I’ve always considered Ray Milland’s less glamorous work in movies like Panic In Year Zero, X – The Man With The X-Ray Eyes, and Frogs much more important than roles like the Oscar-winning turn he did as a boozehound in The Lost Weekend. So many of our most beloved actors (and even more so, our hottest actresses) fade into obscurity and therefore into taxpayer-funded nursing homes once they hit their late thirties and start looking all wrinkly.
Ray though didn’t give a crap if a part simply required him to sit in a wheelchair, casting irritated glances at large quantities of fat frogs as in this film or even more amazingly, appear with Don Rickles when Ray had his x-ray eyes. If he was breathing, he was working. (Check his filmography – the credits run from 1929-1985. He died in 1986.)
This time around he’s playing Jason Crockett, a rich crabby old guy whose family has gathered at his island estate to celebrate Independence Day and his birthday. This is a tradition for him that dates back millennia and there’s no force on Earth that is going to stop, impede, slow up, or delay his weekend bash. But wouldn’t you know it – this is exactly the same weekend when nature finally decides it’s had enough of being Man’s bitch and up and rebels, led by lots of pesky frogs!
Thus, that most primal conflict of all time is set up: that of selfish old coot who always gets own way versus every other living animal, plant, and mineral on the face of the Earth! I’ll take the old man and give you the points!
If frogs hopping around in some old man’s Depends and swiping his dentures isn’t enough to get you to purchase this (and I’d be lying if I said that this doesn’t belong in every amphibian and/or Ray Milland fan’s library), then how about a super young, super hunky Sam Elliot? He doesn’t even have any facial hair here! I thought that sucker was born with a beard!
Despite the fact that he runs around in tight blue jeans trying to figure out what in tarnation is happening, he doesn’t lose his shirt until almost the end of the movie. In a movie like this, that is what we call “nuance.”
Pickett is in the area because he’s a freelance photographer and he’s shooting a bunch of film to document the pollution in the water near Crockett’s island getaway. As he would explain later to Joan Van Ark (famous for something, but I’m not quite clear for what), he likes working outdoors because it enables him to have a lot of freedom and meet a lot good people, like hot granddaughters of rich oldsters that are fixing to fight some frogs.
He also mentions to Crockett that he’s a bit of an expert on ecology. Pickett also attempts to call his editor, but the phone lines are dead! One thing about this Pickett guy, for a strong silent type, he sure is talkative!
Even odder, Crockett’s man Grover hasn’t come back from the other side of the island where he went out in the morning to spray for bugs and frogs and stuff. It doesn’t take Pickett long to find Grover’s abandoned jeep and then his body. It’s covered in snakes and slugs and his face is already partially chewed away!
The next morning is the day of the big party. The animal situation on the island has elevated and there are now frogs pretty much everywhere. But it isn’t just frogs that are wreaking havoc on the islanders. There are lizards in the green house murdering a guy. There’s a crocodile attack on someone. Another dude trips in the woods, shoots himself and then gets attacked by tarantulas! Sheesh, who did the frogs sleep with to get top billing?
Your reaction to these animal attacks will probably determine whether you can tolerate this movie or not. If watching lizards knock over poisonous chemicals in the greenhouse so that they mix together and the resulting gas suffocates the guy inside offend your sense of realism instead of only making you smirk, you may want to skip this one.
The movie seems strange because you have all these people treating everything as deadly serious business, but then you go to these shots of a bunch of frogs hopping around. Sometimes though they barely bother to move at all! I mean, when you have Joan Van Ark breathlessly telling her niece and nephew to run as fast as they can, but to watch out for the frogs, what sort of reaction are you suppose to have?
It’s not treated as campy or a parody and it looks professionally shot, but are you really expected to fear a bunch of fat frogs? I just sat there transfixed, though I will admit that I was stirred to giggles when one woman was attacked by a sea turtle! (The movie gets points for sheer variety of bothersome critters – there’s even a scorpion that drops by for a little face time!)
The frogs themselves never did anything to anyone in this movie. I was expecting these guys to be sucking people down with their long tongues and belching comically, but all you get is an animated toad at the end of the credits with a hand hanging out of its mouth. Not great, but pleasingly stupid with a good grasp on how animal attack movies are supposed to be structured, making for an amusing and painless hour and a half.
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