Back in May 2011, the world was a buzz about the impending rapture predicted by Rev. Harold Camping. “Save the Date” billboards and bumper stickers were posted proclaiming that May 21 was the scheduled end of the world. When the day came and went, Mr. Camping changed his mind. Instead of an earthquake we were to endure, all of mankind was “shaken with fear.”
For the last five months, you may not have known it, but according to Camping, we have been living in period of judgment with the final, FINAL rapture deadline moved to this Friday, October 21. If on your “to do” list, reads:
- 1. Do laundry
- 2. Wash the car
- 3. Get salvation
You missed the deadline.In all seriousness though, many Christians do take the idea of a rapture and second coming seriously, but most are content with the verse that states that “no man knows the day or the hour,” not even Harold Camping. With that in mind, Hollywood has helped spread the word over the years with mixed results.
Apparently, according to Camping, no more reservations have bene taken after May 21. So, go ahead and cancel your plans for this weekend. The weather is bound to be terrible.
Many movies have been made about the rapture by well-meaning Christians. Most try to scare the hell out of you and cause you to turn your life over to the Lord. Many times these have had the opposite effect.
Some will remember the Left Behind series that stared Kirk Cameron. It was inspired by the book series of the same name by Tim LaHaye who is said to be unhappy with the results and is seeking to have the movies remade.
The most recent movie with this theme to came out this year. Jerusalem Countdown is actually quite good. (Click on the link to read my review). But the grand daddy of them all was A Thief in the Night.
While not the first end times film, A Thief in the Night is the most well known. It was released in 1973. Running a mere 69 minutes, the film managed to scare Christian children for years to come and not just because of the bad acting or the wardrobe. It just might be the perfect film to watch on Friday.
Thief is a story about Patty; a young woman who knows the gospel, but ignores it thinking that all one has to do to go to heaven is to just be a good person. Her pastor, Reverend Matthew Turner, preaches that people don’t have to personally give their lives to Jesus to be saved, as the Bible is just an allegory in nature. One day, her husband and millions of others disappear and Patty realizes that she is living in the last days of the Antichrist.
A government system called UNITE (United Nations Imperium of Total Emergency) is set up giving all those “left behind” a special marking. Those who resist receiving the marking are arrested. Patty resists UNITE but ends up cornered on a bridge and falls to her death. Then, she awakens in her bed believing that all that had happened was just a dream. But not so fast – she stumbles out of bed searching for her husband and find his electric shaver still running and left in the sink. She realizes that the dream is starting to come true.
Thief was the brainchild of Russell S. Doughten. While Doughten worked on some secular films, most notably as an uncredited producer and director of 1958’s, The Blob, he is better known for his work with Christian end time films.
Thief was the first in a series of four:
- A Thief in the Night (1972)
- A Distant Thunder (1978)
- Image of the Beast (1980)
- The Prodigal Planet (1983)
Doughten himself appears in all four films as Reverend Matthew Turner, a survivalist who doesn’t completely believe in the Bible. The rest of the cast includes little known actors including Patty Dunning (Patty), Mike Niday, Colleen Niday, Maryann Rachford, Thom Rachford, Duane Coller and Clarence Balmer.
While quite stylized, the quality of the film is very poor. The writing, actor and music make the film painful to watch, but is very much a part of Christian pop culture. It features Larry Norman’s iconic composition, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready," one of the earliest Christian rock his and one of Norman’s best-known releases. Many have become Christians after seeing these films, but is debatable if that the best approach to share the “good news.”
Doughten went on to produce more faith-theme films with happier themes. His last film to date was A Stranger in My Forest in 1988.