9/20/08

It's Not Easy Being Mean Green


"Frogs are always cool. Never has a frog been hopping toward me, and I thought "Man I better play dead. Here comes that frog..." You never say "here comes that frog" in a nervous manner. It's always optimistic. "Hey here comes that frog. Maybe he will settle next to me."" -Mitch Hedburg


When I'm watching a menace in a film, I want it to be something I couldn't defeat with a mason jar. For this reason that if there's ever a killer firefly movie, I won't be watching it. However, when I saw tonight's feature in the store, I had to have it. The main reason, Sam Elliott. If any of you've seen him in Road House, Tombstone, or as the cowboy in The Big Lebowski, you'll understand why he's one of my favorite actors to watch. Add in Ray Milland (The Man With the X Ray Eyes himself) and a dose of "eco-horror", and I'm sold. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you....



Frogs (1972) starring Sam Elliott, Ray Milland, and Joan Van Ark. Directed by George McCowen.



The serene wilderness of the Florida coast is the destination for freelance photographer/ecologist Pickett Smith (Elliott). Paddling around in canoe taking pictures of wildlife seemed safe enough. That is until Pickett is dumped out of his boat by a speed boat driven by drunken rich boy Clint Crockett and his sister Karen (Van Ark). They take Pickett up to the island mansion of their grandfather, chemical industry magnate Jason Crockett, to get dried off and have some drinks. It's the fourth of July weekend and the Crockett clan is there for their yearly gathering to celebrate grandfather's birthday, but this year is different. The wildlife on the island has gone crazy, and the croaking of the islands frogs so loud at night that it keeps them awake.



Jason wants all the wildlife exterminated so they won't ruin his special day, and he has dispatched his groundskeeper to do just that. When he learns of Pickett's ecology expertise, he sends him out to have a look around and find the groundskeeper that has not returned. Pickett finds him, but the man has been killed and eaten by the island's amphibious inhabitants. (It's worth noting that when Pickett finds the groundskeeper that he can be seen breathing very visibly. Also when Pickett rolls him over the man's eyes are closed, but in the next shot they are wide open.) Nature has begun striking back, and the other party goers soon fall prey to snakes, spiders, and a particularly clever lizard with the ability to both identify bottles of poison and use them! It's up to Pickett to save who he can before the slimy enemies storm the house and get them all.



The real problem with the movie is that frogs in and of themselves are not menacing. No matter how many shots of gaggles of frogs set to creepy music you show me; I'm never going to feel my life is threatened. In fact, most of the deaths come from people having to fall to the ground before the animal kingdom killers can get them. When a threat needs your assistance, or clumsiness as the case may be, to kill you, then you should be quite safe. Unlike other zoological menaces like The Birds or giant snake opus Anaconda, frogs can not be trained to hop at you menacingly. The shots of frogs coming to get people only confirms this as the shots of the amphibious assault show them hopping whatever way strikes their fancy.



Frogs is quite the silly picture, but it does have qualities to it that I rather liked. Seeing a young Sam Elliott was definitely one of them, but more than that the over the top ecological message was just laugh out loud funny. In an age where The Inconvenient Truth could be billed as "eco-horror", (after all what is more frightening than a 2 hour powerpoint presentation by Al Gore) it was fun to look back at the message in this movie that only lacked a crying Indian make it a more pointed message. Overall, I'd say check it out. Don't expect scares or tension, but instead revel in this hippy dippy glory of this early '70's gem brought to you by the fine folks at American International Pictures. 

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