Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Halloween Movie Month: Frogs

Frogs (1972)

Frogs is about a freelance photographer (Sam Elliot) doing a photojournalism piece on pollution of a lake.  In the middle of the lake is the island estate of a disabled millionaire, who cares little for nature and is the source of most of the pollution.  In the days leading up to the millionaire's birthday celebration, the animals start taking revenge for the destruction of nature.

Aside from the overwhelmingly blunt message of "if you pollute, you are evil!!", this movie actually had a decent amount of heart.  Maybe it's because it was a small cast and just about everyone (except for Sam Elliot) was family.  Since it takes place in the day leading up to the millionaire's birthday, you get to see some of the family interactions, allowing for more of an opportunity to sympathize with (or just despise) them.

Even though seeing the family in a variety of situations allows you to form a closer connection with them, that also works against the movie.  I get that the family is using too much pesticides and has been killing too many animals (some through dumping of chemicals and some through hunting for sport), but the family is never really shown as being quite evil enough.  Things are shown too quickly, in terms of the actual plot of the animals taking revenge.  Rather than actually showing the family do some of the terrible things, the audience is just told about them.  The only reason that the audience knows that these people are the antagonists is because we are told that they have been too bad to the environment.  While most of the family "deserves" what they have coming to them (again, based primarily on the audience being told that the family deserves it, rather than showing their more heinous acts), there is one old woman who does not seem like she is doing any damage other than just enjoying catching butterflies - and she has probably the most torturous death of the entire movie.

While the family is an ambiguous and underdeveloped antagonist (yes, even though the millionaire grandfather is the primary antagonist, the entire family has played some part in the destruction of the environment), Sam Elliot is very clearly the protagonist and I think that he is a major factor in giving the movie heart.  Sam Elliot (probably most notably known for his role as Virgil Earp in Tombstone, though he has an extensive resume) plays the same good-hearted cowboy (though, this time without the hat) that he plays so well.  He was one of my favorite things about the movie and his acting kept the movie from straying too far into the horribly cheesy territory.  My biggest complaint about his performance is that he did not have a mustache.  This is the first time that I have ever seen him without a mustache, and it was weird.

Rating and Recommendation:  2/5.  Frogs was fairly standard cult, B-movie fare.  There was some good:  some things about it were endearingly tropey and/or cheesy, Sam Elliot proves that his cool, collected, cowboy persona were cultivated at an early age, and there is a message with heart (that is overwhelmingly hitting you over the head).  There was some bad:  we are told how we are supposed to feel about the characters rather than being shown actual evidence, too much footage is used setting the physical setting rather than the emotional tone, and even though the movie is called frogs, they are never actually shown doing any of the killing.  But there wasn't anything especially amazing about the good that makes it a must see, nor was there anything especially terrible that makes it an instant pass.  It was enjoyable enough and I would be willing to watch it again, but I also won't lose sleep at night if I was told that I would never be able to see it again.  If someone took the time to re-edit the movie and cut out a lot of the pointless B-roll of frogs and only show scenes that actually show us anything about the characters, I think that it would actually make a pretty interesting and enjoyable episode of something like Twilight Zone or Outer Limits.  But, as it is, Frogs falls short and lands itself in "pass" territory.

Be sure to check back soon for more reviews in Halloween Movie Month!  In the meantime, leave comments on this (or any other) review, follow me here and on twitter (@GargyleReviews), and let me know what movies you'd like for me to review for Halloween Movie Month!

- The Gargyle

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