The Believers (1987)

R | 114 mins | Horror, Drama | 10 June 1987

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HISTORY

The Believers is based on a 1982 horror novel The Religion by “Nicholas Conde,” a pseudonym used by Robert Stuart Nathan and an unnamed co-author.
       Shortly after the book’s publication, the 1 Jul 1982 HR announced that Keith Barish Productions had purchased film rights. However, nothing came of it.
       By 1984, producer Michael Childers and his partner, Beverly Camhe, held an option on the book and were to produce the film for 20th Century Fox. The 20 Dec 1984 HR reported author Nicholas Conde was writing the script, but television writer Mark Frost ultimately wrote the screenplay, his first theatrical film work. John Schlesinger was set to direct the $10-million film, which was scheduled to begin 1 Sep 1985. However, those plans fell through and Fox put the film into turnaround.
       The 22 Sep 1986 DV reported that when the film’s budget surged to $16 million, Fox dropped the project altogether. Although producers originally planned to film entirely in New York City, they moved the production to Toronto, Canada, where favorable currency exchange rates trimmed the cost to $13 million. Orion Pictures was willing to produce the film for that price and took over the production.
       Principal photography began on 5 Jun 1986 according to the 17 Jun 1986 HR production chart. Exteriors were shot in New York for two weeks, then production moved to Toronto for the remainder of the shoot.
       Schlesinger told the 7 Jun 1987 LAT that his first choice for the lead was Ed Harris, but Harris was committed to a play, so he cast ... More Less

The Believers is based on a 1982 horror novel The Religion by “Nicholas Conde,” a pseudonym used by Robert Stuart Nathan and an unnamed co-author.
       Shortly after the book’s publication, the 1 Jul 1982 HR announced that Keith Barish Productions had purchased film rights. However, nothing came of it.
       By 1984, producer Michael Childers and his partner, Beverly Camhe, held an option on the book and were to produce the film for 20th Century Fox. The 20 Dec 1984 HR reported author Nicholas Conde was writing the script, but television writer Mark Frost ultimately wrote the screenplay, his first theatrical film work. John Schlesinger was set to direct the $10-million film, which was scheduled to begin 1 Sep 1985. However, those plans fell through and Fox put the film into turnaround.
       The 22 Sep 1986 DV reported that when the film’s budget surged to $16 million, Fox dropped the project altogether. Although producers originally planned to film entirely in New York City, they moved the production to Toronto, Canada, where favorable currency exchange rates trimmed the cost to $13 million. Orion Pictures was willing to produce the film for that price and took over the production.
       Principal photography began on 5 Jun 1986 according to the 17 Jun 1986 HR production chart. Exteriors were shot in New York for two weeks, then production moved to Toronto for the remainder of the shoot.
       Schlesinger told the 7 Jun 1987 LAT that his first choice for the lead was Ed Harris, but Harris was committed to a play, so he cast Martin Sheen instead. Sheen told the LAT that he was not especially interested in the occult, but took the film for the chance to work with Schlesinger. Promotional materials in AMPAS library files indicate that after actress Carla Pinza was cast as the housekeeper, “Carmen,” she revealed to producers she was a priest in the Santeria religion, so they gave her the job of “cultural advisor” to make sure they were depicting the religion and its practices correctly.
       The film went through several working titles. Originally, it was The Religion, the 24 May 1985 DV noted, but later changed to The Seven Powers, according to the 12 May 1986 HR. By the time principal photography began, it was The Believers.
       The Believers opened in New York and Los Angeles on 10 Jun 1987, a Wednesday opening, then expanded to 1,534 screens nationwide on 12 June 1987, earning $4.3 million in its first five days of release, the 16 Jun 1987 DV reported. After a month in theaters, the film had grossed $15.8 million, the 7 Jul 1987 DV reported.
       End credits state the following: “Filmed at Magder Studios, Canada and on location in New York and Toronto”; “Special thanks to New York Magazine” ; and, “This film is dedicated to the memory of Bruce Weintraub.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
24 May 1985.
---
Daily Variety
22 Sep 1986
p. 6, 19.
