The monster movie.
Nothing is scarier than industrial America at its worst. There have been countless movies about the dangers of pollution to the environment (my personal favorite is Troma's The Toxic Avenger, but what do I know?), and each one has the same message: if you pollute, prepare to incur the wrath of some snarling, drooling beast from the depths of the earth. In 1979 director John Frankenheimer (Ronin, Reindeer Games) took this idea and formed it into Prophecy, a horror movie that asks and answers the question, "what would happen if a grizzly bear mutated into a hideously deformed monster?"
Facts of the Case
Mutant grizzlies! Rabid raccoons! Evil lumber capitalists! Is there no end to the monstrosity in Frankenheimer's Prophecy?
When Dr. Robert Verne (Robert Foxworth, Airport '77) and his wife Maggie (Talia Shire, The Godfather) head up to beautiful Maine to inspect a local lumber company suspected of polluting the waters, they find that the surrounding wildlife have undergone a slight change…into MONSTERS! The head of the company (Richard Dysart, John Carpenter's The Thing) reiterates that their lumbering methods are safe (why is it I think he ain't tellin' the truth?). Safe or not, a local Indian tribe (including Armand Assante, Judge Dredd) want their land back and will do anything to protect it. As the Verne's travel deeper into the forest and lakes around the lumber company they find something so terrifying (and prosthetic!) that if they're not careful, they could end up it's next meal!
Prophecy was exactly what I expected it to be: stinky '70s horror fun. As many of my readers know, I have a special affinity for horror movies, especially B-horror movies (and C, and D, and E…). The goofier the better. Of course, I also like seeing well oiled scare machines that show off slick effects. However, a horror movie which features more rubber in it than a fetish flick will always hold the top spot in my heart. Prophecy will always have a home in my DVD library.
The acting isn't anything special. Talia Shire spends most of the film looking worried, crying, looking worried again, weeping over someone, then screaming in terror while crying about being worried. As her husband, Robert Foxworth spends most of his screen time yelling at Richard Dysart about the effects of deadly mercury in the woodland ponds and prancing around in his Tony Roberts-like coiffed afro (why did men in the 1970s think it was cool to look like a white version of the Harlem Globetrotters? Anyone?). Armand Assante stares into the screen with piercing eyes as if waiting for his inevitable death scene, and Richard Dysart dodges questions about his company with slick candor ("Err, uh…poisonous chemicals in the water? Of course not! We're a multi-million dollar evil corporation. Why would we do THAT?").
Then we come to the monsters. Ed Wood would have been proud. Not one scene made me believe that any of these beasties were real. Oh sure, a few of them came close to looking kind of real, but in the end it was painfully obvious that the creatures were just demented Muppets. The main monster often looked like a guy in a suit trying to eat everyone in sight. The close-ups reveal jaws and eyes that move with all the precision of a drunken sailor attempting to score a bulls-eye in a game of darts. The effects were cheap, fake, and ultimately a hoot.
Is Prophecy worth seeing? If you're a horror fan, absolutely. In an age of self-referential and cynical Scream horror movies and Silence Of The Lambs knock offs, Prophecy has a certain something that just can't be denied. Prophecy even contains a MESSAGE (re: don't mess with Mother Nature or you'll be sorry), which is more than I can say for most horror movies produced today. Is it scary? No. Vastly amusing? You bet your bottom dollar.
Prophecy is presented for the first time in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. For a film dating around the time I was born, I was very impressed with how good this picture looked. Paramount has made sure that the color schemes and black levels all look evenly solid with only the slightest amount of edge enhancement spoiling the transfer. Grain, dirt, and haloing were all non-present. Even with its slight imperfections, Prophecy looks as good as it's going to get.
Audio is presented in Dolby 2.0 Stereo and sounds only mediocre. There are a few instances where distortion was heard (especially during some of the high-pitched screams), though the mix works well in the confines of the film. I was especially impressed how evenly mixed composer Leonard Rosenman's score sounded. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
The only thing Paramount has decided to include on this disc are some nifty scene selections. It took me over an hour to get through 'em all. More fun than a barrel of mutant salmon.
As suspected, Prophecy is pure hokum. The effects are often rubber and glue, the characterizations over the top, and the ending a bunch of baloney. Like the best of the '80s, Prophecy is pure entertainment—it's not great filmmaking, but where else can you see an ugly mutated bear attack Richard Dysart? Paramount has done a nice job on the video aspects of this disc, but when it comes to special features, it's unbelievably lacking.
Prophecy is free to go because…because it just is. Paramount is slapped with a minor fine for not one single supplement available on this disc.
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