Hey, it turns out we’re getting pretty close to the Big Day, so I’m going to bunch a few of these films up for a variety of reasons. I’ve teased this film a few times, but Frogs was actually one of the films I’ve been wanting to do for It’s All Connected since close to the beginning. I’m not sure, maybe it was watching Swamp Thing and its sequel that spawned the idea, but I’ve been craving some awesome Sam Elliott goodness and figured out a way to get to Frogs by way of his co-star Ray Milland, which is why I watched Terror In The Wax Museum. I fully intended to go a different direction from there, but then I blew the whole plan up and went with Food Of The Gods, continuing the “animals run amok” theme!
In George McCowan’s Frogs, Elliott plays the perfectly named Pickett Smtih. A freelance photographer working on an assignment documenting pollution in a southern swamp, Pickett winds up spending a few days on the swanky property owned by evil old businessman Jason Crockett (Milland). This miserable guy brings his kids extended family together every year not out of love, but to carry on a tradition set forth by his dead wife that no one cares about beyond how it will make them look in their dad’s eventual will (giving it kind of a Wedding Crashers meets Knives Out vibe at times).
That’s all background, though, to growing unrest in the animal kingdom towards humanity which has decided to rise up on this day and exact revenge for how poorly they’ve been treated on this planet by humans. This results in everything from snakes hanging from everywhere to butterflies leading a woman into quicksand. Ultimately, it’s the working class hero, the black characters and a few of the others who finally stand up to the Crockett elder and try to survive, while he stubbornly decides to stay behind.
I first saw this movie 11 years ago and didn’t seem to think much of it at the time, which is odd because it stuck in my head as a one I liked. And, this time, I really enjoyed it. Sure, some of the kills are odd, but I found myself unnerved by the ever present croaking sounds. And, while frogs don’t scare me much, there is something primal about our fears of snakes and bugs (here’s proof) that plays out in this film, probably more effectively than most of the overly-manufactured kills. Plus, I think I’ve evolved in the past decade to the point where I fully cheer for a rich old white jerk getting his after being terrible to nature. I also noticed a theme of lionizing a lack of technology, which doesn’t sound half bad (he writes on his laptop which uses wi-fi).
Far from a perfect film, Frogs can be downright silly at times, but I feel like it excels through it’s incredibly capable cast, often (though not always) subtle use of real animals and a story that feels even more relevant today than it did nearly 50 years ago.
And then you have Bert I. Gordon’s “adaptation” of H.G. Wells’ Food Of The Gods from 1976! With Frogs, you have regular animals seeking vengeance, but with FOTG the ones on a remote Canadian island are growing to huge sizes because some hillbillies — including Ida Lupino — decided to feed some goo they found in the earth to their chickens. A group of people — including 49ers football player Morgan (former child minister and co-star of Starcrash Marjoe Gortner) and Lorna (Pamela Franklin) — happen upon this increasingly crazy menagerie and have to work together Night Of The Living Dead style to survive.
Real talk? The story in this film is a bit silly and could have used another pass or two. Why does Morgan leave the island and then come back shortly after? Why is Lorna’s boss — the cartoonishly greedy Bensington (Ralph Meeker) — making so many bad decisions? Same question for Lupino’s character. However, I will say that I liked how the characters of Lorna and Morgan were handled, especially when together. She brassily calls it like she sees it and he has no problem having her come along to investigate the craziness.
And honestly, the craziness is why you want to watch Food Of The Gods. The way they achieve giant animals on screen is pretty damn impressive. There’s some splicing together of footage that works well and some normal sized animals running all over miniatures, but I was equally impressed by the giant animal heads that show up! The end of the film revovles around this set piece where — also like NOTLD — the survivors are under siege by huge rats. I will say, though, that it’s hard to fully enjoy the movie when you see the scenes where the rodents get shot. Now, I’m sure they didn’t really get shot, but something red hit them with a quickness that, at the very least, didn’t feel great. I hope they were okay.
It’s interesting having watched three animals run amok films relatively recently and seen how they sort of level up the threat. Frogs has actual animals, Food Of The Gods has huge animals and then The Nest came along with crazy mutated things. Each have their moments, but I prefer the sometimes-subtletly of Frogs (at least this week).
I think my next entry will also cover multiple films too. As I mentioned, I planned on following Frogs up with a very different movie and then popped on Food Of The Gods. I still wanted to get back around to that film, though, so I plotted out a new course that added at least six new movies to the list! I’m still not sure if it was a good choice or not! Learn more next time!