Daily Variety
8 Jun 1987
p. 3, 15.
Daily Variety
16 June 1987.
---
Daily Variety
7 Jul 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jun 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 1987
p. 3, 6.
Los Angeles Times
7 Jun 1987
Calendar, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
10 Jun 1987
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
10 Jun 1987
p. 22.
Variety
10 Jun 1987
p. 11.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An Orion Pictures Release
A John Schlesinger Film
A Beverly Camhe / Michael Childers production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
Prod mgr, New York
2d asst dir, New York
Asst dir, 2d unit New York
Prod mgr, Canada
2d asst dir, Canda
3d asst dir, Canada
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op, New York
1st asst cam, New York
2d asst cam, New York
Gaffer, New York
Best boy, New York
Key grip, New York
Grip, New York
Dolly grip, New York
Stills, New York
Dir of photog, 2d unit New York
Best boy elec, Canada
Elec, Canada
Elec, Canada
Elec, Canada
1st asst cam, Canada
2d asst cam, Canada
Key grip, Canada
Best boy grip, Canada
Stills photog, Canada
Spec stills photog, Canada
Spec stills photog, Canada
Spec stills photog, Canada
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Storyboard artist
Art dir, New York
Art dir, Canada
Scenic artist, Canada
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed, New York
Asst ed, Canada
Asst ed, Canada
SET DECORATORS
Set dec, New York
Prop master, New York
Set dec, Canada
Asst dec, Canada
Set dresser, Canada
Set dresser, Canada
Set dresser, Canada
Set dresser, Canada
Prop master, Canada
Prop master, Canada
Construction mgr studio, Canada
Construction mgr loc, Canada
Head carpenter, Canada
Head carpenter, Canada
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost asst, New York
Asst cost des, Canada
Ward mistress, Canada
Ward asst, Canada
Ward asst, Canada
MUSIC
African mus adv
Mus clearnaces
Mus clearnaces
The Ambrosian Singers cond by
Mus mixer
SOUND
Dubbing mixer
Dial ed
Foley ed
Sd mixer, New York
Boom op, New York
Sd mixer, Canada
Boom op, Canada
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff, New York
Spec eff, Canada
Titles and optical eff
DANCE
MAKEUP
Spec eff makeup
Hairdresser, New York
Makeup, New York
Makeup artist, Canada
Hairdresser, Canada
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Prod coord
Cultural advisor
Police consultant
Insect consultant
Prod accountant
Post prod accountant
Personal asst to Mr. Schlesinger
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod office coord, New York
Loc mgr, New York
Loc mgr, New York
Prod accountant, New York
Prod office asst, New York
Extras casting, New York
Casting, Canada
Casting, Canada
Prod coord, Canada
Loc mgr, Canada
Asst loc mgr, Canada
Extras casting, Canada
Set prod asst, Canada
Asst to Michael Childers, Canada
Prod office asst, Canada
Prod office asst, Canada
Animal trainer, Canada
Asst prod accountant, Canada
Transportation coord, Canada
Driver capt, Canada
Craft service, Canada
Spec animal creations, Canada
Payroll services provided by
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunts
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Religion by Nicholas Conde (New York, 1982).
SONGS
“Mozart Flute Conerto In G,” performed by Auréle Nicolet and the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam, courtesy of Philips Records, a division of Polygram Classics
“Patacón Pisao,” performed by Johnny Ventura, courtesy of Combo Record Productions
“La Finquita,” performed by Conj. Quisqueya, courtesy of Latin American Music Co., Inc./A.C.E.M.L.A.
+
SONGS
“Mozart Flute Conerto In G,” performed by Auréle Nicolet and the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam, courtesy of Philips Records, a division of Polygram Classics
“Patacón Pisao,” performed by Johnny Ventura, courtesy of Combo Record Productions
“La Finquita,” performed by Conj. Quisqueya, courtesy of Latin American Music Co., Inc./A.C.E.M.L.A.
