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  Frogs Hop It
Year: 1972
Director: George McCowan
Stars: Ray Milland, Sam Elliott, Joan Van Ark, Adam Roarke, Judy Pace, Lynn Borden, Mae Mercer, David Gilliam, Nicholas Cortland, George Skaff, Lance Taylor Sr, Holly Irving, Dale Willingham, Hal Hodges, Carolyn Fitzsimmons
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: Pickett Smith (Sam Elliott) is a photographer taking pictures on the Florida coast for an ecological magazine when he gets out a few yards away from the shore in his canoe. Suddenly, he notices the speedboat that was sailing around nearby is heading straight for him and there's nothing he can do to get out of its way, causing him to capsize. The driver of the speedboat pulls up next to him, very apologetic, but to get his own back Pickett pulls him into the water. The man's sister is highly amused, and introduces them: she is Karen (Joan Van Ark), and the man he's just soaked is Clint (Adam Roarke), they are brother and sister and Pickett has been invited to their mansion for a party...

Some party, he'd be better off taking off for home, but then we wouldn't have a hero for our movie if he did that. Frogs was one of the earliest of the revenge of nature horrors of the nineteen-seventies, in emulation of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds but instigated by the sleeper hit Willard. Going a few animals better than those, here we had all the wildlife the filmmakers could get their hands on as the forefront of the onslaught, so not exclusively birdies or rats were out to get the human cast. However, they patently decided to keep their powder dry for as long as they could, so you had to wait a while for the violence to start with a vengeance.

Well, such as it was, as mainly this looks to be a soap opera (it's no coincidence surely that Van Ark went on to a successful career appearing on television in such things) crossed with all the wildlife footage the producers could pack in. This was intended to build up the tension, of course, but once you seen one oblivious-looking amphibian looking unmoved by a pond, then you've pretty much seen them all, no matter how many spooky electronic sound effects you overlay on the imagery. Fact is, it's difficult to see how a frog would ever kill a human unless it was a poisonous frog, and there aren't any to be seen here.

There are other creatures, though, as the fauna gangs up on what turns out to be an objectionable bunch of rich folks that Pickett gets invited to be around. He's deeply unimpressed with them all - in fact you could call him a jaded Pickett Smith - but Karen is at least nice, which marks her out as a possible survivor of the carnage. The main reason they're out at this country retreat is the patriarch of the family, old man Crockett (Ray Milland), who barks orders from his wheelchair and everyone is nice to because they're sure he's going to die soon and they want a large cut of his will. We have the battle lines drawn when it transpires that the Crocketts have been polluting the area around the mansion because they hate the wildlife.

The trouble with this is that you leave the movie not so keen on the wildlife either: the story is in two minds about how to take all things that creep and crawl and never reconciles them. Therefore you're meant to be disgusted at the Crocketts' behaviour and lack of care for the environment, yet you're also supposed to be disgusted when you see one of them put to death by a small slimy animal, as if the production wanted it both ways. Director George McCowan had a long career in television, and it shows here as Frogs could easily have been an instalment of a horror anthology series, or even a TV movie of the week, and heaven knows there were a fair few of them along these lines. So what you're faced with is long stretches of boredom broken up by farcically horrible demises: actors killed by toxic chemical-wielding lizards, grass flinging tarantulas, swimming snakes and the odd not-very-big alligator or two. And the frogs? They have their time in the spotlight, too. Music by Les Baxter.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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