Friday, June 21, 2013

"Prophecy" (1979) d/ John Frankheimer

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1979 was a good year for monstrous eggs in horror movie advertising, as evidenced by the provocative one sheet art for tonight's review, a schizophrenic slice of late seventies eco-horror from director John Frankheimer, the man responsible for such memorable films as The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Black Sunday (1977). While the other egg-vertised genre feature that year, Ridley Scott's Alien, did over a hundred million in box office business, the Canadian-made Prophecy managed to pull in fifty four million dollars itself, a respectable draw considering the self-proclaimed monster movie's inability to juggle serious social and environmental issues with it's man-in-a-goofy-rubber-mutant-bear/half-chewed gum-monster-suit pay off.
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Maggie(Talia Shire), Rob(Robert Farnsworth), and Ise-ly(Richard Dyshart), on a routine expedition...
After seeing some rescue team members die some horrible off-camera deaths at the bottom of a ravine, we're introduced to the Verne's. Robert (Farnsworth) is a doctor who's trading in the frustration of urban sprawl for a job with the Environmental Protection Agency, while his wife Maggie (Shire) accompanies him on his first assignment reporting on a logging camp in Maine where the loggers as led by one Bethel Isley (Richard Dysart) have been feuding with the nearby First Nation tribe as led by one John Hawks (Armand Assante). Isley blames his rescue team disappearance on the natives, while the natives attribute the incident to Katahdin, a protective forest spirit that has been awakened by the loggers' ecological carelessness. After an anti-climactic chainsaw v axe fight, a huge mutant salmon swallowing a duck, and a schitzed out raccoon attack, Hawks fills the Verne's in on all the stillbirths, birth defects, and mental illness that have plagued his people of late, and they meet his grandfather (George Clutesi), who feels no pain and notes that Katahdin is part of everything in God's creation, before his son nets a softball-sized tadpole to illustrate their sordid tale. At the paper plant, Maggie's boots turn up trace mercury deposits...

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The last time I saw bears looking this jacked up, it was right after THIS.
The Nelson's, a family who've been camping in the woods, are set upon by what looks like an enormous female grizzly bear that rolled halfway through a whole mess o' chewed gum, and violent death ensues. Or a pillow fight, I'm not exactly sure at this point. The deaths are blamed on the First Nationers (of course), until Dr. Verne uncovers huge scratches on the trees during the investigation of the site, and Maggie one up's him, by finding two horribly mutated bear cubs, one of which is still alive, in a poacher's net. Verne plans on bringing the live cub to the authorities as evidence, but high winds start whipping around, keeping their chopper grounded, forcing them to hike to the elder tribesman's tee pee homestead. Maggie comes clean about her pregnancy and ingestion of contaminated fish, just as the affected animals they've encountered had. Yeah.You might not wanna go messin' 'round with bear cubs, guys, knowing their pissed off n' disfigured momma isn't gonna take kindly to your knee jerk, too late. Katahdin shows up, head chomping and paw-swatting greedy palefaces and superstitious indians alike, until the doctor and his wife alone, are left to cross the river and evade the berserk bubblegummy bear. Robert manages to drown the cub after it chews on matriarchal Maggie's neckpiece, and eventually stabs the last life out of it's arrow pin cushion mother, who sinks limply to the bottom of the river like the hokey latex suit she was. As the couple leave, flying over the area, the audience is treated to...another phony latex mutant rearing it's ugly prop head, as the credits roll. If you didn't see that coming, get your eyes checked.

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Camper or down pillow? You make the call.
Frankheimer claims that the movie failed to live up to it's potential, in part, due to his rampant alcoholism at the time of filming. Fair enough. For me, Prophecy has enough unintentional laughs and snicker-worthy goopy creature effects to avoid goose eggs on the scale, and makes for an interesting-if-not-entirely-satisfying flick on those boring mid-week evenings. Just make sure you're partied up enough to appreciate it beforehand, otherwise, you might catch yourself sawing logs before the campy final reel. One wop.

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When Statler and Waldorf greeted his corny jokes with raw meat, Fozzie's act suddenly went Grand Guignol.
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mottikod said...

The schitzed out raccoon scene was crazy! What I remember most about this movie is the trailers. they always creeped me out as a kid.
I never saw this until my latter years.

beedubelhue said...

All part of my theater experience in 1979, along with Nightwing, Dracula, and Dawn of the Dead.


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