This is an “eco-horror” film from 1972 with a message: the critters of the world have had their fill of pollutin’ humans, and it’s payback time. The dearly beloved and I watched it as our Saturday bad movie and pizza offering. The $7.99 bottle of cab from Costco grew on me.
The movie opens with wildlife photographer Pickett Smith (Sam Elliott) canoeing through a swamp, snapping pics of the local wildlife—lizards, an alligator, and a FROG (cue the title). He also takes pictures of evidence of pollution—garbage floating in the water, runoff from pipes.
As Pickett makes his way over the broader lake with his expensive camera gear in his canoe, Clint Crockett (Adam Roarke) takes a sip from his beer can and makes a too-fast turn in his speedboat, capsizing the canoe. Crockett’s sister, Karen (Joan Van Ark), berates him and laughs when Pickett pulls a sloshed Clint into the water.
The Crockett siblings can’t recover any of his equipment, but they can offer him a shower and clean clothes at the old family mansion. A family tradition is to celebrate several birthdays, including Grandpa Jason’s (Ray Milland), along with the Fourth of July, which will fall on the next day, as one big party. Grandpa’s children and grandchildren come, despite Grandpa being a miserable old coot, because there’s going to be an inheritance someday… soon.
For some reason, a lot of frogs come around. They make an awful racket. The Crockett women complain they can’t sleep. Jason invites Pickett to explore the island (because, of course, they’re on a private island…). He has a request, though. He sent “his man” Grover out to spray to control the frogs. Could Pickett keep an eye out for him?
Pickett later finds Grover dead in a bit of water, with snakes slithering over him, his face swollen and blotched. The family guesses something is up when Pickett returns in Grover’s Jeep without Grover and asks to speak privately to Grandpa Jason.
The frogs aren’t particularly menacing by themselves, but they’re the ones in charge. Before any of the progressively gruesome attacks, they hop around ribbiting to their hearts’ content. They’re marshaling the troops. Why would cottonmouths or tarantulas listen to frogs? Good question.
The frogs assault windows.
“That’s not normal,” Pickett tells Grandpa Jason.
As is de rigueur in these films, the phone dies and remains dead, despite reassurances it should be fixed soon.
Grandpa Jason is the embodiment of evil: He’s not only rich, he’s “ugly rich.” (“We have every right to be ugly rich,” says sister Iris Martindale (Hollis Irving). “We pay enough in taxes.”) He displays more hunting trophies than any the room has a right to hold. He sprays for pest control. And he’s stubborn. Long after the danger is evident and multiple gory deaths have occurred with some people still missing, he refuses to leave. He’s going to sleep like a baby.
Iris’ son Kenneth (Nicholas Cortland) has a black girlfriend, Bella Garrington (Judy Pace). No one says anything about her race, but she tells the black maid, Maybelle (Mae Mercer), that she’s “Maybelle too,’ ‘cuz I guess the writers couldn’t come up with another name for a black woman from the South…?
Eden State Park in Florida was used as a location for the swamp scenes. The Wesley House, also located within the park, was used as the Crockett family mansion. According to IMDB, “many of the 500 Florida frogs and 100 giant South American toads” purchased (good lord, hate to ask where…) for the film escaped. Presumably, their descendants are happily hopping around the great state of Florida without ordering attacks on humans.
Frogs was nominated for the Grand Prize in 1973 at the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival (France).
The characters are not people as much as plot points. The grotesque and bizarre deaths border satire. Given all this, I rather liked this film. It is silly but entertaining.
With respect ot kiddies: There is no sex, but a lot of death by bizarre means, although the gore is minimal.
The movie can be watched here: Frogs 1972 Horror 4th of July – YouTube
Title: Frogs (1972)
Robert Hutchison…(screenplay) &
Cast (in credits order)
Ray Milland…Jason Crockett
Sam Elliott…Pickett Smith
Joan Van Ark…Karen Crockett
Adam Roarke…Clint Crockett
Judy Pace…Bella Garrington
Lynn Borden…Jenny Crockett
Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes