The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

R | 98 mins | Drama | 5 February 1988

Director:

Wes Craven

Cinematographer:

John Lindley

Editor:

Glenn Farr

Production Designer:

David Nichols

Production Company:

Keith Barish Prods.
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HISTORY

The film opens with a written prologue: “In the legends of voodoo the Serpent is a symbol of Earth. The Rainbow is a symbol of Heaven. Between the two, all creatures must live and die. But because he has a soul man can be trapped in a terrible place where death is only the beginning. The following is inspired by a true story.” The following statement appears before end credits: “The zombie powder and its active ingredient Tetrodotoxin, is currently under intensive scientific study both in Europe and the United States. To this date the process by which is works remains a mystery.”
       Throughout the film, actor Bill Pullman provides voice-over narration in the role of “Dennis Alan.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, principal photography began on 9 Mar 1987 in Haiti. As reported in a 3 Feb 1988 LAT article, producers requested blessings from “several respected voodoo leaders” in Haiti for protection during filming. However, during production, approximately two thousand Haitian extras demanded a raise in pay and threatened the crew, and filming was moved to the Dominican Republic. After leaving Haiti, the 10 Feb 1988 Var noted the picture ran into more issues, such as production being halted over the Easter holiday weekend, and a lawsuit filed by a Dominican production assistant for higher wages. As noted in productions notes, filming was completed on 12 May 1987.
       An article in the 24 Jan 1988 LAT reported that when filming wrapped, the picture’s budget was $10 million. However, after three unsuccessful preview screenings, distributor Universal Pictures ... More Less

