The ad line for SALVATION! screams “Sex, Power and Money! All in the name of God.” This hilarious 80’s romp pokes fun at televangelists and features new wave sensations New Order on the soundtrack along with fellow greats Cabaret Voltaire. This movie also gives Lord of the Rings star Viggo Mortensen an early starring role as an out-of-work motorcycle freak trying to make his newly born-again wife happy while getting his bills paid at the same time.
Mortensen and his buddies team up to trap a crooked televangelist into giving the wife her shot at singing on the televangelist’s nationwide television show, but things don’t quite go as planned. The film goes haywire as the corrupt preacher and Mortensen become an unlikely team. The whole thing turns into a business deal/blackmail scheme as New Order blasts away on the soundtrack.
SALVATION! is an all-star lineup of 80’s names: Exene Cervenka from the California punkabilly group X, Stephen McHattie and Mortensen do fairly well in a movie that otherwise would be reduced to drive-in movie status. Thanks to a solid performance by McHattie as the corrupt preacher, the film has an excellent cult/midnight movie appeal. There are some excellent moments of real menace in SALVATION, including a scene where the preacher may or may not have killed a woman sent to seduce him as part of the blackmail scheme.
This movie has great, imaginative visuals. Director Beth B gives this 80s outing candy- colored artistic moments, including images of an imposing neon cross; there’s also a fantastic scene of the preacher rehearsing what’s supposed to be an improvised speech about sin. While he tries to polish the sermon, all about the evils of America’s sinful society, he is leering at a collage of pornographic slides. Best of all, the ‘sermon’ is nothing more than a string of unimaginative clichÃ?Â©s and trite one-liners. This film was shot many years before televangelist Jimmy Swaggart’s tearful confession on national television, so the film is eerily prophetic in places.
Salvation is not Oscar-winning moviemaking, but it’s one of the better examples of low-budget 80s cinema. It would play well on a double bill with Roger Corman’s Suburbia, Penelope Spheeris’s Decline and Fall of Western Civilization or even her later Wayne’s World. Beth B also directed the films Two Small Bodies, Visiting Desire, and Breath In Breathe Out.
Fans of SALVATION will also want to check out Dabney Coleman and Paul Cooper in PRAY TV, a similarly themed satire of television religion. PRAY TY features Devo as “Dove, the band of love” in a rare film appearance. Two years later Devo went on to film the wonderfully incomprehensible HUMAN HIGHWAY with Neil Young.