Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I have to admit, this one came to me with such a bad reputation, and I owned it for close to ten years without viewing it. Yesterday I ran it through from beginning to end and discovered not such a bad movie. It still retains the Bad Movie Wednesday, however.

It’s The Mothman Prophecies, featuring Richard Gere, no slouch of a box office attraction. At the conclusion of two hours viewing I also recognize the exceptional direction and camera work. It’s a first class production. Not so much the story.

And it’s the story that drags on me. The centerpiece is the Mothman myth dating back 50 years ago from Point Pleasant, West Virginia. At the North Texas Skeptics we had so much fun with Mothman when this came out that Prasad Golla and I did a cartoon, poking a little fun.

mothman

So much for the humor. Back to the movie. These images are screen shots from the DVD. I’m getting details from Wikipedia.

John Klein is a reporter for The Washington Post, and he and his lovely wife Mary (Debra Messing) are buying a new house. They love it, and each other.

TheMothmanProphecies-01

They never get home. Mary is driving, and a horrible vision of something flashes in front of her, and she crashes the car. Not bad, but Mary is taken to the emergency room and is ultimately diagnosed with a brain tumor. She dies. That leaves John alone, to collect her belongings, which include some drawings she made while in the hospital.

TheMothmanProphecies-02

Two years later John sets off on a trip to Richmond, Virginia, driving alone at night. Suddenly his car stalls on a lonely stretch of road, and he finds himself in Pleasant Point, West Virginia, all the way over at the Ohio state line.

Seeking assistance, John comes to the door of Gordon Smallwood (Will Patton), who shoves a shotgun in his face and calls the cops. The cop is Officer Connie Mills (Laura Linney), and things de-escalate. John gets to know Gordon on better terms and Connie on much better terms.

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At this point the story devolves into the Mothman prophecies, with visions, cryptic voices on the phone, consultations with a researcher into the paranormal, and a prophecy of disaster on the Ohio River.

Eventually everything comes together with John stalled in traffic on the Silver Bridge across the Ohio at Point Pleasant, also Connie in her patrol car. The bridge was not designed to take the load of all those cars, and a single point failure brings the center span down into the river.

TheMothmanProphecies-04

John rescues Connie from her submerged car, and that’s the end of the movie.

The Mothman myth and the bridge collapse are based on events in 1966 and 1967, culminating in the collapse of the Silver Bridge on 15 December 1967. The true story is a tale of engineering and maintenance gone awry, and it goes like this.

The original bridge employed link chain suspension and was constructed in 1928, when automobiles were much lighter. Also, the link chain feature meant that the failure of a single link would bring down the entire bridge. A post mortem of the disaster found that link, contrary to what a message on the screen at the end of the movie announces. There was a link that had incurred a on-tenth-inch defect, which defect produced stress concentration sufficient to cause the link to fail under the rush hour load. Remaining links quickly failed as the load of the bridge shifted to them, and the entire center span came down very quickly. Forty-six people died. The movie mentions 36. Why is not clear.

Mothman is another matter, although local legend connects Mothman sightings in 1966 and 1967 to the bridge collapse, real life does not reveal any prophecies. A 1975 book by John Keel gave title and basis for the movie.

In all, here are some significant performances and excellent production work thrown onto a bit of popular nonsense.

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One thought on “Bad Movie Wednesday

  1. Pingback: Bad Movie Wednesday | Skeptical Analysis

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