When I first saw John Frankenheimer’s Prophecy (1979), I was probably a little too young to really grasp the film’s environmental themes, or even find them of much interest or significance. I was a Monster Kid, and I wanted monsters, not preaching. Rewatching it for the first time as an adult, I find the film’s ecological aspects - along with the major sub-plot involving Native American land rights - to be the most engrossing thing about it, which is good as its moments of horror and scares are pretty scarce during the first hour, and are not always memorable or effective. There is however, a classic over-the-top sleeping bag death, and a genuinely tense sequence where the main protagonists are hiding in a dirt tunnel, listening to the monster’s rampage, and the screams of the people it is killing just on top of them.
The monster in question, an angry giant bear mutated by mercury leaking into the water from a large milling plant, is certainly a gruesome looking creature, though it has no real character to it, and moves a little silly and unrealistically to be genuinely menacing. One of those monsters which is most effective when shown the least. Not one of Tom Burman’s best creations, although the baby mutant bear is great - I felt some genuine sympathy for it.
Robert Foxworth puts in a great, deadly serious and highly watchable performance as the earnest, big city doctor investigation the mutations in the forests of Maine - he’s like a super-intense Robert (Mike Brady) Reed. Providing good support are Armand Assante, Talia Shire and the terrific Richard A. Dysart. The screenplay, and accompanying paperback tie-in, were written by The Omen’s David Seltzer. Filmed in British Columbia, Canada, the film also looks beautiful, capturing some spectacular natural scenery. Would love to see a Blu-ray upgrade of this someday.
The Simpsons paid homage to the atmospheric scene in Prophecy where the monster crosses a river and appears to drown, only to slowly emerge on the other side, much to the horror of the main characters (in The Simpsons, it is Bart who watches in horror as Principal Skinner crosses a river in the same way, while trying to catch Bart playing hooky).
Now I feel like rewatching the other Native American-themed horror movie from 1979, Arthur Hiller’s Nightwing (another film I haven’t seen since its release).