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Paramount Studios presents
Prophecy (1977)

"I didn't think there were any places that looked like this anymore."
- Dr. Verne (Robert Foxworth)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: January 08, 2002

Stars: Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Armand Assante
Other Stars: Richard Dysart, Victoria Racimo
Director: John Frankenheimer

MPAA Rating: PG for (violence, animal violence)
Run Time: 01h:40m:00s
Release Date: January 08, 2002
UPC: 097360118247
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ CA-B+ D+

DVD Review

When you push nature around enough, nature will push back. At least, that's the theme ofJohn Frankenheimer's 1979 film, Prophecy, an experiment in ecological horrormovies that, for the most part, works. The theme of man's meddling in the naturalorder is nothing new; it's one of the most basic horror concepts leading all the way back toFrankenstein and beyond. Unfortunately, most movies about this subject tend tobe silly at best, usually pitting man against rabid mountain lions and squirrels.Prophecy isn't perfect, but it's easily one of the better works in this genre.

Robert Foxworth plays Dr. Robert Verne, a pro-environmentalist who tirelessly cares forthe underprivileged in the urban areas of Washington, D.C. Up in Maine, a land disputebrews between a lumber company and a local Native American tribe, and it is decided thatan environmental decision will finalize the issue. Verne is asked to travel to the forestwith his wife (Talia Shire) to examine the lumber plant and the surrounding area, toassess whether or not the woods are polluted. When he arrives, he isinstantly courted by the lumber company, who put on a good show about how safe andclean their operation is. Not convinced, Verne decides to get the other side of the storyfrom the contesting tribe.

After spending some time with their spokesman (played by Armand Assante), he makesthe disturbing discovery that down river from the lumber plant, mutated animals have beenliving for years. The appearance of giant fish and genetically altered bears have beencredited as godly creations by tribal elders, but Verne suspects the lumber plant ispoisoning the environment in a way that sneaks past most detection methods. He alsodiscovers one of the altered bears is responsible for a series of deaths around the area,aggressively destroying anything it comes into contact with.

Prophecy works pretty well as a carefully crafted film about ecological horror. Ithas a good cast, and director John Frankenheimer handles the material in a more elevatedmanner than typical monster fare, but its ultimate failure is the reliance ona mutant bear for the film's final reel. The story about environmental damage would have beeninteresting enough in its own right, but the last third of the story is basically just anexcuse to have action sequences involving the bear, which erodes some of the serious,creepy feel previously built up. I had hoped, early on in the film, the giant bear wouldremain a mostly off-screen terror, which would have made it far more menacing. It'sobvious the filmmakers were trying very hard to abandon the typical b-movie realm withProphecy, and they're about 80% successful. Subplots, including the possibilityof Talia Shire's baby being contaminated by the same poison, already add dread andatmosphere; animal attacks were unnecessary.

If a viewer can ignore these shortcomings, Prophecy is actually an entertainingexperience, especially with its heavy usage of on-location filming in gorgeous forest areasand effective cinematography. It's downright creepy at times, especially the wholeconcept of an area of American wilderness where mutated animals have made their home,but as I've said, there's too much "monster" in this monster movie. Some moments alsolose subtlety when Leonard Rosenman's overreaching musical score blasts out of thescreen. Another weak element is the concept of the giant, mutant bear as the fulfillment ofa Native American prophecy by which men who abuse the forest will be dealt with. Again, the film asks us to stretch our disbelief just a little to far.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic, 2:35:1 transfer is extremely pleasing and very surprising. The sourceprint itself is pretty clean and the only noteworthy marks are a few reel change rings andsome speckles during the opening credits (not that it matters much since almost the entireopening credit sequence is pitch black). A lot of the film takes place in stark daylight outin the woods, and the transfer handles it very well with sharp, clear outdoors sequences,as well as perfectly visible nighttime scenes. I was amazed at the lack of heavy grain orfading, given that previous versions I had seen were rather murky. Anamorphicenhancement adds a visible increase in the overall look of the film (more film-like, smooth)without any heavy aliasing distortion.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Although labelled as a stereo soundtrack, the English audio is actually a Pro-Logic Surround track that has some good usage of the mono surround channel. The film is spatial and wide, sounding very theatrical. The musical score takes up a lot of the track, but many sound effects and subtle ambience are carried all over the soundfield. At times, the dialogue is a little obscured by the rest of the track, but it only happens in a few, fleeting scenes. Overall, a nice piece of audio that fits the film well.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Other than basic menus and English subtitles, there are no supplimental features. The filmcould have used a few more chapter stops, but it's nothing major. In an interesting move,the keepcase insert features an entirely textless version of the original poster art(the now-infamous bear embryo picture). And speaking of, I'm glad to see the cover totallyunchanged from any previous versions.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Prophecy has its fans, and they should be pleased with this disc which, despitelacking significant features, looks and sounds great. If you're in the mood for a slightlymore intellectual monster flick, Prophecy is good, but tends to succumb to typicalflaws as the story moves on; worth a look for those who have never seen it.


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