9 July 2017 | Davian_X
Decent Christsploitation comedy
One of a spate of films produced by Mark IV Pictures throughout the '70s and '80s for direct distribution to churches, WHITCOMB'S WAR marks a departure from the company's better known apocalyptic fare like A THIEF IN THE NIGHT and IMAGE OF THE BEAST. A fairly minor production, it's a comedy as opposed to the usual action/drama, but still offers enough regional charm to be of interest to secular audiences in addition to its target demo.
The plot finds pastor Whitcomb having just graduated from seminary and ready to take up preaching at a church in the small town of Hurrah, Iowa. Viewed as weak and easily corruptible by Satan (embodied solely via calls from a red telephone that shoots fire from its earpiece), Whitcomb is assigned a trio of bumbling demons who set out to sew discord through Phil Esteen (har har), a businessman who serves as mouthpiece and earthly conduit for their demonic influence. Due to a narratively convenient electrical shortage (don't ask), Esteen has shifted the workweek from Monday- Friday to Wednesday-Sunday, forcing the townsfolk to miss church if they hope to keep their jobs (Esteen's factory being, apparently, the only game in town). Can Whitcomb outsmart the bungling demons and melt the heart of the dour old industrialist?
Given its target audience, the answer shouldn't be much of a mystery. Indeed, WHITCOMB is as bluntly didactic as one might expect, with its atheist antagonist not merely portrayed as a steadfast non-believer but also a sneering jerk with an intellectual superiority complex. Given that it's basically a filmed parable, WHITCOMB unsurprisingly isn't interested in exploring anything beyond facile dime-store psychology as the reason behind its antagonist's – and, by extension, all atheists' – lack of faith. What secular audiences may appreciate, though, is the film's aw- shucks, let's-put-on-a-show charm, which trades in all the hoary comic relief and small-town shenanigans one might expect. Naturally, acting runs the gamut from fairly polished to creakingly wooden, but overall the cast acquits itself well and the principles largely hold their own. The film also demonstrates a surprising technical finesse that includes several impressive tracking shots and lighting setups. While it surely isn't going to win any converts, those with a taste for outré regional productions could do a lot worse than WHITCOMB. It made for a decent hour's entertainment and served as fine B-movie penance for this film fan's far more unsavory regular viewing.