I like frogs.
Not real frogs, in a terrarium as pets. They aren’t exactly cuddly. I do like frogs’ legs, though. They aren’t cuddly either; just delicious.
It’s just something I like collecting. Frog stuff: Frogs on T‑shirts; Far Side cartoons that feature frogs; ceramic frogs. Some folks collect Matchbox cars; some folks collect comic books. I collect frogs.
I was in Topeka, KS—my home town—last week. And there’s a sports bar in Topeka called Jeremiah Bullfrogs. They have a cool frog statue at the door and framed Far Side comics and lots of other frog stuff. So whenever I visit Topeka I have to visit Jeremiah Bullfrogs.
JBs recently moved to a much larger building, which I was glad to see, what with all the locally owned businesses around the country driven out of business by the pandemic.
With the added space came more frog bric-a-brac, including an amusing sign for Gooch’s Best Bullfrog Feed, and this movie poster:
Yes, you read that right: It’s a movie titled Frogs, and it stars Sam Elliott and Joan Van Ark.
What kind of movie would you expect based on this poster? We’ve got a couple lurid taglines: “TODAY—The Pond! ; TOMORROW—The World!” and “It’s the day that Nature strikes back!”
We also have a frog with a human arm dangling from its mouth like a cigar.
An even more turgid poster for Frogs reads “A TIDAL WAVE OF SLITHERING, SLIMY HORROR DEVOURING, DESTROYING ALL IN ITS PATH! A terrifying story of times to come when Nature strikes back!”
It looked like a really cheap horror flick to me, and when I looked it up—yep, it’s a bad horror movie released in 1972 with a budget of about $37.
Based on the posters you’d expect frogs to be running around eating people, like Night of the Lepus with frogs instead of rabbits. Or frogs hijacking an airport control tower and making planes crash like Die Hard 2. Maybe frogs killing people and assuming their identities, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or stabbing women in the shower à la Psycho, or even zombie frogs.
Shoot, they could have gone for a microbudget horror flick with some interesting new ideas, even if it was dirt cheap: Like Phantasm, with the flying brain-slurping metal balls and the extremely cool Hemi ‘Cuda; or Evil Dead, with Army of Darkness and the S‑Mart boomstick, both of which spawned franchises despite budgets that wouldn’t even fund a high school cafeteria for two days.
They clearly weren’t interesting in breaking any new ground on this, and anyone they plagiarized would be too embarrassed to sue. So I expected Frogs to be so bad it was fun to watch.
Alas, Frogs was instead so bad it plummeted WAY past “so bad it was good” territory and was just really, really bad.
I found the whole movie on YouTube for free. Apparently none of the streaming services will touch Frogs. Maybe they’re embarrassed by it, but I think it’s more likely they’re incapable of scruples or embarrassment; they just realized they’d never make a penny by streaming it.
So I watched it. Now you don’t have to. No, don’t thank me. I’m just doing what any selfless hero would do.
Here’s the “plot”: Sam Elliott plays Pickett Smith, a photographer paddling around a swamp in a canoe and taking pictures of trash in the swamp. (Here’s how brainless this movie was: They missed a perfect chance to have a Native American guy standing there crying, but they blew it.)
Pickett Smith is the only character name I can remember, and that’s only because, while I was struggling not to slip into a coma, I thought his name was Wilson Pickett for a minute, which reminded me of “Everybody Needs Somebody” from The Blues Brothers, which in turn gave me a few seconds of fond nostalgia before I realized I was totally off-track, which led to the kind of bitter disappointment we all felt when George Lucas was smart enough to hire Lawrence Kasdan to write the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back and part of Return of the Jedi, so we were all pumped to see The Phantom Menace until we discovered Lucas decided he could just write all the screenplays without Kasdan’s help, which led to ghastly abortions of dialog like Anakin Skywalker, trying to suave his way into Padme’s pants by saying “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere” and WHAT THE HELL WAS LUCAS THINKING?!?
Sorry. I swear, by Crom’s crunchy crotch croutons; so many fond hopes and dreams scuttled by a badass Jedi knight and heartstoppingly powerful and evil Sith lord who whines, literally, about sand in his boxers.
Where was I? Joan Van Ark plays a simpering airhead who does nothing. I mean that literally: For the entire movie she just stands around doing nothing. Nothing at all. I suspect they paid her enough to show up but not enough to make her want to do any acting.
There are some other characters, but they’re all as lifeless and useless as Joan Van Airhead.
Anyway, Elliott comes across a family living in an old antebellum mansion on an island in the middle of the swamp. I’d say it looked like an old plantation house, but in a swamp? I mean, if you’re running a plantation you need to have cotton or tobacco or something to harvest. What would they harvest in a swamp?
The minute Elliot shows up, weird things start happening; from there on out they apparently couldn’t decide between ripping off a teen slasher film, with idiot teens being murdered one by one, or ripping off Hitchcock’s The Birds, except with frogs.
I say that because there were dozens of cutaway scenes of the lawn outside the house swarming with frogs, which were obviously being thrown in front of the camera by offscreen frog wranglers.
Here’s where the fun starts: The characters start disappearing and winding up dead. The frogs are here! TODAY, the World!! A TIDAL WAVE OF SLITHERING, SLIMY HORROR!
Wanna know how many people the frogs kill? I kept track. Here’s how many people the frogs kill:
Oh, the movie does have a respectable body count: About a dozen people, plus hints about this being Here’s how the idiots die:
Idiot 1: A guy goes fishing and gets killed by a rattlesnake.
Idiot 2: Next a guy looking for the first dead guy gets offed by—I’m not making this up—a rattlesnake bite, followed by fronds of Spanish Moss on a weeping willow: The fronds come to life and strangle the poor bastard. This is followed by him being devoured by scorpions (scorpions? In a swamp?), a bunch of lizards and baby crocodiles, and finally tarantulas, which set about eating him and covering him with webs.
Idiot 3: A matronly old ninny wanders around in the swamp trying to catch butterflies. She also gets a rattlesnake bite followed by other critters devouring her.
Idiot 4: Meanwhile, one of the other stupid adults is wondering if the missing matronly ninny is in the greenhouse. While he’s looking around in the greenhouse, a gecko starts knocking things off a shelf like an ornery cat.
It goes beyond cat mischief, though: Someone has thoughtfully left a dozen or so large, fragile glass jars of various poisons stored on flimsy shelves. They ooze all over the place, dissolving stuff faster than Alien blood and filling the room with toxic gasses; the dumb guy in the greenhouse dies about 3 steps from the door, through which he makes no attempt to escape.
Idiot 5: Another idiot takes his boat to a marina across the lake. He stop to gas up the boat, whereupon a Komodo Dragon (in an American swamp?) bites the rope tether, making the boat drift off. The idiot jumps in to swim out to the boat an gets attacked by Anaconda-size snakes, which, unlike Anacondas, live in an American swamp and which also, unlike Anacondas, are venomous.
Idiot 6: Idiot 5’s wife sees him leaving, runs down to the shore to beg him to come back, gets her feet stuck in the mud, and winds up feeding alligators.
Meanwhile, Sam Elliott, Joan Van Ark, a couple of useless kids and an old fart in a wheelchair barricade themselves in the house.Elliott says “We should leave.”
The old fart in the wheelchair says “I ain’t leaving’.”
So Elliott and Van Ark and the useless kids paddle Elliott’s canoe across the lake.There they discover what happened to the plantation house’s servants, who fled earlier:
Idiots 7 thru 11: Well, actually, they just find a couple of suitcases in a parking lot, so we don’t know what happened. This must have been scary back in ’72, because when they spot the suitcases the soundtrack plays a scary crash sound thingy like King Kong just showed up.
Idiot 12: And finally, we see the old fart in his wheelchair looking around in terror as the off-screen frog wranglers start throwing frogs through the windows instead on the lawn outside.
So the old fart keels over dead, even though none of the frogs touched him.
Thus endeth Frogs.
Most actors have an embarrassing commercial or short-lived sitcom role in their past that they’d rather forget. Sam Elliott has been in a couple bombs and weird movies, such as The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (I’m not making that up either).
I bet Sam Elliott wishes he’d been in a cheap porno rather than Frogs.
Here’s the whole movie if you’re a glutton for punishment: