Blu-ray Review: Prophecy

You might not have seen Prophecy, but odds are high that you’ve seen the monster at the core of the film in a different setting. How could this be? Where would you have seen the mutant offspring of a creature that’s been ruined by man’s environmental damaging ways? Do you watch South Park? Do you remember that creature that Al Gore kept looking for? What was it called? Man Bear Pig? Well it’s real! It’s really from Prophecy. Not The Prophecy, the movie series starring Christopher Walken (Pulp Fiction) as Archangel Gabriel. Prophecy is a movie from 1979 that blends numerous social issues with a giant monster in the woods to scare viewers on a multiple of levels.

Dr. Robert Verne (Damien: Omen II‘s Robert Foxworth) is frustrated going around the ghettos of Washington D.C. and reporting landlords for having rat infested buildings only to know that nothing will be done besides a minimal fine. His pal Victor Shusette (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman‘s Graham Jarvis) offers him a two week gig up in Maine for the EPA. They need him to investigate the impact on the Native Americans and other folks if a paper company is allowed to expand into land the tribe considers their own. It’s not a peaceful trip, but he’s enticed by the idea that he could do something with this report. His wife Maggie (Rocky‘s Talia Shire) takes time off from the symphony to practice her cello in the wilderness with him. She also needs to find the right time to tell her that she’s pregnant. Verne learns quickly that this won’t be a fun trip in Vacationland when they arrive at the airport and see a tracking dog that is the only survivor of a recent rescue mission looking for lost loggers. Tensions flare up quick when a group of Native Americans block the access road to the doctor’s rental cabin. The folks from the lumber company led by Bethel Isley (John Carpenter’s The Thing‘s Richard A. Dysart) aren’t putting up with any roadblocks. They pull out chainsaws and battle away against John Hawks (Armand Assante). The doctor and his wife are not happy that this place is a warzone. Strangely enough the place is also a bit magical from the tribal perspective. There’s huge fish in the river. The doctor fears there’s something coming from the papermill that’s causing mutations, but Isley won’t tell him a thing. He also fears there’s something in the woods that’s attacking people. Isley and the local cops merely think it’s the tribe getting revenge. By the time the doctor finds out the truth, he’ll wish he was dealing with rat loving landlords.

Prophecy is loaded with topics that would alienate a movie audience. First is a question of Native America land rights. Then there’s questions about pollution. We get a touch of corporate responsibility and the need for government supervision. Finally there’s even an abortion debate. This could easily be a preachy kind of film aimed at the Last Whole Earth crowd. But when the mutant bear shows up, Prophecy becomes an instant drive-in fun fest. The monster that became Man Bear Pig just wipes out the social issues with a sweep of his claws. This is the type of film where you imagine the final act would feature a lecture about the fate of humanity. But all that science is forgotten with the mutant beast refusing to back down. Who cares about controlling a land that’s full of mutant man eating bears? In a weird way, the mutant bear saves the film from being too preachy and political. Prophecy becomes a weird piece of late ’70s horror when giant creatures attacked man and puts an end to any deep thought besides “Run!!!” There’s no wonder why the South Park guys stole Man Bear Pig for their show.

All of Our Sins (18:59) chats with actress Talia Shire about how she bumped into John Frankenheimer on day and he pitched her a role in the film. She talks about shooting in Canada. She talks about trusting Foxworth in both emotional and physical moments on the set. She talks about how she faked playing a cello.

Bearing Up (10:02) catches up with actor Robert Foxworth. He auditioned for the gig. He talks about issues with why couldn’t they have escaped the bear more easily. He has a great tale of the helicopter pilot that was extra busy during the shoot. Well not mentioned in the interview, Foxworth around the time of this shoot was originally offered the role of J.R. Ewing on Dallas.

Bear and Grin It (13:14) talks with writer David Seltzer about how after the success of The Omen, John Frankenheimer called him up wanting to make a horror film with him. He came upon the story bringing elements of things he liked. Even though Frankenheimer wanted him on set and part of the production, it frustrated Seltzer to see things weren’t clicking right. He blames Frankenheimer’s drinking for not getting too deep in the production. He has issues with the monster since he never described it as a bear. Once again, it is good to see Seltzer since he hung out at my office at film school when we ran his film Nobody’s Baby.

Hard to Bear (19:34) interviews make up effects designer Tom Burman. He talks about how he and his brothers were doing disguises for the CIA while making movies. The front became the main business after they got on a hot streak of films including The Man Who Fell to Earth. They did have a different creature in mind when they started that looked like a mutated bird. Why isn’t there a film about Burman doing CIA gigs in between movies?

Prophecy Prodigy (21:14) talks with make up artist Allan Apone. He talks about hooking up with Burman’s effects house.

The Man Behind the Mask (21:51) talks with mime artist Tom McLoughlin. He was working on the street as a mime when he got a job on Woody Allen’s Sleeper. He quickly found more work in movies wearing costumes. He points out that they nicknamed the costume as “The Pizza Bear.”

Radio Spots (2:28) to not go into the woods this summer because “she will find you.”

Theatrical Trailer (1:06) doesn’t use a single clip from the film.

Still Gallery (7:11) includes press photos, behind the scenes pics, lobby cards, newspaper advertisements and posters.

Scream Factory presents Prophecy. Directed by: John Frankenheimer. Screenplay by: David Seltzer. Starring: Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Armand Assante & Richard A. Dysart. Rated: PG. Running Time: 102. Released: November 26, 2019.

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