Frogs (1972)

Yesterday I found myself in the mood for a good, old-fashioned mutated animal movie. Something along the lines of Them! or Eight Legged Freaks, where man’s abuse of the natural world results in monstrous consequences. The promotional images for Frogs had me thinking I was about to see some unfortunate amphibians eat toxic waste and turn into man-eating monsters. Sweet, right? Negative. Turns out it’s just a bunch of assholes beset by ordinary creepy-crawlies exacting nature’s revenge. (Incidentally, wouldn’t “Nature’s Revenge” be a great name for an organic laxative?)

This movie should feature either giant frogs or very tiny people.

Whatever, “don’t fuck with Mother Nature” is still a solid theme. I loved Long Weekend, in which callous campers get their comeuppance at the paws of various woodland critters. So I settled in for what I expected to be a bit of preachy environmentalist propaganda, delivered with the B+ quality of most ’70s wide-release horror. The propaganda is half-assed. The quality is even less-assed.

The story: Jada Pickett Smith is minding his own business, taking wilderness photos around a private island off the coast of Florida until a wealthy, Budweiser-swilling boater comes along and sideswipes the poor photographer’s canoe. Richie Rich feels bad so he and his flirty sister take Smith back to their plantation or whatever to dry off. There he meets a bunch of snobby pricks who hate each other but still gather every Fourth of July to appease their bellowing, wheelchair-bound patriarch. One of them says something about how it’s just awful that the government makes them filter their factory’s waste water, so clearly they hate the Earth and must be punished. I suppose we should be grateful for even that much. The rest of the movie is so lazy I’m surprised the mere mention of wealth wasn’t enough to condemn them all to death by wildlife.

No, I don't see any problem with all our servants being black.

They also complain that their little island is infested with jumbo frogs that have the audacity to make noise at night, disturbing their sleep. They disperse enormous amounts of pesticides, which only pisses the frogs off. In response, gang green recruits the widest variety of snakes, lizards, and birds ever assembled outside a zoo to wage war on the disrespectful wastrels.

Maybe we're at war with France.

Biggest letdown: Truth be told, I don’t care about the misleading one-sheet (though a movie about 600-pound frogs is long overdue). What bugged me was how unjustifiably bad this movie was. I don’t expect every actor in a killer animal flick to be Robert Shaw, but if you’re going to completely ignore the things that make any movie watchable, regardless of subject matter – character development, for example – then you have to at least make sure the genre elements are sound. In this case, that means gross death scenes: birds pecking out eyes, snakes slithering up buttholes, stuff like that. Instead, Frogs is basically one insufferable character after another tripping over their own feet, rolling around in the mud, and pretending to be bitten by unseen lizards and snapping turtles.

You know we're both too good for this, don't you?

On top of all that, without any explanation, the animals display human-like intelligence, coordinating attacks and I think at one point calling the grandfather on the phone to taunt him. I may be misinterpreting that last part, but it seems totally reasonable given a previous scene where geographically implausible gila monsters shatter only the jars labeled “POISON” before sealing a man in a greenhouse to asphyxiate on the fumes. I kept waiting for someone to jump out and yell, “Quellish!” Yet for all that insanity, Frogs isn’t entertaining even as camp. I hate to use phrases like “so bad it’s not even funny” but, well, there you go. Sigh.

This guy was taking awfully deep breathes for a corpse.

Why you should watch: Sam Elliot! At some point in his career, Elliot realized a rumbling drawl, a bushy mustache and a smirk could carry him through most acting challenges. I really enjoyed watching the coolest cowboy on the planet as an earnest 28-year-old actor, still awkwardly in the process of establishing his unique presence.

And I suppose you have to compliment whoever did the animal wrangling, since the movie features hundreds of frogs, snakes, alligators, birds, spiders, etc. I like that even though they’re never actually depicted killing anyone, the frogs are given top billing. Like they’re the criminal masterminds pulling the strings, but they don’t like to get their webbed hands dirty. After an hour and a half of cutaways to their bulging eyes and judgmental frowns, I believe it.

You don't treat us with respect. You don't offer friendship. You don't even think to call me "Frogfather."

Memorable Moment: A guy who could pass for one of Zoolander’s roommates goes off into the woods by himself. He gets spooked by a rattlesnake (an island rattlesnake, mind you) and runs away. In the process he manages to shoot himself in the leg. He falls to the ground, where he is rapidly consumed by craft store Spanish moss. Though he screams and thrashes, he makes no effort to actually remove the vicious gift basket filler and quickly dies of, what? Shock? Lichen allergy? Adding insult to injury, a few tarantulas stroll onto the pile, lift a couple rear legs, and piss webbing all over him. 

Choice quote: “We’re entitled to be ugly, Karen. God knows we pay enough taxes.”

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5 Responses to “Frogs (1972)”

  1. The poster for Frogs is among my top 10 for horror movies. The film feels like it was written by someone who thought that frogs could bite people, and then, being told that nature didn’t work that way, had to do some quick re-writes.

  2. […] Frogs – Nobody fucks with Kermit. […]

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