Frogs (1972 USA)

frogs-2“Today the pond, tomorrow the world!” You’d better believe it baby. Almost a decade after seagulls and crows wreaked havoc on Tippi Hedren’s coiffure in “The Birds” and just one year after “Willard” let his rats do the dirty work, this Nature vs. Man hit came along to continue the legacy (a legacy which would gain even more steam in the wake of “Jaws,” with man thereafter having to fend off every beast and insect imaginable… except for gnats.)

*Spoilers aplenty* Sam Elliott, when he still had hair,  plays a photojournalist named Pickett Smith – not Fence – canoeing off an island owned by elderly Ray Milland (patriarch Jason Crockett). He is capsized by Milland’s irresponsible grandson. He is invited to Milland’s mansion for a shower and some dry clothes just as an annual family celebration is taking place. The family is more commandeered to appear there by the old man rather than taking part out of pleasure, but they are present nonetheless. Before anyone can even cut the cake, a groundskeeper has been found dead from a snakebite and it isn’t long before members of the family are being picked off, one by one, by snakes, spiders, iguanas, turtles(!) and pretty much everything except frogs. The titular characters squat and watch as if they are on dope.

They “ribbit” as the bodies pile up before staking their claim at the end. Top-billed Ray Milland is wheelchair-bound here and barks his lines at the cast of lesser-knowns. He is appropriately steely, stubborn and unpleasant and not a little bit foolish. Elliott, near the start of his lengthy career, is hunky and appealing. His eye-poppingly revealing jeans belong in some sort of museum for erotic denim. Joan Van Ark, also in one of her early roles, is fresh and pretty and compliments Elliott well, though her character is given precious little to do. Lynn Borden plays the frustrated and complaining wife of Jason, and is given one of the sillier scenes in the movie when she is “stuck” in some ankle-deep mud and gets assaulted by a giant turtle. Judy Pace makes an impression as the model girlfriend of one of the grandsons.

frogs10                         (“I got a woman here in an adult onesie. Please come and arrest her.”)

She’s one of the few people who will give Milland what for. Hollis Irving is a memorably batty presence, traipsing off into the swamp after a rare butterfly. Others in the cast are basically on hand to croak at the opportune moment. There’s an attempt here to suggest that Everglade animals finally had their fill of man’s oppression and pollution and decided to retaliate. Elliott photographs endless debris over the opening credits, giving a semi-documentary feel to proceedings. This is rather briskly forgotten as the increasingly preposterous attacks and deaths begin to mount up, Ten Little Indians style. The best aspect of it all is Mario Tosi’s colourful camera-work that shows the beautiful environment from many creative viewpoints.

The situations of these encounters, paired with the amateurism in the acting, provides unintentional humour in ample quantities! Regardless of the fact this is a rather shoddily-written and choppily-edited movie, with some silly scenarios and, in some cases poor acting, it remains entertaining and compelling for most of its non-oppressive running time. Director George McGowan makes good use of the boggy setting and gives it an atmospheric feeling of certain doom! The eerie score also helps as well.  Made for $200k, it grossed over $2 million in the US alone. Most low budget horrors made plenty of money in ’72. The public were insatiable for horror that year…Frogs has a certain charm that is hard to replicate. American International made some gems, and this is one of them. You could even say its ribbiting.

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Comments

  1. This sounds like one of the most hilarious film premises EVER! I’m definitely checking this one out, thanks for sharing! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I highly recommend this classic…it is actually sweetly disturbing. Creepy yet peaceful.

    Like

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