The Chosen
(a.k.a. Holocaust 2000)

Director: Alberto De Martino
Kirk Douglas, Simon Ward, Agostina Belli

I don't just like to watch movies that are either unknown or well known - I also like to do research about them, finding out what went on during any step of their production. Recently, I came across an interesting behind the scenes story of the movie Monty Python's Life Of Brian. As you probably know, the movie is about a man during the time of Jesus Christ who is mistaken to be the real messiah. But that's not what the Python gang originally intended. When the project first started, it was going to be a more direct attack on what was in the New Testament. But it didn't take long for this angle to be abandoned by the Python gang, because as they studied the Bible for inspiration, they realized that Jesus Christ wasn't someone that could be easily lampooned. "He's not particularly funny, what he's saying isn't mockable, it's very decent stuff," recalled Python member Eric Idle. While I have certainly come across some joking about Jesus Christ in my lifetime, all the same I can see why the Python gang came to their conclusion. Jesus Christ, from all the accounts I have heard, was one fine fella. Sometimes I wonder how he would handle being in this day and age - how would he react to everything from the Internet to modern day organized religion? For that matter, I wonder how he would react to someone like me. I am certainly not a perfect person, and I come from a more advanced time period than when he originally did his stuff. After thinking about it for a while, I guess he would be able to handle stuff pretty well, since after all he was the son of God. He may very well use stuff like the Internet to spread his word, and I am sure he would have plenty to say about modern day religions and their practices. If he ever had enough time to speak to me personally, I would definitely listen to whatever he had to say.

Whether thinking about Jesus Christ and his actions about two thousand years ago, or imagining what he would do in this day and age, he is an interesting figure to think about. I take the time to think about him time to time as both a mental exercise and to prepare for The Second Coming. But when it comes to The Second Coming, I also spend time thinking about someone else who is supposed to appear around that time - the Antichrist. No doubt you heard about this figure who is supposed to eventually arrive, and personally when my thoughts travel towards this subject, I am simultaneously unnerved and fascinated. Certainly, all the prophecies that I have heard about the Antichrist do make the case that he will be both a clever and very dangerous person that will threaten to wipe out all of humanity. But at the same time, a lot of questions about him fill my mind that quite frankly confuse me no matter how long I take to ponder the idea of the Antichrist. For one thing, the Bible makes the claim that the Antichrist will eventually be defeated - so with that in mind, why would an Antichrist even try to make his efforts when in the end he'll get nowhere with them? And since the Bible has taught humanity for thousands of years what the Antichrist will do to try and take power, wouldn't it then be hard for him to hide his ulterior motives when trying to seize power over humanity? Also, the Antichrist will be under the control of Satan, who has long hated humanity. With that in mind, why wouldn't Satan use his powers instead to make Satanism more appealing, so that he could steal away worshippers from God, his long time enemy?

As you can see from all of those questions about the Antichrist that I wrote in the previous paragraph, I have devoted a lot of though on the subject. Though when I have tried to do research on anything devoted to religion, I have usually been disappointed and unsatisfied by the answers I have uncovered, like the time I patiently read a full article titled, Where Did God Come From? ("He The Chosenwas always there!" the article eventually said.) But getting back specifically to the Antichrist, my efforts to understand the concept have had me resort to the world of motion picture filmmaking for some answers, but I've had little success there. For example, the 1976 The Omen didn't explore the depicted Antichrist figure very well despite all the events of the movie centering around him, and I found it quite boring. But I seem to be in the minority there, because the movie was a huge hit, and it inspired many rip-offs, with the Italian The Chosen being one of them. Now, I wasn't expecting any answers to my Antichrist questions with this film... but since the movie had Italian involvement, I figured that it may at least have some down to earth exploitation to make it entertaining. Hollywood star Kirk Douglas (Scalawag) plays an American/British industrialist named Robert Caine, who at the start of the movie has big plans to build a massive nuclear power plant in Israel near a cave considered extremely holy. This, of course, generates a huge amount of protest and efforts to quash the project by various people, including his wife Eve (Virginia McKenna, Born Free), leading up to an assassination attempt on Caine that does not kill him, but does kill Eve. But Caine continues on with the project with the help of his son Angel (Ward, Supergirl), but then a string of deadly accidents and mysterious occurrences soon have Caine convinced that not only is his son Angel the Antichrist, Angel plans to use the completed nuclear power plant to bring around the destruction of the world. Although Caine has allies with people such as the project's director (Anthony Quayle, Murder By Decree), it might not be enough to stop what he thinks Angel is up to.

