Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Talia Shire, Richard Dysart and Robert Foxworth
PROPHECY (aka Prophecy: The Monster Movie/1979). Director: John Frankenheimer.

Dr. Robert Vern, who usually works in the ghettos of Washington D.C., accepts an assignment to do a survey for the Environmental Protection Agency in the timber lands of Maine, where a dispute is raging between the Original People [Indians] and factions in the lumber industry. Not only does Vern discover that the natives are being seriously affected by something in the area, with an alarming number of still-births and deformed babies, but he suspects a huge mutant creature has already resulted from toxicity caused by the sawmill on the river. To make matters worse, his wife Maggie (Talia Shire) hasn't yet told him of her pregnancy, but she's eaten the same fish the Indians have; it contains a poison that "jumps the placental barrier" and lodges in the fetus. Then that monster comes a'calling ... David Seltzer's paperback novelization of his own screenplay for Prophecy was released several months before the film came out, and it was such an excellent horror novel that monster movie fans awaited the movie with anticipation. The trouble is, there hasn't been a more disappointing monster since The Giant Claw. The FX people came up with a mere lumpy and unconvincing disfigured bear instead of the creature described in the book or depicted in the movie's poster, something that bore traces of every step of the evolutionary ladder. But despite this serious deficit, Prophecy is not a complete waste because the story pulls the viewer along, the acting is solid, and the movie has genuine suspense in good measure. Along with Foxworth [Falcon Crest] and Shire, Richard Dysart [The Thing] is notable as a lumber man and Armand Assante [Human Target] scores as a militant Native American known as John Hawks. In real life methyl mercury poisoning did have very adverse effects on Indians in Canada, though so far no monsters have been sighted. John Frankenheimer also directed Seconds and other first-rate movies. NOTE: You can read more about movies like this in Creature Features: Nature Turned Nasty in the Movies.

Verdict: Good in spite of itself. ***.

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