Saturday, November 23, 2019

PROPHECY (1979) Blu-ray Review

d. John Frankenheimer (USA) (102 min)

Dr. Robert Verne (Robert Foxworth) and wife Maggie (Talia Shire) travel to Maine to research the impact of the lumber industry on the local environment. They begin to investigate a succession of mysterious and terrifying events: ecological freaks of nature and a series of bizarre and grisly human deaths. Something unimaginably horrible waits in the woods ... something unwittingly created by man, that will become an uncontrollable, merciless machine of destruction.

With usually reliable director John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate, Birdman of Alcatraz), screenwriter David Seltzer (hot off The Omen), and a capable if not all-star cast in place, one might expect competence if not brilliance. How things went so wrong is anyone’s guess. After a promising opening, the film descends rapidly into a muddy cloud of social sermonizing (slumlords bad, big business bad, environment neglect bad) and laughable special effects while 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 (Damien: Omen II, sporting an impressive beard and man-fro) plays the tough-minded, take-no-nonsense, socially aware doctor/scientist called in to address concerns at an ethics-challenged paper mill while top-billed Talia Shire (Rocky, The Godfather) whimpers and simpers as his overly emotional cello-playing bride, spending 90% of them 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.

Richard Dysart (The Thing) has better luck as mill foreman and stock villain Bethel Isely, 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 Ramona, Victoria Racimo fares the best, outshining Shire every time the two women appear onscreen together. (Why Dr. Rob doesn’t run off with her is beyond me, but I digress.)

Oh, Jesus Christ, she's doing it again, isn't she?

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 (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Cat People) 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.

That said, the cloud-of-feathers sleeping bag kill? Classic.

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 just that every time I revisit it, I find myself wishing it were a better (or worse) viewing experience overall, as it seems like it’s more in love with the idea of a chemically enhanced killer mutant Ursus flick than in actually delivering same. If only the final product unspooled could have matched the sizzle of Paul Lehr’s iconic poster image… that would really have been something.


NEW “All of our Sins” with Talia Shire (19 min)

NEW “Bearing Up” with Robert Foxworth (10 min)

NEW “Bear And Grin It” with writer David Seltzer (who is so tough on the film that his featurette earns its own “the views and opinions expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of Shout! Factory and Paramount Pictures” credit) (13 min)

NEW “Hard To Bear” with special make-up effects designer Tom Burman (20 min)

NEW “Prophecy Prodigy” with special make-up effects artist Allan Apone (21 min)

NEW “Beneath the Bear” with mime artist Tom McLoughlin (22 min)

Theatrical Trailer

Radio Spots

Still Gallery

Trivia: That’s future Predator Kevin Peter Hall making his film debut inside the Katahdin suit.

Prophecy is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:


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