Director: George McCowan.
Starring.Ray Milland, Sam Elliott, Joan Van Ark, Adam Roarke, Judy Pace, Lynn Borden, Mae Mercer, David Gilliam USA. 1h 31m.
You’ll have to forgive me for the review you’re about to read, but I adore this low budget eco horror which is widely considered to be a very poor movie, but for me it’s cinematic gold and I make very few apologies for adoring it, and thankfully writer Fran Lebowitz agrees with me when she called this movie “the best bad movie I have ever seen in my life.”
If YOU Are Squeamish Stay Home!!!
Many eco horror movies are quite subtle in their approach, the most famous is probably Long Weekend (1978) where a couple struggle to deal with their personal issues while taking it easy in the outback until nature decides to throw them a curveball, but others are more dramatic and usually after some kind of negative human influence, be it radiation, pollution or a truck load of PCP, the wildlife come to life and rally against mankind. From the dynamic Birds from Hitchcock, to Franco Prosperi ‘s Wild Beasts (1984) where a zoo’s water supply is compromised, sending an array of wildlife into a frenzy stalking the city streets.
In stark contrast Frogs is set in the hot sweaty swampy Southern American, where a grumpy chemical baron, Jason Crockett (Miland) and his family are planning a lavish 4th of July celebration in their exceptional plantation style mansion. Ray Miland is absolutely perfect in his role as the hard headed capitalist who just doesn’t give a fuck, living in the past and totally blind to his effects on the world around him, most of this grumpyness was real as he had hell of a time filming in the heat, having to wear a toupee that kept falling off and finding the heat very hard to deal with he left the set early so the later par of the movie has to be filmed with his stunt double.
An eco aware wildlife photographer stumbles on a deceased groundsman and this leads to his entanglement in the Crocketts patriotic party, Picket Smith (Elliott) aware that the man was spraying pesticides and had possibly been bitten by a snake, this sets up the film perfectly, Picket can see the dangers of excessive chemicals being used on the wildlife and environment, and attempts to warn the family to postpone their celebrations.
Despite being called Frogs, and having a giant frog with a human hand in it’s mouth on the cover, a lot of the deaths are carried out by other critters like salamanders, skinks, snakes and in one cut of the movie a butterfly causes a random death, this was later changed into something more deadly, but I like to imagine a butterfly killing people in all the scenes! Don’t fret though creature feature lovers, the frog with the hand does appear, but it really confused a lot of movie goers back in the day as they were expecting giant man-eating frogs, rather than swamp wildlife on the rampage.
Most of the violent (comedy) deaths and drastically over acted which is an art unto itself, most notable is when a member of the Crockett family is somehow trapped in a greenhouse with a bunch of skinks who keep knocking over bottles of chemicals, slowly suffocating the man with a toxic cloud as they sneak out of the greenhouse leaving him to writhe in pain because that’s what skinks do all day. The array of critters brought in included 500 Florida frogs and 100 giant South American toads purchased for use in the film escaped during production so who knows, this might become a reality.
The film was theatrically released on March 10, 1972 as a double feature with Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, and despite being very different styles of monster both were pretty much trashed for their content, but Frogs does manage to create an authentic period setting, you can literally feel the past stench of an old southern gothic coming from the amphibian besieged property.
For me this is a thorough favourite, the kills are bizarre, the action and acting is questionable but I love every minute of this swampy mess, with Ray Miland sitting on top of it shouting orders and cursing the world.
R – Food of the Gods (1976), Roar (1981), Long Weekend (1978), Wild Beasts (1984)
L – Eco Horrors, A-Z of Creature Features volume 1
5s – Ray Miland