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Article Archive >> Entertainment

Movies from the Black Lagoon: Prophecy

Movies from the Black Lagoon
Prophecy- 1979,Rated PG

Horror movies were all the rage in the late 70's following the success of John Carpenter's "Halloween". Though most films of the time followed the "stalk and slash" formula, there were occasional movies that tweaked the genre such as this effort, which was marketed as a return to the "monster movie" motif. Here you get grown up characters, for a change, at the mercy of a freak of nature, which stalks them through the woodlands of Maine intent on making a meal out of them.
It all begins in D.C. when a doctor, for the Environmental Protection Agency, lands the plumb assignment of mediating a clash between Native Americans, in Northern Maine, and a paper company, which has purchased the rights to 100,000 acres of trees. Dr. Verne (the prototype for the Al Gore style crusader) sees it as an opportunity to make a difference while his wife Maggie views the situation as a chance to sit hubby down and break the news that she's in the family way. Meanwhile, we already know there's bigger fish to fry after witnessing a tense opening scene where a search party runs smack dab into a giant, unseen beast, which decimates their group.
Things go poorly as Verne finds himself torn between the grim leader of the Native American resistance group, Hawks, and the paper company's well meaning representative, Isley. Eventually, the doctor learns that Mercury poisoning is to blame for local behavior problems and an alarming rate of mutation in all-animal species that eat fish. The problem then becomes reporting his findings when he is stranded in the woods with a small party and with no weapons, which would have come in handy considering that a giant mutant plans to snack on them like corn dogs.
This one takes its time getting to the good stuff. You have to wait about 53 minutes for the thrills to come, but they are pretty non-stop at that point. The whole film kicks it up a notch once the monster shows up, but before that you have to wade through a slew of dull moments - a tour of the paper company and a pointless argument about not wanting to bring children into the world because it's tough out there. That said the doc spots a salmon the size of a Volkswagen, however, he has naively been eating fish from the same lake - proving that he didn't exactly ace biology.
The actors also fail to bring their A-Game until the second act. Robert Foxworth makes for a very dull Dr. Verne (maybe he has more in common with Gore than I thought). He's supposed to be passionate about the world's ills but comes off as cynical, snotty, and somewhat bored. Talia Shire (Rocky) is even worse as his suffering wife. She basically whines through the first half of the movie in what appears to be an extended audition tape for "The Nanny." Armand Assante stiffly interprets Hawks as an emotionless drone who doesn't show a sign of life until he's minutes away from being eaten. Richard Dysart manages to be the most consistent player as the paper company guy with a conscience. He doesn't allow you to write off this character as a cold blooded, bought and paid for company guy and even manages to be somewhat heroic until he too, gets chomped.
Basically this one comes alive when the monster shows up. The pace quickens and the monster attacks are well staged with barely a moment to breathe as the creature whittles down the group by swallowing their heads, thrashing cast members in its burly grip, and tossing stunt men through the air with a majestic swoop of its powerful forearm. That said the monster does suffer upon close-ups that make it appear to be nothing more than a shaved bear with a nasty case of the shingles. Still it's a fun return to the monster movie formula, which, come to think of it, always-featured slow set ups and paper thin characters.
Best Line: "I'm strictly a rat bite and gas leak man."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@pennswoods.net.

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