TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: PROPHECY (1979)

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PROPHECY (1979)

This 1979 horror thriller starts out letting us know there is something…emphasis on ‘thing’…wrong in the deep forests of Maine as a search team and their dogs are slaughtered in the dead of night by something large and vicious. We don’t see it, but we hear it’s fearsome roar and see the results of it’s carnage. We then meet doctor and activist Robert Verne (Robert Foxworth) who is hired by the EPA to write a report on a logging company which is in a land dispute with a local Native American tribe. He arrives with his wife Maggie (Talia Shire) and right away hears stories of disappearances that the logging chief (Richard Dysart) is all too eager to blame on the tribe and their leader Hawks (Armand Assante). The Native Americans, however, believe the loggers have aroused a legendary creature called Katahdin by disturbing it’s homeland and it is responsible for the missing men. But Dr. Verne discovers a far more horrifying explanation as mercury poisoning caused by the logging company has affected a local lake and thus the wildlife and tribe members. And one of the side effects is a massive mutant grizzly bear with a taste for human flesh who targets Verne, his wife and others in a fight for life deep in the wilderness and with no one to come to their aid.

Prophecy is surprisingly cheesy for a big budget film ($12 million, which was a large budget at the time) with name actors in it’s cast. Director John Frankenheimer moves things along at a methodical pace and spends a good time focusing on the messages of progress’ harm to the environment and the ill treatment of Native Americans. Themes that still have resonance. And while these are valid messages, this is advertised as a monster movie and we want to see some carnage. It’s close to an hour before we meet up with our monster as it savages a camping family. And well over an hour before our leads finally discover what they are up against and it discovers them. But it’s also hard to take the important messages in David Seltzer’s script seriously when the film’s last act is keyed on a blatant act of stupidity to set it in motion. Our bear is a momma bear and Verne and Co. discover two of it’s cubs…one dead, one still alive…and decide to take them with them as evidence. It never occurs to them that maybe giving her babies back would cease it’s pursuit and slaughter of their group, but it doesn’t, even after mom reclaims the dead one and temporarily leaves. Hard to believe no one thought returning the young would be a better option then being pursued by an angry mutant mom. The FX portraying the critter are in the form of the late Kevin Peter Hall (the Predator) in a mutant bear costume, shot at angles to make it look twice the size with some larger prosthetic props for close-ups, and it looks cheesy and though it is shown mostly in quick glimpses and in low light, the cheesiness comes through. Their is some gore, mostly in the last act, despite being rated PG, and it’s looks fine and is effective enough.

The cast are all reputable actors and really give it their all to present the material in a serious manner to go along with Frankenheimer’s dead serious tone, but once our creature shows up it goes from well intended eco-thriller to shlocky monster movie in a hurry. And that’s a good thing, as to be honest, the movie is kinda dull till our rubber beastie starts offing the red shirts and bad guys of the cast, even if the cheesiness sullies all the intended seriousness the film set up in it’s first two thirds. This film might have worked on a more serious horror level like Alien, which was released less then a month earlier, had it’s monster been presented more effectively or had been better designed. Still there is some entertainment value from this disappointing thriller when it’s hunt and chase final act gets moving, but one expects a lot more thrills from a director renown for making thrillers.

Worth a look for the 70s nostalgia and if you want to see how a SYFY level nature gone amok film was made back at that time, but if you go in looking for something on the level of Alien you’ll be sorely disappointed. I remember when seeing this in a theater back in 1979 the audience bursting out in laughter at the intended ‘shocking’ last scene…and it kinda sums up the whole movie when I think about it.

PERSONAL NOTE: This film does have some personal sentimental value for me as I saw it with my neighbor and his hot, young MILF mom and she was my first crush…she wore Daisy Dukes before Daisy Duke made them famous and is personally responsible for my denim shorts fetish. LOL!

2 and 1/2 gooey mutant momma bears!

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and my favorite scene…

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WITHOUT WARNING (1980)

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WITHOUT WARNING (1980)

Yet another early 80s gem that I had the pleasure of seeing on the big screen at the great Oritani Theater in Hackensack N.J. This delightfully cheesy sci-fi/ horror flick tells the story of an alien hunter who preys on humans using flying, fanged starfish-like creatures as weapons and a full 7 years before Arnold tangled with the Predator.

Without Warning focuses on two young couples (Tarah Nutter, Christopher S. Nelson, Humanoids From The Deep’s Lynn Theel and a young David Caruso) who decide to go camping at a remote lake despite the ominous warnings from strange local gas station owner/hunter, Joe Taylor (Jack Palance before City Slickers revived his career). Soon upon arrival at the secluded lake, they become the targeted prey of the extraterrestrial creature and his flying minions who have apparently staked out this area as their hunting ground. Now running for their lives and with no one believing them, they have only the gruff off-balanced Taylor and crazy war vet and conspiracy theorist “Sarge” (Martin Landau before Ed Wood revived his career) to turn to. Apparently these two have had dealings with this evil E.T. and have been equally ostracized for their claims, so maybe now it’s time to stand and fight.

This 1980 film is cheesy fun and brings a lot of unintentional laughs such as one youth’s attempt to describe the alien threat to a bar full of drunk locals and the alien actually stopping to steady a swinging lamp before continuing his pursuit of a victim. Greydon (Satan’s Cheerleaders) Clark directs from a script with no less than 4 writers listed for some reason. He gives the flick a rather pedestrian pace, but he treats his material seriously as do the cast, especially Palance and Landau, who properly chew up the scenery with Landau especially cranking up the nuttiness. Aside from them, though, the acting and dialog is strictly what you’d expect from a B-movie like this and the barely adequate performances suit the material oddly well. The production is strictly low budget with some passable alien SPFX and OK gore from future FX master Greg Cannom with the alien’s head created by the legendary Rick Baker. There isn’t a lot of action till the last act, but it is entertainingly worth waiting for and the fact that everyone in the small lakeside town seems to be some kind of nut does go a long way to make up for it in the meantime. And who can pass on a three-way showdown between Jack Palance, Martin Landau and a 7 foot purple alien? Not me! Add in a typical 80s electronic score by Dan Wyman and some nice cinematography by frequent John Carpenter DOP Dean Cundey and you have a good example of the type of B-movie they sadly don’t make anymore. Despite all it’s inadequacies, it’s heart is in the right place.

Not a classic or great movie by any length, but it is a fun 80s ‘so bad it’s good’ flick to enjoy with a couple of beers and a few other flicks of equally enjoyable awfulness (like Laserblast for example). Without Warning also features appearances by film vets Ralph Meeker and Neville Brand as doubting locals and Cameron Mitchell and Larry Storch as a hunter and scout master, respectively, who are among the creature’s first victims. Nostalgic 80s fun.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA:  Ironically, the alien hunter here is played by Kevin Peter Hall who also played the Predator in the similarly themed, classic Schwarzenegger flick in 1987.

For an in-depth comparison of Without Warning and Predator, go HERE to read all about it.

3 cheesy angry aliens!

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