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Holocaust 2000 (1977)

aka …. The Chosen ….. aka Rain of Fire

So in essence what we get here is just one Kirk Douglas thriller (choose your title) that appears to have had three go arounds to score some box office dollars.

With a grinding score from Ennio Morricone and direction from Alberto De Martino, the premise of Holocaust 2000 borrows heavily from the success of 1976’s The Omen and if were not for the participation of the legendary cleft chinned Douglas, it might not be anything more than a lost film of the 70’s. But with Kirk on board it will always have a home here at Mike’s Take and to be truthful I find it a far better film than it’s reputation after this long overdue revisit. Even if it can’t compare to the Peck/Remick flick that pretty much put a stop to expectant parents naming their newborn sons Damien.

Douglas is a big business tycoon looking to create a gigantic nuclear plant in the middle east. As he’s leveling the ground that it’s to be constructed on he finds an ancient text on the walls of a cave. The spelling is close to JESUS but the J is slightly off. Thankfully the young and beautiful Agostina Belli is on hand as a news reporter to explain to Kirk the meaning of the phrase and to share with him the apocalyptic prophecy it harkens to. And so Kirk’s nightmare begins.

Against all obstacles, Kirk, wants his career defining power plant built. This includes an attempt on his life from an assassin that unfortunately results in the death of his wife, Virginia McKenna, just as she was about to pull rank as the senior company stakes holder and put an end to the nuclear plant’s production.

Kirk has an adult son played by Simon Ward who along with Douglas wants to see the project completed. The father and son team will have many more obstacles in front of them that will continue to be removed through violent “accidents.”

A decapitation removes a political figure opposed to the building. A drowning of a scientist who sees disaster ahead, a close friend of Kirk’s who makes a startling discovery finds himself in a bloody mess. All of which have Kirk starting to wonder about that prophecy which has been foretold.

Two key plot points. He’ll seek at the advice of a priest played by Romoli Valli who believes the Anti-Christ is upon them while at the same time he’ll fall in love with the much younger Miss Belli. This gives a star of Kirk’s stature the opportunity for a bedroom scene and some heavy petting. Nudity included.

Speaking of nudity, I know Kirk has flashed his backside on occasion but I hadn’t recalled the full frontal he does here in a nightmare scene that sees him running bare assed naked towards the camera and beyond. The whole nightmare sequence could be considered just that. A nightmare of technical proportions. It’s hit and miss with the cheap looking F/X but then I had to stop and ponder if that’s just what the filmmaker intended them to come off looking like. Dreams are weird afterall.

So if Kirk is to buy into the Anti-Christ theory then just who is the Devil’s spawn? Could it be the unborn child that Belli now carries? After all, Father Valli, claims it will be a second son. But then we all know the truth as does Kirk deep down inside. Ward was one of two sons born to Douglas 33 years ago. One died at childbirth. Yes I did say 33 years ago for those “in the know.”

Before admitting the truth to himself and to Father Valli, the film’s one truly terrifying scene is when Kirk fools Belli into a checkup with the Doctor to see how the pregnancy is progressing. It’s a scene beneath Douglas’ dignity (I know he’s just an actor). He’s driven her to an office where Geoffrey Keen awaits her to perform an abortion against her will. Thankfully she’ll fight off her “attackers” and fade into the traffic outside the building.

It’s at this point Kirk will come to his senses and confess to the Priest that it’s Ward who is the demon that needs to be stopped. No daggers to slay the beast from a man named Bugenhagen are to found so how is Kirk going to defeat the evil minded Ward and save humanity?

I’m not saying but then it might depend in which version of the film you watch. There are two very different endings involved here with one of them clearly added on by American International who picked up the film for North American distribution minus the co-operation of Kirk Douglas under The Chosen title.

While there’s no way this film is going to come off favorably if we compare it to The Omen, I must say it ends with a thud. I mean seriously, who came up with the Holocaust 2000 ending thinking movie goers were going to be satisfied with the film’s fadeout? At least AIP tried to give it some closure.

While watching the film I kept coming up with the phrase, “Classy but trashy.” That’s what the overall production felt like to me. An obvious ripoff making it an exploitation film of the trashy type yet it’s got a Hollywood Icon playing lead and the production values are strong minus that dream sequence depending on how you viewed it.

Having read Kirk Douglas’ autobiography The Ragman’s Son when it was first released ages ago, I go back to it on occasion for specific details and comments he may share on any given title. Unless I’m mistaken this made in England production is totally stricken from the Kirk Douglas story. He makes no mention of it that I could find.

At this point in his career, Kirk, was still busy and acting in various genres. Thrillers like this and De Palma’s The Fury, a TV miniseries called The Moneychangers, a superior western he directed titled Posse, poking fun at himself in The Villain, and turning to sci-fi AND Farrah Fawcett for Saturn 3. He would of course remain busy for years to come and would famously outlive most if not all of his contemporaries.

Along with Kirk and Simon Ward, film buffs will point out Adolfo Celi, Anthony Quayle and Alexander Knox. All are costarring and warning Kirk of impending doom. Knox had actually worked with Kirk previously on the popular 1958 blockbuster, The Vikings.

If it weren’t for Kirk Douglas starring, I’d probably admit to never watching this film again but as I’m a fan of the legendary actor who can really do no wrong on screen in my eyes (Scalawag I’d have to see again to be positive), I’m sure I’ll revisit this one again in years to come.

Kirk Douglas movie poster? I’ll take one please.

7 Comments »

  1. Oh my gosh!
    Someone actually remembers this movie!

    This will run counter to some sentiments you expressed Mikey but I will come right out and say this film stands proudly amongst my TOP TEN ALL-TIME FILMS list. That must seem incredible to you given some of the misgivings you expressed but I have always LOVED this film and Kirk’s performance in it. I also used to own a copy of Kirk’s autobiography many moons ago.

    For the record I also loved all three omen films (though not the pointless 2005 remake).

    If anyone knows where to purchase a DVD copy of HOLOCAUST 2000 could you let me know ’cause I’ve been trying for years without success and the NEVER EVER show this film on television.

    The clip shows one of the many ‘accidents’ you mentioned.
    In real life back in the 80’s something very close to this happened to a famous golfer (try Googling the name ‘JACK NEWTON’) down here in Australia. He lost an arm and an eye in the terrible mishap.

    • That clip looks so much like a scene from Romero’s Dawn of the Dead one almost has to assume they borrowed it. I too am a big fan of the Omen trilogy. Scream Factory released the blu ray under The Chosen title but what’s funny is the print is titled Holocaust 2000. Also includes the AIP version under The Chosen title as a bonus feature. That’s a terrible thing and I believe a similar accident happened to long time director Boris Sagal The Omega Man among his many features. Father of Katey Sagal.

  2. I’d never heard of Holocaust 2000, and wondered how Kirk Douglas had made a ’70s film I hadn’t heard of…oh wait, there it is…The Chosen! And I do like that helicopter moment…a pretty realistic effect for 1977. And it’s odd that Kirk made just one memorable or noteworthy theatrical release in the ’70 (in my eyes anyway…The Fury), but had a quite a few in the ’80s.

    • I think Kirk was in limbo a bit in the 70’s though Posse is an underrated western. It took the 80’s and his incredible age and home video allowing my age bracket to see Spartacus to turn him into a true legend of Hollywood along with his writing career.

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