Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Only now does it occur to me... PROPHECY

Only now does it occur to me...  that PROPHECY constructs a perfect visual metaphor for itself in its opening scene.

To first put this in perspective, PROPHECY is a clumsy (but lovably nutty) 1970s eco-horror mutant-monster movie directed by A-list Hollywood legend John Frankenheimer (THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ, SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, 52 PICK-UP, RONIN). The kicker: Frankenheimer supposedly directed the film while suffering through a lengthy blackout drunk.

Back to our opening metaphor: points of light tremble in the darkness, disoriented.

They are flashlights, frantically waved by a group of men sprinting through the forest. The men are led by a hound who's caught the scent (of what, we do not yet know). They blindly careen down a forest path:

suddenly (and with unintentional comic flourish), the dog plummets off of a cliff to its death:

Yep, that about sums up PROPHECY, all right.

PROPHECY is a film about the dangers of pollution. It is a film with its heart in the right place. At one point, Native American rights, abortion rights, and urban blight are addressed within the span of fifteen seconds. This is handled with all the finesse of a master director who happens to have chugged a couple fifths of Thunderbird and forgotten to hydrate.

Talia Shire (ROCKY, THE GODFATHER) and Robert Foxworth (AIRPORT '77, DAMIEN: THE OMEN II) play an urbane couple who find themselves deep in the forests of Maine. In ordinary life, Shire's character is a concert cellist.
She's had more time to practice after she stopped working at the pet store.

Foxworth works for the EPA, and he's in Maine investigating a creepy paper mill that may be accidentally be creating mutated monsters.
Representing the creepy paper mill is Richard Dysart (on the left), who you may recognize as "Dr. Copper" from THE THING.

Also present is a group of Native Americans protesting the paper mill. The bow-and-arrow toting leader of the Natives is played by Italian-Irish-American actor Armand Assante. At one point he fights off a chainsaw-wielding logger with an axe, which, to be fair, is a pretty good use of his screentime.

Eventually, we meet the mutant monster.

The Natives call it a "Katahdin" and Dysart describes it as "sort of a bigfoot, I guess, only uglier." Neither of these assessments are accurate. It is in fact a Grizzly bear cosplaying as Freddy Krueger.

Along the way, there is a baby Krueger Bear, who is cared for in a similar fashion as the mutant infant in ERASERHEAD, which I appreciate.

There's some pretty solid cinematography by Harry Stradling, Jr., who also shot LITTLE BIG MAN, THE WAY WE WERE, and DIRTY DINGUS MAGEE.

Also solid is this scene depicting a surprise raccoon attack, whereupon Robert Foxworth scoops up said adorable raccoon with a rowboat paddle
and flings it directly into a blazing fireplace. God damn! 

As you can see from the above photo, the front door was already open. He easily could have flung it outside. He's just a dick!

The ultimate showdown with the Krueger Bear plays out exactly like the end of a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie, which is all the more impressive because FRIDAY THE 13TH wouldn't come out for another year (PROPHECY was made in '79, the first FRIDAY in '80).

It hits every FRIDAY beat, from the Crystal Lake-lookin' exteriors to the moment where they think the monster drowns, to the successive moment when it jumps out of the water, the moment when they think they've finally killed it, the moment when it pops back up when-they-least-expect-it, and the moment when it dies for real this time (or does it?).

All of this booze-addled nonsense is really just prelude and postscript to a random scene that appears halfway through the film. A nameless camper is snoozing in a fetish-y sleeping bag when he is awakened by the Krueger Bear.

He musters all of his strength and pulls himself upright. He attempts, ungracefully, to hop away.
The Krueger Bear takes a wild swing and connects his claw with the sleeping bag, launching the unfortunate man across the screen:

where he collides with a rock and explodes in an orgasmic eruption of feathers.

That's worth the price of admission right there, ladies and gentlemen. In the end, I'll say this: it's better than THE PROPHECY (1995), which I'll be reviewing shortly.

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