“Canto Asoyin,” performed by Grupo Folklorico, courtesy of Mericana Records
“El Nacimiento De Ramiro,” performed by Rubén Blades, courtesy of Fania Records
“Toro Mata,” performed by Celia Cruz, courtesy of Latin American Music Co., Inc/A.C.E.M.L.A.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Religion
The Seven Powers
Release Date:
10 June 1987
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 10 June 1987
Production Date:
began 5 June 1986
Copyright Claimant:
Orion Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
29 July 1987
Copyright Number:
PA338035
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in selected theatres.
Color
Prints
Color Prints by Deluxe ®
Duration(in mins):
114
Length(in feet):
10,282
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28265
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After his wife is accidently electrocuted by a faulty coffee maker, Minneapolis, Minnesota-based psychologist Cal Jamison moves to New York City with his eight-year-old son, Chris, and obtains a job as a police psychologist. Lieutenant Sean McTaggert calls Cal in to study undercover policeman Tom Lopez, who has been admitted to the psychiatric unit at Bellevue Hospital. Lopez was investigating the disappearance of children in Spanish Harlem, when he had a psychotic breakdown during the investigation of a murder in which a child appeared to have been a religious sacrifice. The child’s body was brutally butchered, but cut with precision, and surrounded by religious paraphernalia. Strapped into a wheelchair, Lopez talks gibberish. He says he passed out, and when he regained consciousness, he found the boy’s body, and fears someone is going to kill him. Later, Lopez attacks an orderly and escapes. McTaggert informs Cal that Lopez practices a religion known as “Santeria.” Originating in Africa, Santeria predates Christianity by over 1,000 years. Slaves brought it to the Caribbean, but when their owners forced Christianity on them, they hid their religion and substituted their gods for Christian saints. Cal visits landlady/handywoman Jessica Halliday, who lives in a brownstone apartment building across the street. They get along well, and when they have sex, it is Cal’s first time since his wife’s death and Jessica’s first since her divorce a year earlier. Later, when young Chris accidently breaks a ceramic pot Jessica gave them as a housewarming gift, they find her earring wrapped in Tom Lopez’s handkerchief, along with other trinkets. Their maid, Carmen Ruiz, who practices Santeria, put the items together in the pot as a way of bringing Cal ... +


After his wife is accidently electrocuted by a faulty coffee maker, Minneapolis, Minnesota-based psychologist Cal Jamison moves to New York City with his eight-year-old son, Chris, and obtains a job as a police psychologist. Lieutenant Sean McTaggert calls Cal in to study undercover policeman Tom Lopez, who has been admitted to the psychiatric unit at Bellevue Hospital. Lopez was investigating the disappearance of children in Spanish Harlem, when he had a psychotic breakdown during the investigation of a murder in which a child appeared to have been a religious sacrifice. The child’s body was brutally butchered, but cut with precision, and surrounded by religious paraphernalia. Strapped into a wheelchair, Lopez talks gibberish. He says he passed out, and when he regained consciousness, he found the boy’s body, and fears someone is going to kill him. Later, Lopez attacks an orderly and escapes. McTaggert informs Cal that Lopez practices a religion known as “Santeria.” Originating in Africa, Santeria predates Christianity by over 1,000 years. Slaves brought it to the Caribbean, but when their owners forced Christianity on them, they hid their religion and substituted their gods for Christian saints. Cal visits landlady/handywoman Jessica Halliday, who lives in a brownstone apartment building across the street. They get along well, and when they have sex, it is Cal’s first time since his wife’s death and Jessica’s first since her divorce a year earlier. Later, when young Chris accidently breaks a ceramic pot Jessica gave them as a housewarming gift, they find her earring wrapped in Tom Lopez’s handkerchief, along with other trinkets. Their maid, Carmen Ruiz, who practices Santeria, put the items together in the pot as a way of bringing Cal and Jessica together. Later, Cal finds religious candles, necklaces, and other items that Carmen put in Chris’s room for protection. Cal throws them out, but later, when Chris is sick