This week I watched my recently acquired VHS of John Frankenheimer's 1979 environmental horror Prophecy.
The waste from a lumber mill causes mutations in the surrounding inhabitants, the most dangerous of which being a giant bear monster.
I came into this unsure about whether I'd actually seen it. I'm pretty sure this movie was melded together in my mind with others of this era (1977's The Deep and 1980's The Island for instance) that I may have caught bits & pieces of on television before being whisked away to bed. Having said that, I recalled pretty much nothing of Prophecy and enjoyed it much more than I was expecting to. This was like, a legitimate movie, especially when you put it up against the trash I watched last week.
|Talia Shire & Robert Foxworth in Prophecy.|
Prophecy has some solid talent in it, including Talia Shire (right before reprising her role as Adrian in Rocky II), Robert Foxworth and Armand Assante. Playing the role of the shifty lumber foreman was Richard Dysart and when he was confronted with the mutated horrors his plant had wrought, I couldn't help but think, “buddy, you ain't seen no-thing yet.”
I hear that some people like to take the piss out of the effects – Imdb says that uber-dweeb Leonard Maltin described the creature a “walking salami.” - but I thought it looked pretty bad ass. Even though Frankenheimer & f/x house Burman Studios had initially conceived something quite a bit different, I thought the mutated bear-thing was a good way to go. Though I'm willing to admit that viewing it on a muddy VHS may have been ideal, as a hi-def transfer may not do it any favours.
It's a shame they couldn't get a bit gorier with it – Frankenheimer had his original vision of an R rating cut back to a PG – as I think it could've really taken it to another level. As it stands now, I can't really take something like that seminal scene where the bear swats a kid in a banana sleeping bag thirty feet to his feathery death as anything except incredibly amusing.
Environmental horrors were popular during this era and this one ranks in the upper echelon. The concerns raised are just as relevant now as they were then. I always wondered about the cover (and title for that matter) when I knew in my head it was about a killer bear and now I know the significance of it. I think my only gripe is that thread never gets resolved. I was hoping for a Humanoids From The Deep style outro, but alas it was not to be.
As far as studio pictures featuring ten-foot tall bear monsters go, this one is pretty ace.