In the Summer of 1979 I was very excited to see the creature flick Prophecy. One reason was the commercials I had seen, and the theatrical poster-it looked cool and scary.
Plus, my friend Karen and I were being dropped off by my Mom to see the movie (yeah you could do that back then and not worry) and we sort of, kinda liked each other. I was only 11 (she was 12) but I knew it was alone time with a chick in a dark theater which was good (not that I had any idea what to do if I got the chance). Of course we were scared by this Eco-Thriller about a mutated beast fucked up by contaminated water due to a paper mill cutting corners and destroying the environment in Maine by polluting the waters. The below trailer was quite effective and creepy, but also had stupid taglines.
Prophecy was directed by the legendary John Frankenheimer who had done such classics as The Manchurian Candidate, Grand Prix and Black Sunday. No slouch here. Frankenheimer would later admit to becoming an alcoholic in the late 70’s which led to some not-so great decisions such as…Prophecy!
The opening of Prophecy has a search team looking for two lost lumberjacks with a search dog. They all get killed in grim (but cheap-looking) ways by something large that we do not see, as well as a third guy who is down below the cliff where they had been. The most comical aspect is the classical music that begins to play as we see the carnage of the lumberjacks. You can see it in the first ten minutes of the film here.
Later we see Robert Foxworth playing an annoying doctor who goes into poverty-stricken areas feeling he is no longer making a difference so he takes a job with the Environmental Protection Agency and goes with his wife (Talia Shire of Rocky fame) to Maine to do a report on a logging operation and there is a dispute of some sort between the loggers and an American Indian tribe led by Armand Assante. The head of the paper mill played by Richard A. Dysart accuses the Indian tribe of having something to do with the missing loggers, but the Indians claim it was the work of something called Katahdin-a spirit of vengeance awoken by the silly loggers and their chainsaws and bad flannel shirts.
There’s a lot of lame, dull, forced conflict between the Indians (referred to as Opies which somehow means Original People) and the paper mill douches. Nonetheless, at some point Foxworth is fishing and sees a mutated, giant salmon eat a duck (!) and he and Shire will also be attacked at their cabin by a schizoid raccoon. Methinks something is amiss with the critters in this area, eh?
“I need a new agent-I’m tired of being rabid. It’s gonna get me typecast”-quote from one of the cast members shown here
And would you believe they go back and eat the fish at the cabin for dinner? Well, wouldn’t you? Sure looks tasty-and a giant, mutated salmon that ate a duck is sort of like a turducken in a really fucked up way. Serve with a hint of parsley and a dash of oregano and it’s highly recommended. Shire will soon start to feel sick, and the fact that she’s pregnant only adds to the tension (actually, no it doesn’t).
The Indian tribe comes to Foxworth and tell him of the horrible things that have been happening to them as far as health goes and they want to know why. And, as it turns out so does our pretentious, annoying hero. It’s soon time to meet the crazy old Indian Grandfather played by George Clutesi, who kinda stands there smiling like a weirdo most of the time in his crappy glasses. We also get to see a tadpole the size of a bullfrog further enhancing the idea of something wrong with the water. So smart these city folk are.
Foxworth and Shire then take a tour of the paper mill and it is here where Foxworth finds residue of mercury! Ah ha! That’s what is fucking these creatures up. Of course, our paper mill guy says it’s all nonsense but we know better. We also know the paper mill is using it because it’s cheap and cuts costs down and it won’t show in the purity tests for the water because it sinks to the bottom (really?). So, it’s that tired old evil corporation-damaging the environment-to save a buck-creating giant mutant bears thing we’ve seen at least…one time (at least as far as the mutant bears thing is concerned).
I’ve enjoyed reviewing these films because some of them have some rather infamous scenes and Prophecy sure as shit does. A father and his two kids (one boy, one girl) are hiking and hear a bizarre, loud noise. Of course, the father says it’s nothing so they just move on. They eventually decide to camp for the night and it is here where the Mutant Momma Bear goes nuts. The young boy is trapped in his sleeping bag and hops around in futility (looking like an ass might I add) and then gets torn to pieces after being thrown into a giant rock (he basically explodes and there are feathers everywhere!). Although it shocked the hell out of me when I was 11, it looks so damn stupid now it’s comical. But, I give them points for a creative and amusing death. Here’s the before and the aftermath of the dorkus being thrown. He looks like a fucking banana in that dumb-ass sleeping bag and a banana cream pie afterwards!
Anyway, Assante flees after the local boobs try to arrest him for the murders, then Foxworth, Shire and Assante’s wife played by Victoria Racimo take a helicopter to the campsite in horrible, rainy weather. It is here that they find 2 mutated cubs at the edge of the river and one is still alive. So, they take the one cub as proof and go back to the tepees where the crazy old man lives as the helicopter cannot fly in the weather. Who the hell would do this? After all, isn’t the lil’ guy cuddly as heck? I do love kids (some of them anyway), so I could easily see taking this guy home and teaching him the ways of life and playing soccer on the front lawn and really bonding.
