The film genre known as Horror is full of sub-genres, most of which have remained staples of the larger whole changing, only slightly to embrace new generations of fans. You've got your "Classic" monsters in the shape of vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts and the houses they haunt. Then there are aliens and giant monsters such the Ymir from 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH and our old buddy Godzilla. Science run amok and nuclear mutations have always been a popular theme too, and starting in the 1970s we got the first real Ecological-horror films--those in which Mother Earth and the creatures that inhabit her rise up against man and give him a major slap upside the head for polluting and poisoning and otherwise defiling the planet. One of the very first, if not THE first, Eco-horror flix was FROGS which was released in 1972 and starred Ray Milland as the crusty old Patriarch of a Wealthy Southern Family and Sam Elliott as a freelance photographer documenting the destruction of the habitat around Milland's extensive property for a magazine.
The film opens with Pickett Smith (Sam Elliott) taking nature shots from his canoe, photos that gradually reveal the damage that has been done to the lake and the wildlife that resides there. Suddenly Smith's canoe is swamped by a speedboat driven by a member of the Crockett family--Clint the Drunk and his sister Karen (Joan Van Ark) who has "Love Interest" written all over her face. Well, they pull him out of the water and take him back to Crockettland (an island in the middle of the lake) where they are in the midst of planning the big 4th of July bash celebrating Grandpa Crockett's (Ray Milland) birthday. Here we meet the rest of our cast which includes ditsy Aunt Iris who likes to chase butterflies, cousin Kenneth the playboy and his black model girlfriend Bella, Clint's wife Jenny and their 2 kids, and a couple other victims du jour. It doesn't take long before everyone notices that there are an awful lot of very, very large, aggressive frogs hanging around the mansion these days, not to mention the fact that there are far more corn snakes dangling from the chandeliers than there used to be. One by one people start disappearing to be done in by clever lizards, sneaky snakes, large hungry turtles, and diabolical clumps of Spanish moss. The phone lines are dead, the boat drifts off, the frogs are advancing on the house, and night is falling. What ever will they do? How will they escape the island? And of course, which Crockett will croak next?
There aren't any truly frightening moments in the film unless you are scared of reptiles, amphibians, or 70s' fashion, but there is some fun to be had. For me the most enjoyable factor was knowing that FROGS was filmed in North Florida and that it was supposed to take place in July and yet folks were wandering around wearing long sleeves and sweaters! This would have resulted in heat prostration and probable death within 10 minutes in a real life Florida summer. The truth is that the movie was shot in the winter so the temperature was probably in the 60s which explains the whole thing. =) We needn't really discuss the technical aspects of the film or the acting because both are adequate--the cinematography is actually very nice with some beautiful shots of the local flora and fauna. There are no special effects pre se; actors fall on ground and production assistants toss spanish moss and lizards on 'em from off camera. Done deed. Milland is Milland, appropriately full of bluster and seemingly unembarrassed to be doing frog-horror--he's done much worse films that this one. (Remember INCREIBLE TWO-HEADED TRANSPLANT where his head shared a body with football player Rosey Greer?) Joan Van Ark is cute and perky as the most sympather of the nasty Crockett clan, and Sam Elliott is already honing the taciturn shtick that will serve him so well in the future. The real stars of the flick of course, is the surprising variety of critters that stalk our protagonists--very few of which are indigenous to Florida.
For a special treat stay through the end credits.
Recommended as a rental. 3.5 for fun factor.
HYPE FACTOR: Whatcha talkin' 'bout? Oldies don't get no hype.
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