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Posted on the 21 May 2023 by Christopher Saunders
FrogsThe '70s were perhaps the best decade for truly mad horror movie premises, with filmmakers trying to find menace in the mundane and madness in the everyday. Such with Frogs (1972), the notorious B Movie where ferocious amphibians wage slimy revenge against polluting malefactors. It's impossible to watch, let alone review this film without accepting it on its own level. 

Jason Crockett (Ray Milland) is the aging patriarch of a Southern family who invites his relatives for a birthday party. Nobody's too happy to celebrate with the cranky old man, least of all the local frogs, who begin descending on the family with constant croaking and weirdly menacing appearances. Photographer Pickett Smith (Sam Elliot) surmises that Crockett's habit of dumping toxic waste in the local rivers has antagonized the amphibians, but his warnings go unheeded. Soon a multispecies coalition - fearsome frogs, sneaky snakes, creepy crocodiles and even terrifying terrapins - begins picking off Crockett's family one by one, leaving the survivors the option of escape or death. 

Frogs sounds like a spoof of '70s eco-horror, a genre which gave us such risible entries as Prophecy and Night of the Lepus. Yet director George McCowan takes his material every bit as serious as those movies. When not clobbering us over the head with his environmental message, he's trying to wring suspense from the ominous sound of frogs croaking and crickets chirping. A little of this goes a long way, and it's not improved by the forced scenes of human interactions. As the sub-Tennessee Williams bickering plays out, Sam Elliot puffs out his chest and warns about the dangers of pollution, the movie slows to a deadening crawl, and we're wishing that the critters would get around to knocking them off. 

When Frogs does get around to the killing, it provides some memorably weird, wild death scenes. One hapless victim is wrapped up in sentient peat moss and suffocated by tarantulas spinning web over his body. Another family member is mobbed by geckos in a greenhouse, who kill him by spilling toxic chemicals everywhere (magically escaping asphyxiation themselves - science is not the film's strong point). Other characters fall victim to snakebite, alligators, leeches and, in one berserk scene, a giant snapping turtle. None of it is really scary, unless you have a phobia of reptiles, but the movie earns points for its utter strangeness.

Ray Milland phones in his performance, growling insults at cast members from a wheelchair. Milland manages to be less dignified than The Thing With Two Heads, where he at least seems to be enjoying himself. The other performers are functional and best: a handsome, smooth-shaven Sam Elliott gets his first major role, and at least doesn't embarrass himself too much. Adam Roarke and Joan Van Ark play two of the more prominent victims, but leave little impression.  

Really, if a movie like Frogs sounds appealing you don't need persuading. The movie climaxes in a strange scene with Ray Milland, alone except for his dog, listening to his record player in the dark as the frogs close in for the kill. The scene is too long, too goofy to be scary, but it stands in for the rest of the film, an ill-judged but enjoyable strange slice of '70s kitsch.   

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