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Prophecy Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Prophecy Large

Directed by John Frankenheimer
Written by David Seltzer
1979, 103 minutes, Rated PG
Released on November 26th, 2019

Talia Shire as Maggie Verne
Robert Foxworth as Rob Verne
Armand Assante as John Hawks
Richard Dysart as Mr. Isely
Victoria Racimo as Ramona
George Clutesi as M’Rai
Charles H. Gray as Sheriff

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Working on assignment from the E.P.A., Dr. Robert Verne and his wife Maggie travel to Maine to research the environmental impact of the lumber industry on an area of disputed Native American land. A recent string of tragic events resulting in the deaths of a group of lumberjacks and also the members of a rescue team searching for them has raised tensions between the company and the locals. Mr. Isely runs the paper mill upstream and blames a Native man named John Hawks and his people for the deaths and says they are hiding behind an ancient Indian legend of a monster named Katahdin.

The Vernes visit Hawks’ village and learn of recent sickness and deformities plaguing the community. Robert inspects the paper mill and tests the water and the surrounding land for toxins and discovers high levels of mercury in both. Ingesting mercury can lead to physical abnormalities, which alarms Maggie, who has recently learned she is pregnant and may have eaten contaminated fish. The situation continues to escalate until everyone is surprised by the arrival of a giant mutant bear eager to kill everyone on both sides of the issue. Differences are set aside and the group work together to escape the forest alive.

Eco-horror films have been around for a long time but seemed to flourish in the 1970s with titles including Night of the Lepus (1972), Grizzly (1976), Long Weekend (1978) and Nightwing (1979) to name only a few. Some were more respectable productions featuring A-list stars at various stages in their careers squaring off against a slew of pissed off animals. In 1979, Prophecy, an anti-pollution themed monster movie written by David Seltzer (The Omen), attracted some impressive talent on both sides of the camera. Acclaimed director John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate, 1962) steps into the horror arena and successfully delivers the environmental message with his gorgeous photography of the lush Canadian wilderness, but doesn’t fare so well with the more traditional genre elements.

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Heading the diverse cast is Talia Shire (Rocky) as Maggie, the supportive wife who has yet to tell her husband she is pregnant, as he does not want a family. After eating contaminated food, she grows increasingly worried about the health of her unborn child. Shire delivers another solid performance, but her character’s plight takes a backseat once the monster arrives and that thread of the story is unfortunately dropped completely. Robert Foxworth (Damien: Omen II) co-stars as Robert Verne, a man determined to do the right thing and stand up for the little guy, while managing to ignore his wife’s issues. Armand Assante (Q&A) brings an intensity to the role of activist John Hawks and his scenes opposite Richard Dysart (Warning Sign) as Mr. Isely are some of the best.

Things go off the rails whenever the creature is on screen, as its physical appearance is distracting and it should have been kept in the shadows. Seltzer has gone on record to say he was disappointed in the design, but it never bothered me. There is a noticeable lack of blood in the picture, which undermines some of the bear attacks. Gore was reportedly shot but later removed to receive a PG rating. Prophecy is largely satisfying but ends abruptly, leaving some plotlines unresolved. The picture features some high production values and strong performances and direction as everyone takes the material seriously even if it is ultimately a goofy monster movie.

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Video and Audio:

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the picture looks great for a forty-year-old film. Colors are bright and well-saturated and black levels are rock solid. There is a lot of detail in this transfer particularly in clothing and hair.

The original stereo mix is presented in a lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that really gets the job done. Music cues are powerful without being intrusive and dialogue levels are crisp and free from hiss or other distortion.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

Actress Talia Shire sits down for the all-new interview All of Our Sins (19 minutes), in which she shares her memories of the production. She liked the script and its environmental message and praises the work of John Frankenheimer. There are kind words for her co-stars and cinematographer. She also reveals taking cello lessons and shares her thoughts on lovable monster babies and screaming on film.

In Bearing Up (10 minutes), actor Robert Foxworth recalls his audition and the experience of shooting in Canada with a great cast, particularly Shire. He shares some fun production stories and his thoughts on the bear monster.

Writer David Seltzer is the subject of Bear and Grin It (13 minutes), a candid interview that details his writing process and how the story came together. He is not a fan of the movie or the monster bear and is disappointed in his experience working with Frankenheimer. He says the plot was strong but feels let down by the changes to the material.

Hard to Bear (20 minutes) spends time with special make-up effects designer Tom Burman (Phantom of the Paradise), who remembers redesigning the monster bear and the process of building the suit. He shares some interesting production stories, including one about an unfortunate incident at the film’s premiere.

Make-up effects artist Allan Apone got his start working for Burman and this film was his first on-set experience. In Prophecy Prodigy (21 minutes), he shares many stories from the shoot and has fond memories of Frankenheimer.

Filmmaker Tom McLoughlin (Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives) started out as a mime and was one of the performers in the mutant bear suit. He remembers studying bear movements and working alongside the towering Kevin Peter Hall, who played the monster in wide shots. He has kind words for the cast and tells some fun stories and shares his thoughts on the finished film.

A teaser trailer without any footage from the movie is included along with five radio ads.

A still gallery plays as a silent slideshow (7 minutes) featuring color and black-and-white images of lobby cards, promotional stills, behind-the-scenes shots and international poster art.

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Movie: Threeandahalfstars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Video: Fourstars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Threeandahalfstars
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

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About The Author
Robert Gold
Author: Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer - USA
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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