by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

You can guess from the title that this is a biopic of the famed French apothecary Michel de Nostredame (Nostradamus). A very close contemporary of England's Henry VIII, Michel was a renegade scientist from a converted Jewish family who managed to live into his sixties by staying out of the way of both the Inquisition and the plague. He was expelled from medical school, but was often called Dr, and was assumed to be a physician even though he would be more accurately described as a pharmacist. (The lines between those professions were not drawn so clearly in those days.) More important to those of us who live 550 years later, he became supremely famous as a seer whose mystical verses may have accurately predicted the critical developments of the succeeding centuries in some detail. Or so they claim.

Of course the people who voice such a claim have really had to cobble the mystical ramblings of Nostro to suit historical events, because it's never really very clear what sooths he was actually saying. His verses are cryptic and ambiguous. Given enough effort and plenty of latitude in our interpretation, we can make Nostradamus's verses mean whatever we want them to mean. Needless to say, the big problem with Nostro's reputation as a clairvoyant is that he only seems to work in reverse. People in our time look at his cryptic verses, cobble them to suit our needs, and conclude that he predicted such catastrophic developments as the world wars in the 20th century, and even the fall of the twin towers on 9/11. To my knowledge there is not a single case in all these centuries where anyone has deciphered Nostro's ambiguous ramblings and actually used them to forecast something yet to come.

Let's face it, anybody can predict the past. Shakespeare was born during Nostradamus's lifetime, and I'd be willing to bet that if I spend enough time on Shakespeare's works, and apply the same liberal standards of interpretation which have been applied to Nostro's, I can probably make a case that ol' Billy was actually the Prophet of Avon.

So, you might wonder, if Nostradamus never really predicted anything concretely and accurately, how did he ever become famous as a prophet in the first place? It's because France's queen Catherine de Medici, a famous patron of the arts, was a fan. She was fascinated with astrology and read Nostro's almanacs. When one of Nostradamus's books hinted vaguely at unspecified threats to the royal family, Catherine summoned him to the court to explain himself, and she ended up in his thrall. When Catherine's husband was killed in a jousting contest, she became convinced that this was the very threat Nostradamus had foreseen. A star was born! Catherine made Nostradamus the personal physician and tutor of her oldest son, the next king.

I reckon that train of logic wasn't convincing enough for the author of this screenplay, because he embellished Nostradamus's accuracy to a point where it would pass our modern standards for the fulfillment of miraculous predictions, as opposed to simply impressing a credulous queen from an era when a flat earth stood in the center of the universe and medicine consisted mostly of blood-letting. As the movie spins the yarn, Nostro's prediction was so specific that the French king's mistress went out onto the jousting field and begged her lover not to take a third pass at his opponent, for that is presisely when Nostro said death would come.

And it then did.

If that had really happened, even I would be a believer.

The director of the film wasn't satisfied merely to present such a specific prophecy fulfilled. He actually showed us the event transpiring in Nostro's mind, then pictured the prophet writing it down, then pictured the event happening exactly as Nostro had seen it! (And saving money in the process by using the same footage twice.)

According to the film, that isn't all Nostro could see. Freed from the ambiguity required by his verses, he confessed to friends and family that he saw the problems of the 20th century in detail, and his "imaginings" were actual newsreel footage of Hitler's speeches, atomic bomb explosions, the JFK assassination, Nazis, panzers, and other calamitous modern developments. (He seems surprised and frightened by the swastika symbol, although en educated man of his time would probably have seen it used in both religious and secular imagery, and would have considered it benign.)

Man, those were some specific visions! Nostro even foresaw Jackie Kennedy's pillbox hat. (I didn't make that up.)

I'm not sure this was the right way to go with this film. I think it would have worked much better if the filmmakers had tried to show the cultural and psychological conditions that caused people to believe that Nostradamus was a seer, as opposed to assuming that his reputation was simply the acknowledgement of genuine clairvoyance.

But I'll say this. If the filmmaker genuinely thought that the right approach was to assume that Nostradamus really was a prophet, he needed to make a much more vivid and sensational film than this one. This film is paced very slowly, and Nostro (Tcheky Karyo) delivers every line in the measured, emotionless tone of a scientist describing some obscure phenomenon to laymen. To make it worse, he does that with a French accent so thick that I wasn't always sure which English words he was trying to say.


* very poor DVD. Not recommended. See the comments below in the "Nudity Report"







There are no significant English-language reviews available online.


5.7 IMDB summary (of 10)



A weak performer. It grossed about $350,000 in the USA. It did better in Germany, where a quarter fo a million people paid to see it, which would be equivalent to about a $10 million picture in the USA.


For our purposes the film has some value. Nostro spends more time on picking up chicks (and avoiding his groupies!) than he spends on either science or mysticism, so there's some interesting nudity.

There's full-frontal male nudity from Techky Karyo in three different scenes

There's also some breasts to look at. The most important example is the gloriously beautiful Julia Ormond, who was then in her 20s. This film was approximately contemporaneous with Sabrina and Legends of the Fall, and she looked marvelous. And her chest  ... wow. I've seen her other nude scenes, of course, and I still was surprised by the size of her bosom. That made the entire film worth seeing, or at least it would have if the DVD quality was up to snuff. Unfortunately, the picture quality is about the same level as VHS, and the aspect ratio is 4:3, so it may well be a remastered VHS tape.

Other breasts:
  • Assumpta Serna
  • Amanda Boxer
  • Diana Quick



Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


A dreary movie with a ridiculous premise, poor acting, and an awful DVD transfer.