The Rain People Blu-ray Review

2.5 Stars Coppola's early road picture feels aimless.
The Rain People Screenshot

The Rain People is a generation searching for answers that don’t find them in this aimless road picture from a great director.

The Rain People (1969)
Released: 27 Aug 1969
Rated: R
Runtime: 101 min
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Genre: Drama
Cast: James Caan, Shirley Knight, Robert Duvall
Writer(s): Francis Ford Coppola
Plot: When a housewife finds out she is pregnant, she runs out of town looking for freedom to reevaluate her life decisions.
IMDB rating: 6.8
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 42 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 05/07/2024
MSRP: $21.99

The Production: 2.5/5

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rain People explores that generation of 1960’s young adults lost and searching for answers. As the writer and director of the piece, he doesn’t have any answers to give, and while he’s got an able cast and some interesting characters for them to play, the aimless nature of the storytelling and the melancholy tone of the whole enterprise make it one of the lesser lights in the director’s filmography.

Newly pregnant Long Island housewife Natalie Ravenna (Shirley Knight) panics at the thought of becoming a mother with all the responsibilities that entails and bolts from her home in the early morning hours setting out on the road in search of her own identity. Along the way, she gives a ride and later friendship to a brain damaged college football player Jimmy “Killer” Kilgannon (James Caan). In attempting to help him, her path crosses also with a widowed highway patrolman (Robert Duvall) who’s interested in getting closer to the troubled Natalie but who has his hands full with a recalcitrant adolescent (Marya Zimmet) who’s at that stage in life where her father is the last person she’s going to listen to.

Writer-director Francis Ford Coppola craftily plots his fleeing protagonist afraid of the responsibilities of being a wife and mother and plops her directly into situations where she must take motherly care of the brain-damaged Killer and become almost a spousal substitute to the needy policeman Gordon. It’s a dry run for the next eighteen years of her life, and it doesn’t go well. The film’s title is a rather hippy-dippy symbol of people whose tears wipe them off the face of the earth, but it’s a weak metaphor, and the entirety of the narrative has that rather plotless feel as if it’s all being improvised as they go along. A game of “Simon Says,” a small-town parade, a slapstick sequence where Killer lets loose caged creatures at an animal farm, and the climactic face-off between the two men who have come to have meaning for Natalie all play fine on their own but add up to little in the final analysis. Coppola also continually uses flashback inserts throughout the narrative showing us brief memories of the situations the characters are describing (Natalie’s wedding reception and honeymoon, Killer’s last football game where he sustains his brain injury, the fiery ending of Gordon’s troubled marriage) that might have had more impact with their expansion and the deletion of some of the other film events that noodle around the storytelling without getting to the point.

Shirley Knight ably carries the narrative thrust of the tale believably enacting a woman desperately lost and searching for something within herself that will give her the courage to go on with her life (perhaps she finds it by film’s end; the denouement is unsatisfyingly blurry on that front). Coppola has cast two actors who would go on to great fame in his next film The Godfather, and they’re both excellent here, too: James Caan as the mentally challenged Killer Kilgannon and Robert Duvall as the assertive traffic cop Gordon. Both men capture the essences of the people they’re portraying; Caan’s role is longer, and he has more opportunities to endear himself to the viewer. Duvall’s Gordon is a good part for him though the flashback insert we get with him leaves somewhat mixed messages about what he tells us and what we see. We only get to experience tiny bits and pieces of Robert Modica as Natalie’s husband Vinny, but his voice over the phone, a mixture of confusion, outrage, and desperation when he speaks with his runaway wife, makes us long to know more about him and their marriage. Marya Zimmet has a mouth on her as Gordon’s backtalking daughter Rosalie, and Tom Aldredge is a mixture of hilarity and loathsome cunning as Mr. Alfred who takes advantage of the Killer’s guileless nature.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s 1.85:1 original theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The movie has the same softly nostalgic look of many films of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Image quality is as clear and clean as can be, but black levels are nothing to get excited about. The movie has a film-like look with grain levels consistent throughout the presentation. The movie has been divided into 22 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is very reminiscent of small budgeted films of this era. Dialogue has been recorded to sound very natural and realistic, and it’s been mixed with some tunes of the period and Ronald Stein’s background score along with the appropriate sound effects to make a solid mono track. There are no problems with age-related hiss, crackle, pops, or flutter.

Special Features: 0/5

There are no bonus features on the disc, not even a theatrical trailer.

Overall: 2.5/5

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rain People is a small-scale personal project of his, said often to be one of his own personal favorites of his movies. The melancholy sense of lostness and alienation is palpable in the movie, and the performances are affecting, but future films of his will provide the writer-director greater opportunities to demonstrate his gifts as one of the great filmmakers of his generation.

Matt has been reviewing films and television professionally since 1974 and has been a member of Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2007, his reviews now numbering close to three thousand. During those years, he has also been a junior and senior high school English teacher earning numerous entries into Who’s Who Among America’s Educators and spent many years treading the community theater boards as an actor in everything from Agatha Christie mysteries to Stephen Sondheim musicals.

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bujaki

Senior HTF Member
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Jan 1, 2012
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Jose Ortiz-Marrero
My not-yet-wife and I saw The Rain People during its first run and were duly impressed by the whole endeavor.
 

Wayne Klein

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And yet when Terence Malick makes movies that do similar things, we praise him. I think we are looking through the lens of history at the film and who Coppola became not who he was at the time. The same thing can be said for early Hitchcock, Kubrick, Zinnemann, Wilder, Spielberg, etc. most directors don’t come fully formed-they take themes that appeal to them and find their voice, while this isn’t a film Imwould revisit a lot, I think it’s pretty good. It’s representative of the generation at the time. Not all films can provide answers nor are they meant to.
 

DarkVader

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Carlos
I love this film and I consider it one of Shirley Knight's bravest performances on film, the other being 'Dutchman'. She is an extremely underrated actress.
 
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