Prophecy (1979) d. John Frankenheimer (USA)
How things went so wrong is anyone’s guess. With usually reliable director Frankenheimer, Omen screenwriter David Seltzer, and a capable if not all-star cast in place, one might expect competence if not brilliance. Alas, after a promising opening, the film descends rapidly into a muddy cloud of social sermonizing (slumlords bad, big business bad, racial prejudice bad) and laughable special effects, never embracing the schlock that it so clearly is. In fact, everyone on hand takes things so seriously that most of the fun is sucked right out of this eco-horror yarn of a murderous mutant creature lurking in the Maine forests, killing off lumber company employees, Native Americans, and unsuspecting campers alike.
Robert Foxworth (sporting an impressive beard and man-fro) plays the tough-minded, take-no-nonsense, socially aware doctor/scientist called in to address concerns at a ethics-challenged paper mill while top-billed Talia Shire whimpers and simpers as his overly emotional wife, spending 90% of the time lowering her eyes and/or acting with the top of her head.
|Honey, is there something wrong with your neck muscles? Maybe you should see someone.|
A self-righteous ogre and a pregnant doormat – these are your heroes, folks.
Mill foreman Richard Dysart has better luck as the stock villain, though his Maine accent gets the better of him from time to time, butting heads with Armand Assante (using his deepest deep voice) as the least likely Native American since Burt Lancaster in Apache. As Assante’s loyal companion, Victoria Racimo fares the best, outshining Shire every time the two women appear onscreen together. Why Foxworth doesn’t run off with her is beyond me, but I digress.
|Oh, Jesus Christ, she's doing it again.|
However, at the end of the day, any flick subtitled “The Monster Movie” is going to rise or fall on the strength of its central critter, and Prophecy’s biggest failing is Tom Burman and Eduoard Henriques’ ill-conceived “Katahdin” creation and Frankenheimer’s decision to show it all. . .the. . .time.
Advice to filmmakers everywhere: When your creature described as being “larger than a dragon with the eyes of a cat” looks like a cross between a mutant bear and an exploded hot dog from the microwave, you might not want to give it this much screen time.
With a superior monster design and a little restraint (a la Alien, released just one month prior), things might have worked out a lot better for all concerned.
On a personal note, I should clarify that I don’t dislike the movie nearly as much as my above griping might indicate. The sad truth is that every time I revisit it, I find myself wishing it were a better (or worse) viewing experience overall, more in love with the idea of a chemically enhanced killer mutant Ursus flick than the final product unspooled.
That said, the cloud-of-feathers sleeping bag kill? Classic.