The film opens with a written prologue: “In the legends of voodoo the Serpent is a symbol of Earth. The Rainbow is a symbol of Heaven. Between the two, all creatures must live and die. But because he has a soul man can be trapped in a terrible place where death is only the beginning. The following is inspired by a true story.” The following statement appears before end credits: “The zombie powder and its active ingredient Tetrodotoxin, is currently under intensive scientific study both in Europe and the United States. To this date the process by which is works remains a mystery.”
       Throughout the film, actor Bill Pullman provides voice-over narration in the role of “Dennis Alan.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, principal photography began on 9 Mar 1987 in Haiti. As reported in a 3 Feb 1988 LAT article, producers requested blessings from “several respected voodoo leaders” in Haiti for protection during filming. However, during production, approximately two thousand Haitian extras demanded a raise in pay and threatened the crew, and filming was moved to the Dominican Republic. After leaving Haiti, the 10 Feb 1988 Var noted the picture ran into more issues, such as production being halted over the Easter holiday weekend, and a lawsuit filed by a Dominican production assistant for higher wages. As noted in productions notes, filming was completed on 12 May 1987.
       An article in the 24 Jan 1988 LAT reported that when filming wrapped, the picture’s budget was $10 million. However, after three unsuccessful preview screenings, distributor Universal Pictures provided filmmakers an additional $5 million to do a “massive recut,” including a new ending, a new musical score, and inserting narration.
       A 15 Jul 1987 HR brief and a 1 Oct 1987 Exhibitor Relations Co., Inc. notice announced the film’s planned release would be Jan 1988.
       However, the picture had its premiere screening on 3 Feb 1988 at the Cineplex Odeon in Los Angeles, CA, as noted in a 3 Feb 1988 LAHExam item. After the film’s 5 Feb 1988 release on 1,430 screens, the 9 Feb 1988 LAT reported that the film brought in a weekend box-office gross of $5.8 million. Nearly a year later, an article in the 5 Jan 1989 LAT reported that the picture earned approximately $20 million while in theaters.
       Reviews in the 2 Feb 1988 HR and 3 Feb 1988 DV listed the film’s duration as 98 minutes, while the 5 Feb 1988 NYT review stated 105 minutes. The print viewed for this record was 98 minutes.
       According to a revised draft screenplay dated 9 Dec 1986 in AMPAS library files, writer Adam Rodman is credited, with Richard Maxwell, with the film story. However, as reported in a 14 Nov 1993 NYT article, Rodman “had his credit altered to read A. R. Simoun, a play on an Arabic word for a hot wind that blows no good,” because his screenplay draft had been “very rewritten.”
       End credits state “Special Thanks To” the following: “Haiti: Patricia Convery - Janicon Enterprises S.A., Walter and Marie-Christine Bussenius - Hotel Mont Joli, Leslie Delatour - Minister of Finance of Haiti, Dr. Larmarque Douyon, Guy Mallory, Haitian-American Institute; Dominican Republic: Fernando A. Rainieri - Minister of Tourism, Maximo Rodriguez - Cine Accion S.A., Inova Marte De Berges - Film Liaison, J. Armando Bermudez & Co. C. por A., Headrick, Rizik, Alvarez & Fernandez, Dr. Rafael A. Subervi - Mayor of Santo Domingo, Señora Carmen Contreras De Ricart - Gov. of San Pedro, Don Moncito Baez - Director, Comision de Monumentos, Dr. Joaquin Mordan - Director, Escuela de Bellas Artes, Carl T. H. George Hospital, Banco de Reservas, Banco de Cambio Vimenca, Victor Virgilio Mendez Saba, Nelida Rodriguez, Mr. & Mrs. Victor Mendez Capellan, Federico Salomon; U.S.A.: Richard Schultes, Wynn Cochran, Pan American Airlines, Marc Schwabb, Massachusetts Film Bureau, APA International Air, Ricoh Cameras, Unisys Computers, Michael J. Owren, Frank Viviano, Martha Cronin, Dennis Gassner.” End credits also state: “Upon returning from the Amazon, Wade Davis, a Harvard trained ethnobotanist and anthropologist, spent two years learning the magic of Haitian secret societies and the meaning of zombification. He returned to the United States with rare powders which are currently under study in the United States and Switzerland. Except for these facts, the persons and events portrayed in this motion picture are entirely fictitious and no similarity to actual events or persons, living or dead, is intended or should be inferred.”
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
3 Feb 1988
p. 3, 20.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1988
p. 3, 80.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 1988.
---
LAHExam
3 Feb 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Jan 1988
Calendar, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
3 Feb 1988
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
5 Feb 1988
Calendar, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
9 Feb 1988
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
5 Jan 1989
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
5 Feb 1988
Section C, p. 3.
New York Times
14 Nov 1993
Section A, p. 20.
Variety
3 Feb 1988
p. 16.
Variety
10 Feb 1988
p. 6, 32.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Lucien's dancers:
Bizango dancers:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Keith Barish presents
A Rob Cohen/David Ladd Production
a film by Wes Craven
