A Day of Judgement 1981 Review
A Day of Judgement 1981
Directed by: Charles Reynolds
Starring: William Hicks, Harris Bloodworth, Susan Bloodworth
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
This is not just an update, but a complete rewrite of my 2004 review of A Day of Judgement, which is still online. I found out some more information about the production of the picture that I have included here. Enjoy…
A Day of Judgement tells the tale of a small Southern town in the 1920s during the Great Depression, where the local church congregation has been reduced to three elderly pensioners. Father Cage blames himself for the lack of attendance and the townsfolk’s unethical attitudes toward the Ten Commandments. Unable to come to terms with the fact that the villagers would rather live in sin than hear his weekly sermons, the priest packs his horse and cart and heads for the city. On his way out of town, he passes a cloaked figure shouldering a scythe and realises that it’s too late for him to save the sinners from a gory punishment.
Around the 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, I watched an intriguing documentary that claims that the decaying wreck at the bottom of the North Atlantic is actually her sister, the RMS Olympic. It demonstrated a pretty convincing case to say that the ships were ‘switched’ in a major insurance fraud that went drastically wrong. History shows that the RMS Olympic was a very unlucky vessel after her maiden voyage and that she had an alarming amount of bumps and scrapes in a very short space of time. The worst of those was when the HMS Hawke, a British warship, ploughed into the side of her; an accident that it was rumoured she may never recover from. To make matters worse, the collision was considered to be the RMS Olympic’s fault, so she got no Insurance payout to help towards the large costs of her repairs.
This resulted in a sink or swim (literally) situation for, White Star Line, her and Titanic’s parent company, and it was even said that the Olympic may never pass another board of trade inspection test. There’s no doubt that this is why creative imaginations have found a plausible motive for ‘the switch’: Drown the Olympic in the North Atlantic under the name of her identical sibling and then claim the insurance funds. It sounds far fetched, but who knows…?
Like all good conspiracies, there’s some evidence that backs up these claims and the more I watched of the documentary, the more I began to believe that it could be true. The fact that the letters MP are clearly visible engraved into the hull under the missing characters of the (riveted on top) nameplate TITANIC does speak a thousand words. Such stories are great junk food for the mind and always interesting to read about, but one of the things that really caught my attention, was the fact that JP Morgan, the millionaire banker who had recently purchased White Star Line, claimed ill health and pulled out of the journey just before it set sail. Most of his friends that were due to join the ride also had second thoughts, which is something of an amazing coincidence. Did they perhaps know something that the rest of the passengers didn’t? Or was it an unbelievably fortunate change of plan at the last minute?
Personally, I hate it when plans get changed – most definitely at the last minute – and even if with JP Morgan the alteration saved his life, it’s usually always a bad idea. When this particular film was produced, there was also some strategy switching going on, but unlike what happened with Señor Morgan, I can’t find any logic at all in these choices…
You see, A Day of Judgement began life as a religious drama of the type that were popular on the church circuit in rural America around that time. Director Charles Reynolds was hired to manage the shoot and he did so as per the original script, which included no horror. When he had completed his work, he picked up his paycheque and left to move on to other projects. It was then that one of the financiers got cold feet and thought that the best thing to do was to chuck in a silhouetted killer and market it to the buzzing slasher crowd. They hired someone else to film some additional footage and then sewed it all together like a colour clashing patchwork.
So what we are left with is a bit of a Godfrey Ho. You know Mr Ho, right? I have written about him before in my review of Delirium. He was the master of taking a half finished feature and chucking in outrageous Ninjas in the hope that it might make a profit. He was completely right with that assumption, because they usually always did. Judgement on the other hand snoozes along over its ghastly 101 minute runtime, showing us the town’s residents ‘sinning’ and trying their hardest to look like they’re interested in the lacklustre dialogue, whilst the original church morality plot moves along at the pace of a snail crossing a drawbridge backwards.
The story is populated by an incredibly unappealing group of characters, which includes a greedy bank manager played by William T. Hicks, who true slasher fans may recognise as the lard-ass sheriff from Death Screams. Along with him, we meet a mechanic who wants to send his parents to an old people’s home so that he can use their house for his rendezvous with various females of the species. Then we get to witness the carrying ons of an
adulterous wife and her lover, an elderly grump and a paranoid loaner that believes that his ex has cheated on him. Or something like that. Please excuse any slight inaccuracies, but by this point I was using the ‘matchstick between eyelids’ technique as a weak attempt at staying awake.
Each of the players got twenty or so minutes to show why they should be punished by the grim reaper, before he turns up and *briefly* puts the struggling actors out of their misery in various boring ways. The ‘horror’ after shots that were hastily bolted on lasted for thirty-seconds tops and I counted one hokey decapitation before the matchsticks snapped under the weight of desperation of my eyelids to finally go to sleep.
One thing that did interest me was the use of period costumes, horses, carts and automobiles. These ingredients must’ve eaten heavily into the budget and it’s inexplicable as to why they didn’t utilise those funds on a stronger cast selection. Most of these guys were EO Corp regulars who were little more than ambitious locals. Their lack of experience did cause one or two inadvertently amusing ‘bad movie scenes’ that brightened things up a tad. I especially liked the part when one of the bunnies boogied to some period pop, blissfully unaware of how ‘unfortunate’ that she looked. Sadly, even if it had been Katy Perry belly-dancing in a see-through Arsenal football kit, I still don’t think it could’ve saved this one for me. Whether it be the Titanic or her sister laying in a sorry state two-miles under the surface upon the seabed, this film is in an almost identical condition. Ruined. Unsalvageable. Kaput.
Unless you are a sadist and enjoy boredom as a form of torture, there is very little here for you to bother with. Oh and by the way, the ‘day of judgement’ takes place over a week or more. If you have taken a caffeine overdose and *still* can’t get to sleep, then and only then would this be ideal…
Killer Guise √√