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PROPHECY

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: If someone were to ask me, of all the films I reviewed for the Deseret News, which is the least likely to be revived in the 21st century for a Blu-ray upgrade, this might have been at the top of that list. But for some reason, the Shout! Factory believes there is a fanbase for it, so it’s back in the catalog. My review was published in the Deseret News on June 18, 1979.

“Prophecy” has the distinction of possibly being the worst movie with which director John Frankenheimer, writer David Seltzer or star Talia Shire have ever been associated.

The ad campaign for this movie is better than the film itself. It is being built up as “THE” monster movie and those hired to work on it were sworn to secrecy so the “original” storyline could not be stolen by someone else for a quick movie rip-off.

But the real reason this plot was kept under wraps is that “Prophecy” itself is a rip-off of the 1977 film “Day of the Animals,” and others of its genre (“The Birds,” “Frogs,” “Night of the Lepus,” etc).

In “Day of the Animals” a group of people are trapped in the wilderness while animals and birds, driven berserk by the sky’s ozone layer, kill all the humans they can find.

In “Prophecy” a group of people are trapped in the wilderness while mutant animals, driven berserk by mercury in the water, kill all the humans they can find.

Horror, monster and science-fiction films are very commercial right now and it’s a shame to see such talented people involved in such a dumb movie. I’d like to think it is good intentions gone awry, not just a chance to make money with a creaky idea.

     

Talia Shire and Robert Foxworth, with Richard Dysart in the background, 'Prophecy' (1979)

But next to such recent horror fare as “Alien” and “Halloween,” “Prophecy” appears to be without style and is certainly without anything scary. And this PG-rated film is every bit as bloody as those R-rated movies.

Though Talia Shire receives top billing here she is reduced to screaming and worrying while her husband, Robert Foxworth, does all the typical hero work. For Shire it is a step backward toward such banal first films of hers as “The Dunwich Horror.”

Foxworth, previously seen in “Damien – Omen II” and “Airport ’77,” handles his role well. He is a dedicated U.S. Health Services doctor taken out of the ghettos of Washington, D.C., to spend two weeks evaluating the northern woods of Maine. It is hoped he will settle a land dispute for the Environmental Protection Agency between a paper mill and local Indians.

He takes his cello-playing wife (Shire) along for the ride as he confronts a bigoted mill boss (excellently played by Richard Dysart) and hostile Indians (Armand Assante, Victoria Racimo).

Foxworth soon discovers the mill has been polluting the water with mercury and it is mutating local fish and animals. He doesn’t know Shire is pregnant and has eaten some of the fish — thus opening the door for a possible sequel.

     

The mutant "bear" or whatever it is in 'Prophecy' (1979)

The first third of the film is pretty good, with Frankenheimer showing his talent for suspense (“The Manchurian Candidate,” “Black Sunday”), as in an ax-and-chainsaw fight scene and with discoveries of a giant fish and a killer raccoon.

But then his actors have to utter such ridiculous dialogue as when they carry a wounded helicopter pilot to a cabin: “Where shall we put him?” asks one carrier; “Let’s take him inside,” the other answers.

When they catch two baby monsters the plot seems to have taken an interesting twist, but it quickly slides downhill as Mama Monster (looking like a giant bare bear) spends the rest of the movie chasing them and her cubs (looking like skinned dogs).

It’s all formula horror. But it’s poorly done and excessively bloody, including a decapitation. The only difference between “Prophecy” and Roger Corman’s 1950s mutant movies is pollution instead of atomic desolation.

The clichés include musical buildups and stark silences as indications the monster is about to jump out at you. You’ll be better off jumping up and leaving the theater.