By the time The Chosen was released to theaters, Kirk Douglas was in his early 60s, and probably because of his advancing age had mostly appeared in foreign movies for the past 6 or so years, including this one. When an acting career for a once prominent actor starts to dry up, often the actor doesn't give as much of a darn for the projects he is able to get. Well, overall in this case Douglas is pretty mediocre. There are times in the movie when he does give it his all, such as a sex scene, and also a lengthy dream sequence where he appears FULL FRONTAL NUDE. And when his character gets opportunities to be extremely expressive, he takes it. However, much of the time Douglas is pretty subdued, but I really wouldn't say that it's his fault. That's because his character has been written to be kind of a mystery, so much so that any actor in the role would have a lot of problems making something from the limited material. We learn almost nothing about his past; his upbringing and how he amassed his fortune and power are barely touched upon. Other details are even more murky. Why, for example, is he so passionate about this nuclear power plant project, especially when it seems almost everybody else is against it? The movie starts when the first stages of the project are being processed, so we never learn how he concluded it was a good idea. Also, his relationships with various individuals often come across as cold and mechanical. At the start of the movie he's having issues with his wife, but we really don't see what they are. His relationship with his son Angel is just as bad; we don't really feel a father/son kind of interaction between the two, so one has to wonder why the two keep meeting up when they don't really have any common ground to both walk upon.

As for the character of Douglas' son Angel, it's even more disappointing. The performance of Simon Ward more often comes across as channelling David Bowie at the prime of his strangest period. He doesn't get a huge amount of dialogue, and what dialogue he does have gives very little insight of what an Antichrist might be thinking. Instead, he comes across as a simple snooty rich brat. When it comes to this character making trouble for others, these scenes fail as well to peep in Angel's mind, mainly because in almost all of these scenes, Angel isn't anywhere nearby. Is he really controlling these "accidents", or is something else a la The Omen? The movie doesn't really try to answer that. For that matter, The Chosen also doesn't make much of an effort in other aspects of the horror sequences. There are a few bloody bits (my favorite being the helicopter scene), but apart from that there's nothing about them to make them really spark. Even the legendary music composer Ennio Morricone can't make an impact on these scenes, or the scenes in the movie that don't involve horror. The reason for that may by that director Alberto De Martino (Strange Shadows In An Empty Room) can't make much of a spark in most parts of the movie. I admit that he does make the movie look almost as slick and expensive as Hollywood movies of the period, with some eye-catching visuals every now and then. On the other hand, there are some really abrupt leaps in time in the narrative, such as one woman pregnant for a short time suddenly is ready to give birth in a few days. The biggest problem with the direction is that the movie is really slow most of the time. There is a lot of dialogue, and we have to patiently wait through the banal chatter before getting to the next scene... which often has more banal chatter.

Come to think about it, that seems to be more of the fault of the screenplay. But a look at the credits reveals that De Martino was also one of The Chosen's screenwriters, so he still must shoulder the blame of making the movie have a fractured narrative and a boring pace. But there's more to criticize about the writing here. I already complained about the movie's main characters, so I will next move on to the fact that the movie often brings up an issue for the characters that ends the scene on a troubling or mysterious note. You would think that the next scene would have the characters dealing with the particular issue, but most of the time the characters simply forget about the issue until much later. For example, when Douglas' character tells his adult son Angel out of the blue that he had a twin brother that died at birth, it's pretty much instantly dismissed. Why it took so long for Douglas to reveal that fact, by the way, is never revealed, and there are a number of other unanswered questions such as why Israel is the decided location for the nuclear plant that will supposedly save the world, why Angel had to read an old newspaper to discover that the Israeli president was recently defeated in an election, or why Douglas' love interest (played by Agostina Belli of The Fifth Cord) decides to drink a glass of champagne right after announcing to Douglas that she is pregnant. The Chosen had money and potential behind it, but there were definitely a lot more liabilities attached to it than helpful things, and it was probably doomed to the start as a result of that. Among all the Italian rip-offs that were released after The Omen was a world-wide hit, this particular one definitely shouldn't be chosen by you to give a look at.

(Posted June 22, 2024)

Check for availability on Amazon (Amazon Prime Video)
Check for availability of Kirk Douglas' autobiography on Amazon (Book)

See also: The Brotherhood Of Satan, The Devil's Tomb, The Doorway