with a fever, Carmen chants over his body. After finding more religious trinkets, Cal fires her. A feverish Tom Lopez telephones Cal, asking to meet him at a diner in Spanish Harlem. Arriving at the diner early, Tom orders hot water, mixes herbs in his cup, and drinks the concoction. He becomes ill and stabs himself in the stomach. By the time Cal arrives, Tom is dead. McTaggert and Cal visit a neighborhood youth center in Spanish Harlem to question the director, Oscar Sezine, who has written a book about Santeria. Oscar tells them the center’s doors are open to anyone who is troubled, and reports that Tom Lopez was a volunteer who taught boxing to the children. McTaggert reports that another young boy has been found murdered aboard a river barge in what appears to be a religious sacrifice. Oscar confirms that the boy came to the center, but assures Cal that Santeria is a force for good. He is afraid that society’s misunderstandings about the religion will create problems. Cal takes Jessica to a fundraiser, where he meets Donald Calder, chairman of the board of Oscar Sezine’s youth center. Jessica overhears Calder tell Oscar that he will handle everything connected with the murder investigation. While Jessica is in the restroom, a black man puts powder in her compact, which she later uses to touch up her makeup. A few minutes later, the same man performs a Caribbean ritual dance that puts many guests, including Jessica, into a trance. Cal pushes the man away and rushes Jessica out of the room. Family friends Dennis and Kate Maslow take Chris to their lake house in New Jersey to get him out of harm’s way, and Cal promises to join them on the weekend. McTaggert informs him they are curtailing the investigation because Tom Lopez was the murderer, but Cal believes the policeman was innocent. He asks Oscar Sezine about a seashell necklace his son found, which Carmen had then taken away from him. Oscar insists the necklace is not connected to Santeria, but is rather a part of “Blujeria,” black magic. Oscar tells him that in times of disaster, a tribe would sacrifice three children to ward off the threat. Examining written details of the ritual sacrifice, Cal realizes that they describe how the recent victims were murdered. Oscar performs a special protection ritual for Chris. Jessica develops a pimple in the spot where she touched up her makeup, and it soon develops into a large bruise. She becomes very ill, and Cal takes her to the hospital. When he visits Lt. McTaggert’s apartment, he finds the lieutenant rambling in the same paranoid way as Tom Lopez had done. He shows Cal an eight-year-old autopsy report revealing that Donald Calder killed his young son in a ritual sacrifice. Lt. McTaggert tries to shoot himself, but Cal wrestles the weapon away from him. After Cal leaves, McTaggert takes another gun and shoots himself in the head. Cal gives the autopsy report about Calder’s son to his friend, lawyer Marty Wertheimer, for safekeeping. Marty drives Cal to the Maslows’s lake house. Dennis Maslow tells Cal that while he and Kate were doing fieldwork in the Sudan in 1946, they became friends with members of the local tribe. The area was in the middle of an extreme drought, and when their young son became deathly ill, a tribesman asked the Maslows to sacrifice their son to help end the drought, and they did so. At that moment, Donald Calder and several others enter the room and talk about the power they feel after joining black magic worshippers. Dennis Maslow informs Cal that Chris was chosen to be sacrificed when he found the seashell necklace. They invite Cal to join with them and sacrifice his son, but Cal refuses. He runs upstairs to get Chris, but the boy is not there. Calder and his men drug Cal and take him to a warehouse that has been prepared for the sacrifice. Chris lies on a table, sedated. Cal is given the sacrificial knife, but rather than stab his son, Cal plunges it into Dennis Maslow. Meanwhile, a suspicious Marty Wertheimer follows them to the warehouse and opens fire on Calder’s men. Grabbing the unconscious Chris, Calder dashes away, but Cal stabs him and carries his son to safety. However, the black man from the fundraiser confronts Cal and tries to choke him on a scaffold. Chris takes off his seashell necklace and lures the attacker toward him, causing the man to fall to his death. Cal and Chris run to safety. Later, Cal and Jessica marry, and the family goes on a vacation. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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