Saturday, April 5, 2008
You'll probably find this movie in the horror section of your local video store, but that doesn't mean you're gonna get any screams out of it. Made in 1972 with a very young Sam Elliot (almost unrecognizable without his handle bar mustache) and an equally young (pre-cosmetic surgery disaster) Joan Van Ark, playing her normal bitchy self. The movie starts out with a very ominous feel, with young photographer Pickett Smith (Sam Elliot) taking pictures of the tremendous amount of toxic waste that's being dumped into the nearby swamp. Due to a boating accident where Smith's canoe is almost run over by a speedboat, Smith is taken aboard the other boat. Apologies all around for nearly killing him, the people in the speedboat invite Smith to their island mansion where their cantankerous grandfather is having a (very dull) birthday party. Grandpa hates everything, especially frogs. Therefore he poisons the whole swamp, hoping to rid himself of their endless croaking. The theme of toxic waste turning frogs into killers never really happens, instead people are bitten by poisonous snakes, eaten by crabs, etc. There's even a scorpion or two (technically a goof, because scorpions don't like aquatic environments like swamps). It's strange, I never thought of frogs being all that scary or malevolent. They don't bite, they don't sting, and if you pick one up, the worst that could happen is it would pee on you. Anyway, as the story goes, Grandpa's bratty kids and dingbat wife are killed off by something in the swamps (always snakes, leeches, spiders, etc, never the frogs). Despite the death count, Grandpa is determined to have his birthday celebration, even with the frogs jumping in and out of his birthday cake, which is by the way, the only gross or disturbing scene in the film. Smith, a few kids, and a blonde hottie manage to make their way out of the swamp and to the road. A lady motorist with her kid stops to give them a ride, even though Smith is carrying a huge rifle (smart move, Mom). Aside from common sense blunders, there's also enough movie goofs to qualify as an Ed Wood production. Day turns to night and back again many times in one scene as it switches from the cheap stock footage of swamp critters to the actors reaction to the cheap stock footage of swamp critters. Many of the frogs that "jump" into the scene land on their backs, letting us know that the frogs were actually thrown into the scene. Supposedly dead bodies are clearly shown to be breathing, etc, etc. In the end, Gramps is "attacked" by frogs that manage to get into the house. His death isn't shown and I suppose he has a heart attack, since frogs are harmless. No scares, no chills, just lots of unintentional humor. A funny side note to this movie is that most of the 500 frogs used in the film escaped during production. It also has a great tagline, "Today the pond, tomorrow the world!!".