Friday, August 14, 2009

Film Review: FROGS (1972, George McCowan)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 91 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Ray Milland, Sam Elliott, Joan van Ark.
Tag-lines: "Cold green skin against soft warm flesh...a croak...a scream."
Best one-liner: "I still believe man is master of the world!"

FROGS is a grand ole time of a movie from some filmmakers who thought they were making something in the same league as THE BIRDS [with fleeting touches of REAR WINDOW and GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER? (!)] Hitchcockian aspirations aside, it's almost as if an ecologically-minded after-school special was co-directed by Arch Hall, Sr. and Werner Herzog. In short, the makers lack a rudimentary knowledge of the language of cinema, yet are devoted to the message that "the common character of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder." Nearly every scene in the film is book-ended by ominous shots of slowly advancing frogs.

Each death scene is lethargically paced and punctuated with atonal music. Frogs attack windows. A frog jumps on a record player. A man shoots himself in the foot, then is pinned down by moss, and tarantulas walk all over him until he's dead.

A frog leaps on a cake made in the shape of the American flag. All variety of animals commit murder. Apparently the frogs pull the strings. All of these events are sort of tied together by an Everglade party thrown by wheelchair-bound Ray Milland, who maintains a "show must go on" attitude in the midst of a high body count.

Milland, ostensibly the villain, brings a lot of class and commitment to his role. I guess he uses too much pesticide and shoots a snake off of his chandelier (then says "What's everybody standing around for- let's eat!"), but other than that, I see no real reason why the frogs ought to seek revenge. It's not like he sticks frog heads on pikes on his lawn.

I guess his general bad attitude was enough motive for the frogs. Sam Elliot (sans moustache) is our poor man's ecologist and croc-blasting hero.

Now, many have complained that the poster is dishonest- it depicts a frog eating a human hand- a scene they say is not depicted in the movie. To them, I say, stick around till after the end credits: there may be a juicy surprise in store.

-Sean Gill

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