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The Man Who Foretold the Future

By Roger Ebert / March 6th, 1988

Los Angeles, California - A 1982 documentary narrated by the late Orson Welles has become an overnight hit at California video rental stores, where customers are willing to pay up to $6 a night to view a prediction that California will be destroyed by an earthquake in May 1988.

The movie, named "The Man Who Foretold the Future," was produced by television tycoon David L. Wolper nearly six years ago, and languished in oblivion. It uses old newsreel footage and scenes from Hollywood and foreign features to illustrate the prophecies of the medieval scholar Nostradamus.

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Welles, looking appropriately solemn and posed with a cigar and world globe in an opulent library, narrates the story of Nostradamus. And there is footage shot especially for this film showing that when the scholar's body was dug up two centuries after his death, he wore a plaque carrying the exact date of his exhumation.

In the video, Nostradamus is said to have predicted the rise and fall of Napoleon and Hitler, as well as the atomic bomb, the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, and World War III, which he believed will start in 1994.

But for Californians, it is the earthquake prophecy that has made the tape a hot item on the rental circuit. Welles doesn't beat around the bush: A fire from the center of the Earth will cause the quakes, and "Nostradamus has given us the exact month," he intones, "and the year: May 1988."

Sales clerks at the busy 20/20 Video Store on La Cienega Boulevard told me the tape is renting like crazy, and the overnight fee has been raised to $6, reflecting the demand. Spokesmen for Warner Bros. Home Video confirm that "The Man Who Foretold the Future" has emerged as a surprise hit from their backlist.

At the end of the film, Wolper adds a footnote saying that the producers "do not agree with any of the prophecies."

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