Dir.: John Frankenheimer; Cast: Talia Shire, Robert Foxworth, Richard Dysart; USA 1979, 102 min.
US filmmaker John Frankenheimer (1930-2002), director of the original Manchurian Candidate, started out, like Sidney Lumet, directing TV fare including numerous reputable ‘Playhouse’ episodes. He never lost feel for a good newsworthy story, and Prophecy is a good example with its focus on environmental issues.
Written by David Seltzer (The Omen), Prophecy takes place near Maine, where strange findings are reported in the river Ossipee. Considering, the Flint Water Crisis in Michigan went on from 2014 to 2019, Seltzer’s script is very much ahead of its time.
Doctor Robert Verne (Foxworth) and wife Maggie (Shire) are working in Washington DC, and hope that a holiday in Maine might take their minds off the polluted capital. But soon they are witnessing strange incidents in the river Ossippee, near the paper mill run by Bethel Isley (Dysart). Babies are being born with physical defects, people are walking around in a drunken stupor even though they have not consumed a drop of alcohol, and in the local river salmon and tadpoles are growing to monstrous proportions, while on dry land racoon are running riot.
When a group of lumberjacks go missing, Isley blames the indigenous population, who in turn claim that the Katahdin, a Sasquatch monster, is responsible for the mysterious happenings. Maggie, who is pregnant, but has not told Robert, grows increasingly nervous – she has eaten fish caught in the vicinity. But worse is to come in the shape of an enormous bear with diseased skin that causes total mayhem for all concerned.
Bad timing saw Prophecy premiering only a few weeks before Alien, and Ridley’s Scott’s monsters were very far superior to the giant bear. DoP Harry Stradling jun. (Convoy, Little Big Man) is on fine form, and the mixture of conspiracy and horror is a potent brew. When the survivors leave the scene, a bear cub is left behind – but unlike Alien, a sequel to Frankenheimer’s outing never saw the light of day. AS
OUT ON BLURAY courtesy of Eureka Classics