Image of the Beast aka A Thief in the Night III aka A Thief in the Night: Image of the Beast aka A Thief in the Night III: Image of the Beast is a 1981 Christian End Times film and the third film in the Thief in the Night film series. It's precluded by A Thief in the Night II: A Distant Thunder and proceeded by A Thief in the Night IV: The Prodigal Planet which concludes the series.
The film picks up where A Distant Thunder left off, directly after Wenda is executed for refusing to take the Mark. Patty Myers is faced with the decision to either accept the Mark or to be publicly decapitated. Asked a final time on her decision, Patty refuses to answer, so the soldiers strap her to the guillotine, lying face-up. As a sudden storm and earthquake occur and everyone begins to flee, Patty screams that she wants the Mark, but no one responds and she is left on the guillotine alone. She screams for help and tries to unstrap herself, but the blade falls on its own and Patty dies.
Nearby, a woman named Kathy and David Michaels have just escaped a government detention center during the earthquake along with Kathy's young son Billy, and another woman named Leslie. The group evades the soldiers of the government, called the United Nations Imperium for Total Emergency (UNITE). Kathy, David, and Billy become separated from Leslie, with whom David reunites later, when a UNITE soldier shoots her below the shoulder, and David leaves her lying on the ground believing her to be dead. The trio eventually meets up with the Rev. Matthew Turner. By this time Rev. Turner's church has been forced to close by the government, and he is living underground as a survivalist.
Kathy and David attempt to use their knowledge of computers to create a counterfeit mark of the Beast which will allow them to move about freely in society; David rationalizes this by saying they are not taking the real mark. Kathy also finds the mark morally questionable, but David convinces her that they have no choice. The counterfeit Mark allows Kathy and David to move about freely through checkpoints where guards are checking people to make sure they have the mark, but when they attempt to use it to buy groceries, the plan falls through.
Meanwhile, the Bible prophecies in the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation, as explained by the Rev. Turner, begin coming to pass. A new world leader is installed who speaks to the world through a computer-generated image broadcast on television. Earthquakes, wildfires, and a nuclear war occur. Eventually, David reunites with Leslie, and they are set up by, of all people, Sandy. Initially frustrated in her attempts to hack the mark, Kathy eventually realizes that the barcode system itself is the source code for the mark.
Unfortunately, Kathy is discovered by Diane, who tries to arrest her. Diane is attacked by a giant locust, and while Kathy flees, she is stung. We do not know what becomes of her after that, in this film. Turner is also stung. Billy is arrested, and locked up with Leslie and David, then Leslie leads him to Christ before she is sent to be executed. The guards want David to convince Billy to take the Mark, but after Billy tells David that Leslie led him to Christ, he instead tells Billy to close his eyes and put his faith in God. Both David and Billy are then faced with execution themselves.
The film's title derives from Revelations 13:14-15; "And deceiveth them that dwell on the Earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the Earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed."
- William Wellman Jr. as David Michaels
- Susan Plumb as Kathy
- Patty Dunning as Patty Myers
- Russell S. Doughten Jr. as Rev. Matthew Turner
- Wenda Shereos as Leslie
- Thom Rachford as Jerry Bradford
- Maryann Rachford as Diane Bradford
- Sandy Christen as Sandy Stevens
- Ben Sampson as Billy
- Ty Hardin as the Missionary
- Directo, Producer, and Writer: Donald W. Thompson
- Producer and Writer: Russell S. Doughten Jr.
- Cinematography: James L. Berry