Dysart and the sheriff show up to capture Assante and see the freakish cub and now realize Assante is innocent. It’s also around this time that Shire tells her husband that she is worried her baby will come out all freakish since she ate the salmon just like the mother bear. Isn’t that nice they have a motherly bond? Apparently it is, because Mutated Momma Bear shows up and wants her freakish cub and starts kicking ass throwing one unluck Indian guy into a fire, so everyone hides underground of the tepees in tunnels that are there. This scene is somewhat tense and when the sheriff pokes his head out to see if things are OK, you just know it won’t end well. It doesn’t-but the sheriff’s body is tossed back down all bloody and crappy looking and could’ve been done so much better.
And it doesn’t go well for our paper mill pal either. Although Dysart has now seen the light and is trying to help and volunteers to get to the radio tower, guess who’s waiting for him there? Mutant Momma Bear! So, goodbye to you paper mill guy (and your legs it would seem).
The others go back to the village where the Opies live and find it deserted, so they get in a truck to hightail it outta there. But our pal Katahdin is waiting on the forest road and she turns the truck over and the helicopter pilot who was being transported on some sort of bed from his earlier wounds is left to get his head ripped off!
With the truck no longer an option, they run and come to the river and must swim across to a dock. Beyond stupid is the fact they STILL have the cub with them who starts nibbling away at Shire. Were we supposed to believe her motherly instincts were kicking in for this freak of nature? If so-it fails miserably in that regard especially since Foxworth pulls it off of her and drowns the poor inbred Yogi Bear reject making you wonder why the hell they were carrying it around with them the whole damn time in the first fucking place! Equally dumb is the crazy old man staying on land and letting Yogi rip him to shreds-even his glasses. Would this happen in Jellystone Park I wonder? But I think even from a distance we can tell this is a most shitty dummy being tossed around by the dude in the mutant bear costume (that dude by the way is Kevin Peter Hall who would also portray Predator and even Harry from Harry And The Hendersons).
Katahdin doesn’t seem to think the swim is a good idea but she’s pissed, so she takes a dip and disappears. Naturally, everyone thinks this giant creep drowned, but nope-this bear got some bite as you shall see down below! Like most creature films, the size seems to vary wildly at times and that’s largely down to the camera angles and the shots of a dude in the costume or if it’s a mechanized thingy. One thing Katahdin is-ass ugly and pissed-off looking.
“Ize gonna kick your ass”-Mutant Momma Bear (aka Katahdin)
After entering a log cabin and blocking off every entrance our peeps find out Katahdin is very much alive and angry and tears down the walls in the name of rock n’ roll. Racino is killed and Shire knocked conveniently unconscious. Foxworth happens to find a Winchester rifle and fires off a few rounds at the beastie and Assante shoots off a few arrows in the ass before he gets killed all dead-swatted into the air like so many flys. The final showdown sees Foxworth in the clutches of Katahdin, but he grabs an arrow and stabs her in the one good eye and face over and over again until she collapses into the water. Ah, but we’ve been through that before, haven’t we? Seeing our mutant friend still moving in the water, Foxworth gets off a few more stabs for good measure and she sinks.
The ending sees the couple flying over the forest (and most likely headed home to have their own cute mutant baby). The end? Not quite-the camera pans down towards the water and guess what? A roar, and we see Poppa Mutant Bear. End scene! Bravo.
In reality, Prophecy wasn’t a complete joke, and did have some good moments but it wasn’t very good either. And, let’s face it-the monster wasn’t very menacing as Katahdin was rather awkward looking. Frankenheimer supposedly wanted the creature to look more bear-like which made it look more silly. The original concept was actually closer to the poster art, so it’s a shame that didn’t happen (although I can’t imagine it would’ve looked all that great that way either). The acting from some of the cast is very good especially Armand Assante. But, on a whole, Prophecy is something of a misfire. Prophecy is certainly one of the better films I’ll be reviewing on here which also screams a lot to the “quality” of most of the shit I’m watching! If my wife stays through something I’m viewing that usually means it is of some quality and Prophecy at least passed that test.
Grossing $22.7 million, Prophecy turned a decent profit and wasn’t a bomb and does have a loyal cult following. And for an 11 year-old on a date (paid for by Mom) it did just fine for me!
1. Prophecy started the now very popular trend of filming in Canada (but posing as the U.S.) to save money. The film was shot in British Columbia and posed as Maine.
2. Some of the gorier aspects were edited out including a graphic disembowling. Why I ask?
3. Stephen King is a fan of this film. He also directed Maximum Overdrive. his opinion means nothing.
Prophecy (1979) ranking-
3 out of 4 beagles for awfulness
Q: Should you see Prophecy?
A: Yes-it’s not half-bad (or half-good), and that sleeping bag scene is priceless!