Frogs lay hundreds of millions of eggs each year. What if they all hatched!?
What if indeed.
I have a list, as I’m sure many a movie blogger has, of movies I shouldn’t love but do. It’s an alarmingly long list. Frogs is on that list. Specifically, it’s in the Top 5. Possibly Top 3.
I’m aware, therefore, that Frogs is not only flawed, but fails on numerous levels. For one thing, it’s an American International picture which says much. It opens with Pickett Smith (a young, bushy-haired, clean-shaven Sam Elliott) in a canoe. He’s taking pictures of wildlife but also pollution. Lots of it.
We’ll just go ahead and gloss over the fact that most of the frogs in Frogs are, in reality, toads. And the fact that frogs don’t, y’know, attack people. And have no teeth. And don’t actually kill a single person in the movie. Not even indirectly. They’re just kinda there. Lots of them, sure, but still, just there. Apparently it’s easy being green after all. Most of the killing is done by snakes. And spiders. And an alligator. And some birds.
We’ll just gloss over the fact that at least some of this wildlife is likely not native to Florida, the area Smith is in. Probably not native to any place near there. But let’s set these shortcomings aside and look at some of the, uh, highlights of the movie.
First there’s Ray Milland. I don’t think that needs any explanation. Cuz Ray Milland. Moving on.
In an early scene, Smith, Karen (pre-Dallas, Knots Landing, and Spider-Woman Joan Van Arke), and her brother, Clint (Adam Roarke), hike through a misty forest. This mist recurs throughout the movie, suggesting the island in Matango and its source material, Hodgson’s “The Voice In The Night.” In other words, it’s isolating, eerie, and implies forthcoming weirdness.
In addition several victims meet interesting demises. Kenneth (Nicholas Cortland) is asphyxiated in a green house when a number of large lizards knock over several bottles of chemicals.
His dotty, butterfly-collecting mother, Iris (Hollis Irving), ends up covered in leeches and bitten by a rattlesnake. Is it me, or does she look unsettlingly like Bette Davis in Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte?
Still, let’s be honest. As eco-horror, Frogs pretty much croaks (yep, I said that). All, however, is not lost, especially not if we reframe this and look at Frogs not so much as eco-horror but more as eco-Exodus.
After all, Smith starts out adrift in death-infested waters from which he is fished, Moses-like, by the granddaughter of the wealthy, nature-hating industrialist/pharaoh, Jason Crockett (Milland).
Smith is at first welcomed into the celebratory gathering in honor of Crockett, the grand patriarch of the family, much as Moses became the adopted son of Seti I. Like Moses doing the bidding of his adoptive father, Smith fulfills Crockett’s initial request to go find his missing groundskeeper.
Also like Moses, Smith rejects the rule of Crockett/pharaoh and allies himself with the oppressed family. He tries several times to convince Crockett that everyone should leave the island. Crockett’s response is pharaoh’s. He hardens his heart and refuses.
Crockett maintains this attitude to the end, even in the face of what is clearly The Plague Of Frogs.
Smith ultimately leads the remaining survivors to freedom, at one point having to free their stuck canoe. In the process, he is attacked in the water by snakes which he fends off with an oar, smacking them as they glide atop the water.
After this, he frees the canoe, and they make it to shore. In other words, Smith raises his rod against the waters, thereby providing safe passage from the enemy. He has figuratively parted the Red Sea and saved his people.
I know. I know. Bit of a, well, bit of a leap.
Available to rent on Prime