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Running Time: 102 minutes
Starring: Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Armand Assante
Written by: David Seltzer
Directed by: John Frankenheimer
Retail Price: $24.95
Features: Audio Commentary with Director John Frankenheimer, Theatrical Trailer
Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby 2.0, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (11 Scenes)
Released: January 8th, 2002
I like Talia Shire. Loved her in all those Godfather movies, where she was a strong-willed and icy Mafia Princess; loved her in "Rocky," where she was the Adrian of "YO! Adrian" fame. I even like Robert Foxworth, who actually is better known for being the caring life-partner of television goddess, and witch, Elizabeth Montgomery. Armand Assante has impressed me with several roles, notably one half of The Mambo Kings; the other half was Antonio Banderas. I think that John Frankenheimer is one of the most interesting directors going; even though wags have called him the coldest director this side of Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick, I can take or leave, but Frankenheimer s output from the 1960's ("Seven Days in May," "The Manchurian Candidate," Seconds ) seems more timely today than it possibly did when first released. Lately, Frankenheimer blessed audiences with "52 Pickup," which teamed Ann- Margret and Roy Scheider in a tangled Elmore Leonard tale as well as the truly exciting "Ronin," with its more than memorable high speed chase scenes. Chase scenes highly reminiscent of the director s 1966 Super Panavision 70 epic, "Grand Prix." Frankenheimer even tackled a Thomas Harris ("Silence of the Lambs") novel before Jonathon Demme: the terrorists at the Super Bowl suspense thriller, "Black Sunday." My personal favorite of Frankenheimer's solid career as a screen storyteller, would have to be the rarely seen, Lee Marvin starrer, "The Iceman Cometh," which was released as part of an experimental cinema experience of the mid- 1970's called The American Film Theater; which had very limited engagements in major metropolises. Somewhere in a career so distinguished, a little rain must fall; which brings me to the 1979, Frankenheimer-helmed monster fest called "Prophecy."
To begin with, I would have to say that of all the John Frankenheimer films NOT available on DVD, how in the world did this one become one of Paramount's Widescreen Collection of titles? "Prophecy" is one of those guilty pleasure movies, especially when you can watch it through to the end. Penned by the Oscar-winning writer of "The Omen," David Seltzer, "Prophecy" is a heavy-handed, Profound Issues of Our Times environmentalist horror movie. It would seem that chemical leakage from a paper mill has created mutant creatures in the woods of Maine. Good, kindly doctor Robert Verne and his cellist wife, Maggie set out from that hotbed of urban blight, Washington, D.C., to get away from oversized rats which feed on babies in overcrowded tenement apartments. Maggie also is holding back the secret of her impending pregnancy, knowing that her idealistic husband would rather not bring a child into the kind of world in which they live. Once in Maine, they meet the stereotypical natives: Richard Dysart as an industrial tycoon who will stop at nothing for profits; racist and chauvinistic lumberjacks as well as the Native American in the form of Armand Assante! They also hear tell of a mythological Indian creature, Ka-Tah-Din, who has awakened to protect the Native Americans. Ka-Tah-Din, the viable monster of the movie, is said to be a part of all things created, and bearing the mark of all of God's creatures. Well, to be honest, kinky Ka-Tah-Din is a thirty-foot high bear (!) with a slimy, pulsating purplish-orange blotched complexion, or more simply, Smokey the bear with an advanced acne condition. If you think that's funny, well, have I got more for you! Though not intended to be a comedy, and yes, I do feel guilty when I laugh during Prophecy, the film has a scene that tickled my rib cage to the point of pain. Once the good doctor and his wife have settled into the cabin for the evening, a knock on the door is heard. Robert opens the door to find a racoon having a fit of conniptions. Suddenly the animal lunges onto Dr. Verne's shoulder, trying to bite his neck. The next few minutes of man versus animal are delightfully bad, as the real animal is replaced by what appears to be a racoon-fur stole! This all happens long before the appearance of Ka-Tah-Din, who actually makes an interesting entrance as he/it decides that campers would be good for dinner. Then there are of course, the other mutants: salmon, three times their normal size as well as two-headed fish of various varieties. All a result of MERCURY POISONING! That dreaded chemical used in the manufacturing of PAPER! The former is nowhere near a spoiler, by the way, for Prophecy also has one of those manufactured, surprise endings; which to be honest, if you even glance at the ill-conceived cover of the DVD, has already been spoiled by Paramount s prestigious publicity department.
When all is said and done, though, Prophecy will end up a footnote on the career of John Frankenheimer, creating a lesson to be learned, When Good Directors Go Bad. Virtually suspense free, and often overbearing in its idealistic mantras, "Prophecy" can surely be enshrined in the Bad Monsters We Love (but hate) Hall of Memory.
I should look so good twenty-two years from now! Paramount has done its duty to the filmmakers intentions with a nearly perfect, anamorphic presentation of "Prophecy." It looks great, which is certainly a pleasant surprise. There is a rustic look to the film, and the forests of British Columbia, substituting for Maine, are postcard perfect in quality. Being a dark film, with many scenes taking place at night, there really isn t much in the way of shadow delineation. The picture, with no discernable edge enhancement, is very sharp and nearly blemish free. Hues are right on target...so to speak. A commendable effort from Paramount for a film which finally is available in its original Panavision aspect ratio. The camera work itself is quite stunning with its elegant use of lap-dissolves and majesty, more appropriate albeit, for an historical epic.
Turn that MUSIC down! I think that Ka-Tah-Din got his grubby paws onto the mixing board; for this is one of the loudest musical scores (by Leonard Rosenman, no less) I have encountered! The score, like the cinematography, is regal and grand, BUT it is headache inducing in its volume. This is not a problem of the DVD, however, this is a true representation of the film's original 1979 soundtrack, which as Vincent Canby observed, is so grand it could be played at a coronation, and it s so loud that it pierces the ears and threatens the head. (See just what careful research will yield!) Okay, so the music is loud, but the dialogue is firmly placed front and center in this Dolby 2.0 Surround mix. That s right, Ka-Tah-Din made a mistake when he was typing up the jacket information, for the jacket only states a stereo presentation, and this is a serviceable surround mix.
Ka-Tah-Din has struck again! There are NO EXTRAS!
Rent it! Rent it! Rent it! "Prophecy" has to be seen to be believed, honestly. A movie blessed with good intentions - the environmental issues are still timely - but with failed execution, can surely be appreciated on its own tenuous terms. A $24.99 price tag for a feature without features; where is the trailer? David Selzter, where are you? Frankenheimer, what, no commentary? This is the type of movie that you just long to hear the filmmakers discussing. What about all of those pre-production sketches that I ve heard tell of? The various incarnations of Ka-Tah-Din in rough draft form would have been interesting. But without anything except the film, "Prophecy" ranks as a rental. So, let s bear-ricade the doors and lock ourselves up for a night of fun and thrills with Paramount's "Prophecy."