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‘Frogs,’ aka ‘Why Sam Elliott Wishes He’d Been in a Porno’

♬ Hel­lo my hon­ey ♬ Hel­lo my baby ♬ Hel­lo my rag­time gaaaal! ♬

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.

My Best Half won­dered aloud if Frogs would be self-aware campy fun, like The Tox­ic Avenger or Attack of the Killer Toma­toes or Killer Klowns From Out­er Space.

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.)

His name was Iron Eyes Cody. Meet­ing Pres­i­dent Carter ruined Cody’s career: He could­n’t stop smiling.

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:

Zero.

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: