In the summer of 1972, Sam Elliott made his big screen debut in the camp horror classic FROGS. This was the top of the must-see list for any kid alive that summer. The poster was on every kids wall, I had one!
American International specialized in B-movie, drive-in horror in the 60's and 70's and as bad as this is, it's one of their better films!
The plot is as basic as the budget. Wealthy old Jason Crockett (Ray Milland, seeming pissed off he's in this or just superb at acting grumpy) has gathered his family for his favorite holiday and birthday, July 4th.
What a family it is. Daughter Karen is played by Joan Van Ark (Knots Landing) and Adam Roarke (Dirty Mary Crazy Larry) is son Clint. Everyone is living the high life and waiting for Grandpa Jason to kick the bucket. In all fairness to them, he does seem awful close.
Their speedboat nearly runs over photographer Pickett Smith (Elliott) as he lurks around their massive plantation, grabbing pictures of pollution and the less than ecologically friendly Crockett estate.
They bring him home to Grandpappy's party after nearly drowning him.
Folks around the plantation start to die as every reptile in shouting distance decides it's payback time for the Crockett's.
Back in the day, this was very fun & scary, with endless shots of water snakes, rattlers and lizards approaching to attack. There are even some competent moments, especially one with water moccasins chasing Elliott in the swamp that build some suspense.
A tarantula attack with many spiders spinning webbing at their victim is scary, claustrophobic fun. Alligators are always going to be formidable foe.
But no matter what angle you film them from, giant bullfrogs just aren't very intimidating. You could throw 50 of them at me and I'm going to be able to fend them off, but not these dummies.
I laughed a lot at this non-comedy, especially when a giant tortoise attacks a family member. All she had to do was slowly roll over to avoid it, but nope, she just waits until it gets close enough to chomp.
Elliott shows plenty of screen presence but is missing that legendary mustache! It would be another four years before his breakout big screen role in "Lifeguard".
I loved Judy Pace (Cotton Comes to Harlem) as Clint's model girlfriend, Bella Garrington. She's steals every scene she's in and seems like the only one that understands this is a ridiculous horror cheapie. She's terrific.
If you're in the mood for a goofy B-movie, it's a diverting and very funny 90 minutes. Writer Fran Lebowitz called this "the best bad movie I've ever seen in my life."
By the time giant bullfrogs are leaping on Pappy Crockett's turntable and disturbing his patriotic 78 records, I knew Milland was a goner. I imagine that was a relief from all the reptiles and the mint juleps.
FROGS is pure American International Horror, and the rare outlier in their B movie catalog to actually climb its way up to a C, which stands for CAMP of the highest order.