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Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #27

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Number of Views: Two
Release Date: June 15, 1979
Sub-Genre: (Eco) Monster Movie
Country of Origin: United States
Filmed in: Canada
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Budget: $12,000,000
Box Office: $54,000,000
Running Time: 102 minutes
Director: John Frankenheimer
Producer: Robert L Rosen
Screenplay: David Seltzer
Based on: Prophecy by David Seltzer
Special Effects: Tom Burman
Cinematography: Harry Stradling Jr
Editing: Tom Rolf
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Distributors: Paramount Pictures, Paramount Home Video (VHS/DVD)
Stars: Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Armand Assante, Richard Dysart, Victoria Racimo, George Clutesi, Tom McFadden, Charles H Gray, Evans Evans, Burke Byrnes, Mia Bendixsen, Johnny Timko, Everett Creach and Kevin Peter Hall as Katahdin

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On occasion a film materializes which the public just aren’t prepared for. Long prior to presidential nearly-man Al Gore used the media of film as his vessel for green-issue awareness raising a little known Eco-friendly creature feature made its debut in auditoriums.

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Based on David Seltzer’s novel by the same name and boasting a cast which included Robert Foxworth, Richard Dysart, a youthful Armand Assante and ‘Adrierrrnne’ (or Talia Shire to you sticklers) it made a reasonable return on its investment in its homeland.

Titillated by its gloriously intriguing artwork it teased a reaction from a generation of cinema-goers fixated with Star Wars and other Tinseltown blockbusters although not necessarily the feedback Frankenheimer had hoped. The public anticipated the feature as a monster movie and its environmental commentary was somewhat lost in translation.

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Consequently it found itself consigned to the dusty shelves of video stockists where it remained; only sporadically witnessing the slow decay of our planet outside through infrequent rentals. The Sugarhill Gang and Afrika Bambaataa were busy innovating; whilst discos were pulsating with bloated capacities. Everyone was so drunk or stoned they believed Nostradamus to be the vessel from Alien. Meanwhile our planet was mutating like the Katahdin from this feature.

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It seems relevant now; given recent glum global forecasts and outbreaks of religious war; that this long forgotten monster movie is paid a further glance. Boy, is Prophecy hard to obtain; after blood, sweat and very nearly tears I resorted to last-chance saloon Ebay to track down a lost copy. I far prefer something tangible than an item I can purchase with the click of a mouse but needs must.

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My persistent endeavors teasingly presented me with a faint glimmer of hope in the form of ‘Die Prophezeiung’. My long-term memory of imagery served me well. It was the grail I had seeked for so long. That artwork…transcendent, illuminating and with crack-like aphrodisiac properties. Thankfully the German incantation had English audio options.

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As a pre-pubescent boy my initial introduction had been greatly enjoyed…as a Monster Movie…not as a global forewarning.
With Johnny Five-like efficiency I started researching. This time I would have the tools to appraise this from a more environmentally aware viewpoint.

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My reaction this time?..a damn fine Monster Movie…ultimately the film’s largest asset is that you get to witness people being flung around with gay abandon by a massive mercury mutation.

The message is one of caution; mankind is steadily defiling the planet it inhabits. I figure that, considering it may already be too little too late for our spoiled utopia, I may as well just enjoy the ride like I did when my hormones had barely kicked in. In the process I revisited a fond memory and paid my respects.

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After a strong opening it relaxes into a sedate pace for the first half of proceedings but it is pleasurable just being out in the stunning Canadian shooting locations.

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Then the horse bolts. The culminating climax chronicles the devastation once the mutated bear begins to exact bloody retribution on those who tampered with Gods blueprint. The relentless wheels of industry had paid no mind to nature so, once unleashed, nature returns the favor. At this point in proceedings the cast is whittled down at an alarming pace and it perfectly sets up a tense finale between man and beast.

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Frankenheimer openly admits that his advanced stage of alcoholism during production of Prophecy led to a final product he is not particularly proud of. This comes as a great surprise to me as, whilst far from perfect and occasionally hammy, I believe this to be one of the better monster flicks of its era. Also it features one of the finest actors names in cinema history: Evans Evans. It is just a crying shame that the world didn’t sit up and take notice until so much later.

Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 2/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: Sadly Frankenheimer himself decided to trim Prophecy and a couple of scenes in particular were edited prior to release. The result is a film which, whilst not totally bereft of Grue, doesn’t exactly overflow with the sauce. There is an uproarious moment with a boy zipped into his sleeping bag striving in vein to hop away from the Katahdin which will have you questioning whether to laugh or wince; more feathers than Grue but a standout scene nonetheless.

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