For this week's Movie Monday we'll be talking about the horror masterpiece Frogs!
Okay...obviously I'm completely kidding: Frogs is a total C-level movie, and that's being generous. I saw it many years ago and remember it being hilariously bad, so bad it was worth revisiting again via the magic of Netflix Watch Instantly:
The film opens with photographer named Pickett Smith (Sam Elliott, pre-mustache) taking some nature photographs. The opening credits sequence goes on approximately seventy-five minutes, with endless close-ups of various swamp creatures, none of them inherently terrifying.
Smith's canoe gets upended by a brother and sister named Clint and Karen (Adam Roarke and Joan Van Ark) who are goofing around. Feeling bad they dunked the guy, they ask Smith to come home with them so he can dry off.
"Home" is a large, creepy mansion owned by their Grandpa, a crotchety old guy named Jason Crockett, played by Ray Milland:
Fairly quickly, we get an idea of the dynamic in this family: Grandpa is loaded, and sort of controls his family with an iron fist. Some members of the family are clearly humoring him, others, like Karen, seem to care for their grandfather, but he doesn't make it easy.
To make matters worse, we learn that Jason Crockett seems to despise Nature itself--he's constantly pouring all sorts of noxious chemicals into the eco-system to keep the various life-forms at bay (then why have a house in the swamp?). Grandpa is disturbed when one of his grandsons shows up with a giant frog in his hand. Its here Milland gets to utter the immortal line "No matter how much money I have, I just can't get rid of the frogs."
The film has lots (lots!) of establishing shots of alligators, bugs, snakes, and, yes, frogs, most of them just minding their own damn business:
After some more scenes of family drama, Nature seems to decide to take a shot at the Crockett family, by picking them off one by one. A snake shows up in the dining room, frogs gather outside the windows. One of the family members goes out hunting, but accidentally shoots himself.
As he writhes in pain, moss seems to cover him, leaving his susceptible to the attack of some tarantulas. This scene is needlessly dragged out--the guy could just get up--but there are some icky close-ups of the spiders:
Another member of the family, out chasing a butterfly (great idea!), gets caught up in the woods and is attacked by an alligator and then some leeches:
Pickett and Karen decide that Nature is gunning for them, so they plan to leave. They try and talk Grandpa into going with them, but for whatever reason Jason insists on staying, barking even to his grandkids that "You're either for me for against me!"
Pickett, Karen, and the kids escape, ending up in the car of a passerby. Inside is a family, whose young kid has, as a pet...a giant frog!!!
Back at the house, Jason Crockett watches the frogs amass outside his door. We hear the sound of breaking glass (whuh?), and soon the frogs are inside. Jason Crockett begins to sweat profusely, and tries to climb out of his wheelchair. He has a heart attack, collapsing onto the floor. He helplessly watches the frogs crawl all over him, and we reach The End.
The credits roll, and at the end there's a little bit of animation sending the audience out of the theater:
...the frog slurps up the human hand, and the movie ends. Man, Marvel so stole this whole post-credits sequence idea!!
Frogs is, of course, completely absurd. Misleading, too: from the title and poster, you think this movie is about giant, man-eating frogs, but its really about Nature itself getting revenge, something seen in lots of better movies than this. The frogs themselves just sit around, croaking, while the director (George McCowan) tries desperately to make them look terrifying. It doesn't work.
The horror scenes are boringly staged, and the gore, such as it is, is so minimal that you don't even really get a charge out of seeing people die in imaginative, violent ways. There are some close-ups of spiders, snakes, and alligators, mix in shots of people screaming, move on to the next scene.
You have to feel bad for the great Ray Milland, stuck in dreck like this. In between set-ups, he must have thought of better days when he worked with Billy Wilder and Hitchcock. Sadly, Frogs wasn't even the worst film Milland would appear in--1972 was a particularly bad year for the guy.
No one, to my knowledge, has made an actual Giant Man-Eating Frog movie yet. I think its time for a Frogs "re-imagining", don't you?