lawrence, MOVIES and MANIA
The Nightmare Never Ends