• Prophecy (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: November 26th, 2019.
    Director: John Frankenheimer
    Cast: Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Armand Assante, Richard Dysart, Victoria Racimo
    Year: 1979
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    Prophecy – Movie Review:

    You’d think a film from the writer of The Omen and the director of The Manchurian Candidate starring an Oscar nominated lead actress would be a ‘sure thing’ but 1979’s Prophecy, which John Frankenhemier directed from David Seltzer’s script for Paramount Studios, is a perfect example of how even the best laid plans can go to waste.

    The story begins when social worker Dr. Robert (Robert Foxworth) gives up his job in the city when he’s offered a position with the EPA to move out to the beautiful state of Maine. He accepts and soon enough, he and wife Maggie (Talia Shire) have made the move to a riverside community. Here, a man named John Hawks (Armand Assante) and his girlfriend, Ramona (Victoria Racimo), lead the local Native American population in protests against a logging company that has come in and polluted the river with dangerous chemicals.

    Robert goes about investigating the claims and eventually discovers that, yes, the logging company is definitely up to no good. He confronts the man who runs the mill and the corporate lackey does what he can to bribe Rob into looking the other way. Pregnant Maggie becomes increasingly concerned with things as Rob notices strange behavior in the local animal population, beginning with the odd sight of a duck eating a salmon. As Rob starts to figure that this has to do with the use of chemicals in the watershed, dead lumberjacks start turning up – victims of a dangerously mutated killer bear!

    The cast does what it can here. Talia Shire, at a high point after Rocky and The Godfather II, is pretty good here, delivering a convincing performance and generating considerable sympathy. Robert Foxworth is decent enough, if never amazing, as the male lead. He’s likeable enough. Armand Assante does a pretty good job in his part as well, and hey, check out none other than Richard Dysart from The Thing in a nice supporting role.

    Prophecy has its heart in the right place. Its message is one worth listening to, and it was ahead of the pack in its depictions of the effects of corporate pollution on the environment. It is, however, a big ol’ mess of a film. Frankenheimer loses control of the pacing in the picture pretty early on, resulting in a bloated film that could easily have had about half an hour or so trimmed from its running time and been all the better for it. The biggest, and most notorious, issue with the film, however, is the terrible depiction of the mutant bear. The old adage that some things are better left unseen rings hilariously true with this part of the picture, as the killer bear suit, which gets a good bit of screen time and is shown in all of its goofy gory, looks ridiculous. It generates nothing even close to a scare, instead far more likely to result in laughter.

    Prophecy – Blu-ray Review:

    Prophecy arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. The feature takes up just over 27GBs of space and is given a pretty strong bit rate. Although minor specks can be spotted here and there, overall the image is pretty clean, showing excellent detail in pretty much every frame. Colors look good, especially in the day time outdoor scenes, and skin tones look nice. There’s plenty of natural film grain here and no noticeable noise reduction. Compression artifacts are never a problem and the picture shows no noticeable edge enhancement either. All in all, this is nicely presented and very organic, film-like picture.

    Audio chores are handled by a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono mix, in English, and it sounds fine. Subtitles are provided in English. No problems to note here at all, the track sounds nice and clean. Dialogue is always easy to understand and follow and the score comes across with a nice, impressive power behind it. There’s solid depth throughout. No problems to note with any hiss or distortion at all and the levels are always nicely balanced.

    The bulk of the extras are made up of six brand new featurettes, beginning with All Of Our Sins, a nineteen-minute piece that interviews Talia Shire about how she landed the part after meeting with Frankenheimer after she’d seen some success after Rocky. She then talks about what it was like to work with the director and the rest of the cast, how she had to learn the basics of the cello to play her role, and her thoughts on what works and what doesn’t in the movie.

    Robert Foxworth is up next in the ten-minute Bearing Up featurette, who talks about auditioning for the part he got, his thoughts on the film’s message, working with Frankenheimer, his thoughts on the film and the problematic effects work and more.

    In the thirteen-minute Bear And Grin It we spend some time with screenwriter David Seltzer who speaks very bluntly about writing the film and how he and Frankenheimer absolutely did not see eye to eye on this project at all. He was kicked off the set but dishes plenty of dirt about Frankenheimer’s hot temper, penchant for hard drinking and more. He then lays into the film pretty hard, talking about everything that he sees as completely wrong with the film. If you want watch only one featurette on this disc, make it this one – Seltzer does not pull any punches here!

    Hard To Bear is a twenty-minute interview with SFX man Tom Burman who is pretty honest about the problems with the film and, yes, its infamous effects work. He talks about being under ridiculous time constraints, having to fix the previously made bear suit and how he did what he could to make the creature frightening. He’s also pretty up front about how the work turned out, but gives credit to many of the people that he worked with on the project. He finishes by telling an interesting story about the film’s premiere and Rick Baker’s effects team which clearly still pisses him off.

    The twenty-one-minute Prophecy Prodigy gets make-up artist Allan Apone on camera to share some stories about how he landed the gig on this project, working with Burman and learning from him, what he was responsible for in terms of the films’ effects, how he actually managed to more or less get along with Frankenheimer and his own thoughts on the film overall.

    The final featurette is The Man Behind The Mask , a twenty-two-minute piece where mime artist Tom McLoughlin shows up to talk about how he wound up working on the picture after spending some time in France, what it was like acting inside a weird bear costume, working with Burman and the other effects technicians, his thoughts on Frankenheimer, how he pretty much got along with everyone in the cast and how he remains disappointed by how the film turned out.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are the film’s original theatrical trailer, a quintet of vintage radio spots, a nice still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    Prophecy – The Final Word:

    John Frankenheimer’s famously troubled Prophecy is too long and it completely falls apart in the end but it does have some interesting ideas on display and feature some decent performances from a cast doing their best to save things. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray is excellent, presenting the much maligned picture in excellent shape, with strong audio and with some very interesting, and often times quite revealing, interviews to document its uneasy production.

    Click on the images below for full sized Prophecy Blu-ray screen caps!