(director: John Frankenheimer; screenwriter: David Seltzer; cinematographer: Harry Stradling Jr; editor: Tom Rolf; music: Leonard Rosenman; cast: Robert Foxworth (Dr. Robert Verne), Armand Assante (John Hawks), Richard Dysart (Mr. Isley), Talia Shire (Maggie), George Clutesi (M’Rai), Victoria Racimo (Ramona), Tom McFadden (Pilot), Everett Creach (Kelso), Graham Jarvis (Shusette), Lyvingston Holms (Black Woman), Charles H. Gray (Sheriff), Johnny Timko (Boy),Mia Bendixson (Girl), Burke Byrnes (Father), Evans Evans (Cellist); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Robert L. Rosen; Paramount; 1979)
“Too bad the ambitious pic was so poorly made and also so lacking in entertainment value, because there’s a good sci-fi story here if done right.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Sci-fier with an unpleasant eco-horror shocker plot. It’s directed by John Frankenheimer(“The Birdman of Alcatraz”/”Seven Days in May”/”Year of the Gun”), who earned his rep in the 1960s and has been ever since in a decline. This schlocky pic is good example of his decline. David Seltzer’s inane script channels the familiar plot developments from the genre’s weaker B films and leaves one unimpressed, as it degenerates into a series of disgusting fight scenes. Seltzer has taken themercury poisoningplot line from a real-life environmental disaster in the Japanese city of Minimata, in 1958, where it was discovered that mercury waste being dumped into a nearby river from a chemical plant had caused severe mutations and neurological problems among the locals. Even when armed with the facts of this intriguing real-life incident, Seltzer, the writer of The Omen, can’t let go of his schlock instincts.
The pic is set in rural Maine, where the problem is that mercury poisoning produces giant animal mutants.
Health inspector Dr. Robert Verne (Robert Foxworth) and his pregnant wife Maggie (Talia Shire), something he’s unaware of, visit Maine’s backwoods to make an environmental report on the forestland, where the local Indians claim a paper mill company is polluting the land. Verne’s investigation finds evidence of mercury poisoning from a period of twenty years that has caused damage to the wildlife (rabid racoons attacking tourists) and also that a large number of the Indian locals are suffering from neurological disorders. The mercury appears to be from the paper mill’s illegal dumping. There’s also a giant bear on the loose, who in his mutated form has gone on a killing rampage and threatens the lives of any human in the forest.
Too bad the ambitious pic was so poorly made and also so lacking in entertainment value, because there’s a good sci-fi story here if done right.
REVIEWED ON 12/29/2014 GRADE: C+