Prophecy – USA, 1979


‘The monster movie’

Prophecy is a 1979 science fiction horror film directed by John Frankenheimer (Seconds; The Manchurian Candidate) from a screenplay by David Seltzer (The Omen). It stars Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire (Windows) and Armand Assante.

The film is an ecological fable about the evils of industrial pollution. A novelisation of the film, also written by Seltzer, was published, with the tagline “A Novel of Unrelenting Terror”.


Dr. Robert Verne (Robert Foxworth), an inner-city physician renowned for his compassion and fairness. So he’s asked by the EPA to mediate a dispute between Native American tribes and a polluting paper mill in isolated northern Maine. Accompanied by his pregnant wife Maggie (Talia Shire), a classical musician, Robert journeys to the deep woods, where he meets the tribal leader, John Hawks (Armand Assante) and a representative of the mill, Mr. Isley (Richard Dysart).

It transpires that the mill is indeed poisoning the local water supply with mercury, causing illness among tribe members and some mutated local wildlife. The Native Americans and the paper mill point fingers at each other for a rash of recent disappearances in the area, but Robert believes that something more ominous is responsible when he observes a huge salmon eat a duck.

Robert is proven right when he encounters an enormous, mutated grizzly bear with a taste for human flesh. Unfortunately for Robert and Maggie, he has taken one of the creature’s cubs back to camp, leading an angry mother bear to his tent flap…

Prophecy 2


Some violence/gore and other scenes were deleted not because of the censors but on a decision made by director John Frankenheimer. This included a longer close-up of a man’s headless corpse and a shot of Katahdin the bear (played by Kevin Peter Hall) graphically disembowelling Isley (both deemed “gratuitous”), a flashback to the night where Rob and Maggie have sex (deleted for time), and extensions of several scenes, including a longer tour of the paper mill and Rob fishing, which showed him falling asleep and later waking up in the sun.


The original concept for Katahdin was considerably more terrifying than what would eventually show up on screen. However, when director John Frankenheimer saw the design, he suggested that it should be altered to look more “bear-like”. Interestingly, the original concept was actually quite close to the poster art.


Frankenheimer considered Prophecy a film with far more potential than what he eventually delivered, allegedly due to him being at the peak of his alcoholism. The scene where Katahdin swats the boy in the sleeping bag to smithereens is regarded as unintentionally hilarious by many viewers.

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“…Prophecy has a certain something that just can’t be denied. Prophecy even contains a MESSAGE (re: don’t mess with Mother Nature or you’ll be sorry), which is more than I can say for most horror movies produced today. Is it scary? No. Vastly amusing? You bet your bottom dollar.” Patrick Naugle, DVD Verdict

“Despite some lashings of gore and the obviously surreal make-up effects (both of which are strong enough to make one really question the PG rating), the film is really undone by its awkward dialogue and the attempt to wedge some kind of moral into the proceedings.” Nathaniel Thompson, Mondo Digital







Cast and characters:

  • Robert Foxworth as Dr. Robert Verne
  • Talia Shire as Maggie Verne
  • Armand Assante as John Hawks
  • Victoria Racimo as Ramona Hawks
  • Richard A. Dysart as Bethel Isley
  • George Clutesi as Hector M’Rai
  • Burke Byrnes as Travis Nelson (Father)
  • Mia Bendixsen as Kathleen Nelson (Girl)
  • Johnny Timko as Paul Nelson (Boy)
  • Charles H. Gray as Sheriff Bartholomew Pilgrim
  • Tom McFadden as Huntoon (Helicopter Pilot)
  • Graham Jarvis as Victor Shusette
  • Everett Creach as Kelso
  • Kevin Peter Hall as Katahdin

Wikipedia | IMDb

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Posted by Will Holland

10 Comments on “Prophecy – USA, 1979”

  1. This movie is a prime candidate for a remake. It is a great concept that was just not handled well. Am I the only one who thought the slaughter of the family in the woods scary as hell?

  2. Does anyone not relate this in any way, fashion or form to the GMO of salmon!!??? This is the first thing I thought of, this movie!!!!!

  3. I also seem to remember an additional scene with the campers where the father or daughter was attacked first and eaten immediately, and while the boy hid in his sleeping bag, his family’s blood was dripping on his bag, prompting him to bolt.

  4. I think I saw this when I was in my teens (I was born in 1989) and the bear creeped me out and the whole movie I think scared the ever living daylights out of me. I prolly watched in the middle of the night and that’s why. But all in all not bad.

  5. Is that picture of it tipping over the jeep the original design? It looks slightly different but still pretty bad IMO.

    1. Haven’t seen it since I dragged a reluctant former girlfriend out of the afternoon sun to watch it in a tatty Blackpool cinema. I think we laughed through most of it, I have to admit…

    2. David…. YES exactly. I was 14 when it came out and it damn scared the shit out of me. I’ve not seen it since but I want to watch it again with my wife cause she said she has never seen it. This movie is awesome and for 1979 is better than some crap we have going around now. It has a great story line I thought.

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