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Prod mgr - Dominican Republic
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Addl cam op
Steadicam op
Asst Steadicam op
Stills photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Best boy
General op/Tech
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Grip
Cam and lighting equip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Sketch artist
Sketch artist
Art dept asst
Art dept messenger
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Addl ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Negative matching
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Draftsman
On set dresser
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Dresser
Prop master
Asst prop
Prop person
Const coord
Const foreman
Foreman - Dominican Republic
Const liaison
Scenic patiner
Scenic patiner
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Ward asst
MUSIC
Supv mus ed
Consulting mus ed
Asst mus ed
Scoring mixer
Olatunji tracks mud supv
Mus research
Mus clearances
Spec percussion tracks performed by
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Utility sd
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd eff ed
Dial ed
ADR ed
ADR ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Sd eff rec
Voices of the dead
ADR voice casting
Foley walker
Foley walker
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Dolby consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec mechanical eff
Supv of spec visual eff
Spec eff coord
Spec eft key tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff tech
Spec eff asst
Image Engineering coord
Computer graphics
Opticals
[Spec visual eff & title des]
Visual eff prod, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Dir of photog, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Addl photog, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Tech/Opticals supv, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Prod mgr, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Art prod coord, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Pyrotechnician, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Key grip, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Grip, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Grip, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Cam asst, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Ed asst, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Asst to Mr. Gutierrez, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Anim, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Rotoscope, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Art asst, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Art asst, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Prod asst, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Prod asst, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Prod asst, Colossal Pictures/USFX
Eff opticals
Eff opticals
DANCE
Spec choreog
Choreog
MAKEUP
Spec makeup eff
Spec makeup eff
Key makeup artist
Hairstylist
Makeup tech
Makeup tech
Makeup tech
Makeup tech
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod exec
Dial & dialect consultant
Research anthropologist
Prod consultant
Asst to Mr. Ladd & Mr. Claybourne
Asst to Mr. Craven
Scr supv
Prod coord
Prod auditor
Asst auditor
Asst auditor
Asst auditor
Prod secy
Prod secy
Prod assoc
Prod assoc
Key prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Post prod asst
Post prod asst
Loc casting
Extras casting asst
New York casting asst
Creole dial coach
Loc mgr
Loc coord
Loc asst
Military liaison
Military liaison
Haiti prod liaison
Prod consultant/Cap Haitien
Set doctor
Head animal trainer
Trainer
Trainer
Snake & insect handler
Domestic animal handler
Loc computer support
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Dispatcher
Craft service
Craft service
Craft service
Unit pub
Travel
Prod insurance
Payroll services
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt person
Stunt person
Stunt person
Stunt person
Stunt person
Stunt person
Stunt person
Stunt person
Stunt person
Stunt person
Utility stand-in
Utility stand-in
Utility stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Inspired by the book The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis (New York, 1985).
AUTHOR
SONGS
“Madame Marcel,” performed by Le Roi Coupe Cloue, courtesy of Chancy Records
“Prend Courage,” performed by Ensemble W. Sicot, courtesy of Ansonia Records
“Fiere Haiti,” performed by A. Charles Dessalines, courtesy of ADC Records
+
SONGS
“Madame Marcel,” performed by Le Roi Coupe Cloue, courtesy of Chancy Records
“Prend Courage,” performed by Ensemble W. Sicot, courtesy of Ansonia Records
“Fiere Haiti,” performed by A. Charles Dessalines, courtesy of ADC Records
“Ma Bouya,” performed by Tabou Combo, courtesy of Mini Records
“Llamandote,” performed by A. Charles Dessalines, courtesy of ADC Records
“Sonata No. 14, D major, Presto,” by Domenico Scarlatti, performed by Gita Karasik.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
5 February 1988
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 5 February 1988
Production Date:
9 March - 12 May 1987
Copyright Claimant:
Serpent and the Rainbow Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
17 February 1989
Copyright Number:
PA399310
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Camera and Lenses by Arriflex®
Duration(in mins):
98
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28982
SYNOPSIS

In 1978 Haiti, a doctor pronounces Christophe Durand dead. Christophe’s sister attends his funeral near their village, along with Dargent Peytraud, a captain of Haitian President Duvalier’s secret police, the Tonton Macoutes. However, as the coffin is covered with dirt, Christophe begins to awaken. Seven years later, Harvard University anthropologist Dr. Dennis Alan arrives in the Amazon to obtain an elixir from a shaman. At the shaman’s insistence, Dennis drinks the potion and has a vision of a friendly jaguar. As the jaguar vanishes, Dargent Peytraud appears. Awakening, Dennis finds the shaman missing, and the village deserted. Hiking through the jungle, Dennis sees the jaguar from his vision. Following the animal, he is guided safely out of the jungle. Returning to Boston, Massachusetts, Dennis is invited by his former professor, Earl Schoonbacher, to meet with Dr. Andrew Cassedy of Boston Biocorp. Cassedy and Schoonbacher reveal that Christophe Durand, previously declared dead, has reappeared at a clinic in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as a zombie. Believing an unknown chemical compound that could revolutionize modern medicine has revived Christophe, they ask Dennis to go to Haiti and obtain a sample. Arriving in Haiti, Dennis meets Marielle Duchamp, the doctor and psychiatrist who reported Christophe’s reappearance. Dennis asks to meet Christophe, but he has not returned to the clinic. Marielle brings Dennis to meet Lucien Celine, a well-known vodou priest and political insider. At his nightclub, Lucien refuses to provide any information, but asks Marielle to dance for his guests. As Marielle prepares to perform, Dennis sees Dargent Peytraud, recognizing the man from his vision in the Amazon. ... +


In 1978 Haiti, a doctor pronounces Christophe Durand dead. Christophe’s sister attends his funeral near their village, along with Dargent Peytraud, a captain of Haitian President Duvalier’s secret police, the Tonton Macoutes. However, as the coffin is covered with dirt, Christophe begins to awaken. Seven years later, Harvard University anthropologist Dr. Dennis Alan arrives in the Amazon to obtain an elixir from a shaman. At the shaman’s insistence, Dennis drinks the potion and has a vision of a friendly jaguar. As the jaguar vanishes, Dargent Peytraud appears. Awakening, Dennis finds the shaman missing, and the village deserted. Hiking through the jungle, Dennis sees the jaguar from his vision. Following the animal, he is guided safely out of the jungle. Returning to Boston, Massachusetts, Dennis is invited by his former professor, Earl Schoonbacher, to meet with Dr. Andrew Cassedy of Boston Biocorp. Cassedy and Schoonbacher reveal that Christophe Durand, previously declared dead, has reappeared at a clinic in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as a zombie. Believing an unknown chemical compound that could revolutionize modern medicine has revived Christophe, they ask Dennis to go to Haiti and obtain a sample. Arriving in Haiti, Dennis meets Marielle Duchamp, the doctor and psychiatrist who reported Christophe’s reappearance. Dennis asks to meet Christophe, but he has not returned to the clinic. Marielle brings Dennis to meet Lucien Celine, a well-known vodou priest and political insider. At his nightclub, Lucien refuses to provide any information, but asks Marielle to dance for his guests. As Marielle prepares to perform, Dennis sees Dargent Peytraud, recognizing the man from his vision in the Amazon. Lucien warns that Peytraud claims to be a “bokor,” a dark sorcerer. As Marielle reappears, Lucien informs Dennis that the goddess Erzukie has possessed her. Peytraud watches, and triggers a murderous rage in another dancer. The dancer grabs a sword and lunges at Marielle, but Dennis hits him over the head with a bottle. Later, Marielle and Dennis travel to meet Christophe’s sister and learn that he was last seen in a graveyard. Looking throughout the graveyard, Dennis becomes frustrated and accuses Marielle of lying about Christophe’s zombification. However, Christophe appears, and tells them that the bokor turned him into a zombie by trapping his soul in a jar. When Dennis asks how the bokor did it, Christophe says a powder was absorbed through his skin. Dennis returns to his hotel and finds the walls smeared with the blood of a dead pig and officers of the Tonton Macoutes waiting to pounce. Jumping out a window, Dennis flees to Marielle’s clinic. Seeking Lucien Celine, they ask who makes the zombie powder. Reluctantly, Lucien names Louis Mozart. Finding Mozart, Dennis offers to pay $500 for the powder, but demands a demonstration of its power. Leading Dennis to his workroom, Mozart sprinkles powder on some food, and feeds it to a goat. After the goat passes out, Mozart exclaims that the goat is dead. However, Dennis is skeptical and promises to return the following day to see the goat resurrected. Instead of returning to his hotel, Dennis and Marielle follow a group of pilgrims hiking into the woods. Along the way, Marielle explains that she has been dedicated to the goddess Erzukie since the age of four, and first possessed when she was eight. While asleep, Dennis has a dream that a female corpse in a dress and veil appears. In the morning, martial law is declared throughout the country. In the city, an officer orders Dennis to come with him to Tonton Macoutes headquarters. Meeting with Dargent Peytraud, Dennis declares he is merely a tourist, but Peytraud knows about Christophe and warns Dennis to leave Haiti. Undeterred, Dennis returns Mozart with Marielle. Seeing the goat alive, Mozart presents Dennis with the powder and asks for payment. However, Dennis believes the goat was put into a deep sleep and Mozart is tricking him. As he leaves, Mozart follows and offers to make the real zombie powder for $1,000, with Dennis’s assistance. Leading Dennis and Marielle into a cemetery, Mozart digs up the grave of a dead sorceress to use her bones as an ingredient. Dennis is startled that the corpse wears a white dress and veil. Afterward, Dennis follows Marielle to her house, but they are ambushed by the Tonton Macoutes and Dennis is knocked unconscious. Later, he awakens, naked and strapped to a chair. Dargent Peytraud tells Dennis he was warned to leave. As a means of torture, Peytraud drives a stake through Dennis’s scrotum. Afterward, Dennis is thrown onto the street in front of Marielle’s home. Marielle takes Dennis to a small beach house and nurses him back to health. Three days later, Dennis insists on finishing the zombie powder with Mozart. Dennis takes notes on the items Mozart uses to make the powder, including human bones, a poisonous sea toad, a stinging sea worm, herbs, minerals, and a puffer fish that contains a powerful poison called tetrodotoxin. After mixing everything together, Mozart explains the powder will be complete in three days. When Dennis asks how the powder works, Mozart explains that it must be absorbed through the hands. Returning to the beach house, Dennis dreams he is inside a coffin with Peytraud shoveling dirt from above. However, when he awakens, Dennis finds the decapitated body of Christophe’s sister, placed there by the Tonton Macoutes to frame him and Marielle for murder. Escorted by officers to an underground lair, Peytraud shows Dennis a collection of jars containing souls he has captured using Mozart’s powder, and explains how he sends them to haunt Dennis’s dreams. Peytraud threatens to kill Marielle if Dennis does not leave Haiti. Dennis is placed on an airplane leaving for the United States. Mozart arrives and gives Dennis the finished powder for free. In Boston, Dennis tests the powder on baboons, and learns that it does not kill individuals, but focuses on areas of the brain that deal with vital functions, like heart rate and breathing. Although the effects last for twelve hours, sensory awareness is still fully functional. Dennis and Earl Schoonbacher are invited to the home of Andrew Cassedy and his wife in celebration of Boston Biocorp’s newest pharmaceutical. During dinner, Mrs. Cassedy speaks to Dennis in Dargent Peytraud’s voice. Dennis realizes Peytraud knows that Mozart gave him the powder, and he returns to Haiti. On his arrival, Lucien Celine informs him that Mozart was captured by Peytraud and killed. After arming Dennis with protective charms, Lucien declares that they need to stop Peytraud. However, Peytraud uses one of his trapped souls to kill Lucien. Suddenly, one of Peytraud’s followers throws Mozart’s zombie powder into Dennis’s face. As his body shuts down, Dennis pleads to not be buried. Fully conscious, Dennis sees Peytraud bury his body inside a coffin. As the powder’s effects wear off, Dennis screams for help. Suddenly, Christophe frees Dennis. As he heads to Peytraud’s lair under the Tonton Macoutes station, news reports announce President Duvalier and his family are fleeing the country in the wake of revolution. Finding Peytraud about to kill Marielle, Dennis attacks. As the men fight, Marielle accidentally breaks one of Peytraud’s jars, freeing a trapped soul. Dennis notices Peytraud weaken, and breaks all the jars. The souls attack Peytraud, engulfing him in flames. Afterward, his body vanishes. Dennis and Marielle leave the lair and find Haitian citizens celebrating their freedom from Duvalier’s government. Meanwhile, the souls once trapped by Peytraud float into the air, creating a rainbow. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.