Classics of the Corn: Frogs (1972)

classics

Another great tagline: "Today, the pond -- Tomorrow, the world!" (Image: nessuntimore.blogspot)
Another great tagline: “Today – the pond! Tomorrow – the world!” (as though the frogs are related to Hitler) (Image: nessuntimore.blogspot)

“COLD GREEN FLESH against SOFT, WARM SKIN! a CROAK… a SCREAM!”

If that tagline isn’t enough to make you want to see Frogs (1972), you must have no appreciation for the wonderful world of good-bad movies. Frogs (1972) is at the top of the heap when it comes to corn, as you’d expect from such a hilariously dramatized marketing slogan.

Directed by George McCowan, the film centers on Jason Crockett (Ray Milland), a wheelchair-bound millionaire who has his own island and invites his family to stay on the island with him for his birthday.

But “Crockettland,” as they call it, is plagued by an infestation of creatures. Grumpy old Mr. Crockett hates them all and has a habit of sending his staff out to poison them.

Nature photographer Pickett Smith happens to be in the area working on an assignment for an ecological magazine when his canoe gets swamped by a few members of the family coasting by in a speed boat. They invite him to stay with them, giving him clean clothes and assuring them that he’ll be able to get back to the mainland in no time.

Stuck on the island for the night, Pickett begins to realize that the family has an odd super-hatred for frogs, which Jason complains have been taking over the island in huge numbers. And soon, things take a turn for the sinister when members of the family begin dying, one by one, attacked by the island’s creatures.

My first thought as I watched the opening scenes of Frogs was that they should have made Ray Milland the evil force if they wanted to craft a true horror flick. He sends his children out to hide in the mist when strangers arrive; the phones in his home don’t work; everyone in the family acts a bit “off.” Killer Grandpa, anyone?

The fact that the script doesn’t go this route and instead focuses on frogs and other creatures is what makes it corny. These frogs, who don’t do much but sit around looking disgruntled and hopping every once in a while, are meant to be the antagonists. They aren’t even enormous, man-eating frogs — just normal frogs! Shots of the croaking little devils are interspersed throughout the entire film to emphasize the “scaaaary” (but instead, they just make the audience laugh).

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

It is the script itself, not necessarily the performances, that bring the corn for this film. Ray Milland seems to be totally buying into his character, as do most of the other actors. There are a few scenes that serve as exceptions to this (namely the death scenes, which are so corny I could barely handle them without falling off of my chair), but for the most part, the writers must be credited for the cheese. Written into the script are dozens upon dozens of conversations about frogs. Everyone seems absolutely obsessed with them, which makes their actual harmlessness even more hilarious.

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

On top of the script, there’s a fantastically exaggerated dramatic score and plenty of slow zooms on the supposedly maniacal frogs. In addition to the frogs, there are also slow zooms on surprised-looking snakes and lizards (see below), blood-thirsty spiders, and all of the wonders you’d expect to find on a swampy island. (The spiders actually did kind of freak me out, but the rest of the “evil ones” are just funny.)

(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
(Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Possibly the funniest thing about the film is the fact that all of the predators could easily be avoided by simply running away. None of them are fast-moving creatures, and they’re all incredibly small compared to humans (with the exception of a single gator). Instead, the film’s characters try to shoot or poison the creatures, among other nonsensical kill tactics.

Eventually the animals do prove that they are truly evil and begin wreaking real havoc on the family, and the film gets even funnier at this point. Even the trees begin to attack!

They're coming for you... (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
They’re coming for you… (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Frogs has everything you could want in a corny film: Grandpa’s apathy when virtually his entire family dies at the hands of amphibians; an over-the-top ending; Ray Milland pulling out a revolver and shooting a snake in the face. It’s a seriously fun watch that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who adores the “so bad it’s good” class of films. (You may want to avoid it if you actually have a frog phobia. I love frogs, but if they freak you out when they’re not killing people, you probably won’t enjoy this one.)

Watch it: Netflix Instant | Amazon Instant | DVD

11 thoughts on “Classics of the Corn: Frogs (1972)

  1. Lindsey this is one of my FAVORITE cautionary tales from the 70s with Ray Milland and frogs lots of frogs. It’s got such an odd Southern Gothic creepiness to it, even though it’s a nature fights back film. Thanks so much for doing a great job of reminding us about it.

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    1. Glad to see I’m not the only one who loves it! I’ve been exploring some of the ’70s films on Netflix because I feel like I neglect that whole decade, but this is definitely the most interesting one I’ve discovered thus far.

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  2. Nice one, Lindsey, and I actually OWN this movie! You’re right, it’s very funny that these goofs can’t just run away from the frogs, but after my most recent viewing I finally realized: the frogs are actually the ones in charge, commanding all the deadly creatures (snakes, lizards, spiders) to do the killing for them. And I know what you’re saying: “Ahhh, NOW this all makes sense!”

    I seriously think we need your ‘Classics of the Corn’ segments posted at least once a week!

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    1. It does make more sense now! Shame on me for giving those lizards credit when their actions lead to greenhouse death by asphyxiation!

      I’ll try to work in CotC posts as often as possible, but every week might be a tough order to fill. A few of the films I’ve watched in hopes that they’d suit this series have been duds, but I’ll try my best to get more of them drafted up! There has been a great response and, of course, I love writing about “bad” films, so at the very least they’ll be showing up a couple of times each month.

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      1. Yeah, that whole greenhouse moment? That was entirely the frogs’ idea…months of planning, actually!

        I too would much rather write about bad films than good ones..sometimes I have to be careful not to flood the DK site with reviews of cheesy B-movies from my far-too-abundant collection. And if you could get a couple CofC reviews out per month, I think that would quench my thirst!

        And now I have to know: what movies have you watched for CofC that have been ‘duds’? I’m assuming you’re not going to write about them; if you are, then you don’t have to say!

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        1. I’ll still be posting regular reviews of them. The Body Disappears wasn’t a dud, but it’s an example of one I watched thinking it would fit this series. It’s a fun film but it wasn’t corny enough to fit in, so I just gave it a standard review.

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          1. Gotcha. I thought you were saying that the films were SO bad or boring, they weren’t even worth a corn review! I’ve really only found a few over the past several years that have fit the ‘too stupid to even be entertaining’ category!

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            1. They’ve been made up for by a few unexpectedly corny films as well. I won’t say which because I’ll be posting about them eventually, but there was one in particular that I was incredibly surprised by in terms of cheese level — you may be able to guess which one it was when I post my next monthly wrap-up!

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  3. This comment is unrelated to your terrific Cheese Movie post (which I thoroughly appreciated, BTW):

    Two summers ago, we were at my parents’ acreage and they have a lot of frogs there. We were walking back to the house; I was wearing flip flops. At the last second, I saw a tiny frog leap towards my foot and gasped because I thought I was going to step on it. But I didn’t – not in the way I expected. The poor thing landed on my flip-flop, under my heel, and when I took the next step, I squished its cold little body. Poor thing!

    I ask you, has such a thing ever happened to you? It’s a most unpleasant experience.

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    1. Oh no! :( That’s never happened to me, luckily. Frogs have always been one of my favorite creatures (I even had a huge frog-shaped rug in my room as a kid!), so I would probably be scarred for life if I stepped on one.

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