PROPHECY (1979) Review

aka PROPHECY: THE MONSTER MOVIE
Directed by John Frankenheimer
Written by David Seltzer
Starring Talia Shire, Robert Foxworth, Armand Assante, Richard Dysart, & Victoria Racimo

Though PROPHECY is filmed beautifully and isn’t without its moments of gore and fright, I have to say, the film had me laughing my ass off quite a bit. PROPHECY was one of those movies I watched as a kid and loved. The mutant killer bear was larger than life and scarier than hell. Its funny how, as a kid, you can look past the obvious man-in-suit-ness with the awkward movement, the quick shots so as not to show any seams or zippers, and the nearly immovable eyes and mouth. Seeing the actor in the bear suit run and flop around probably had the actors and crew laughing more than screaming. This would have been an awful film if not for one thing: you had John Frankenheimer behind the lens, so somehow, he makes it all work pretty well, despite the bad bear suit.

The cast is pretty good here too. Talia Shire, just off of ROCKY & GODFATHER (where she played a weepy waif) plays a weepy waif pretty good here. Shire gets good practice for ROCKY II, as she’s playing pregnant and fragile like few others do. Robert Foxworth is doing his best Donald Sutherland impression with the white man’s afro and beard thing happening all over his head area. Though he’s not imposing at all, he does pull off a few nice scenes as an overly intense doctor, especially towards the end when he goes apeshit on the bear with an arrow. Armand Assante plays a Native American who of course is good with a bow and arrow. And Richard Dysart plays the owner of the paper mill who swears up and down that the lake his logs flow into which spawn foot-long tadpoles, ten foot salmon, and of course, big fucking mutant bears, isn’t full of pollutants. Though most of the time the actors have little to do but stand in the woods and try to look scared as a man in a giant bear suit flops and stumbles toward them, the ensemble of talent does raise this film a head above other schlockers.

Frankenheimer does begin the film impressively as a crew of lumberjacks tread through the woods lit only by their headlamps. This is a moody opening, giving the woods an almost unearthly feel. There are some inspired kills, with the scene where the bear hits a chick jumping in a sleeping bag so hard she explodes into a cloud of feathers being the highlight. But PROPHECY peters out in the last act as the survivors stupidly watch the bear submerge on the other side of a river, leave a trail of bubbles leading right towards them, then have the nerve to act surprised when the bear explodes out of the water in front of them. This is definitely a movie that gets worse the more you see the monster. Frankenheimer is able to amp the scares when the bear is off screen, but the special effects of the time may have made for a cool looking bear-beast standing still, but when the tumor ridden monstrosity begins to move, the magic is gone. The story tries to pepper in heft by adding such social issues as abortion, pollution, and the relocation of Native American culture. But in the end, all of that is forgotten when everyone tosses out their issues to kill a man in a slimy bear suit. You may laugh more than scream while watching this one (especially during the scenes where the bear mauls obvious dummies or the ferocious raccoon attack sequence!!!). Having just rewatched it, I wish I could somehow unwatch it and just hold on to the faded childhood memory that this was a much cooler flick.<br

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