Pickett Smith (Sam Elliott) is a wildlife photographer taking pictures for a magazine spread. While photographing animal life around a private island, owned by the Crockett family, his canoe gets tipped over by a speed boat being driven by a tipsy Clint Crockett (Adam Roarke) and his sister Karen Crockett (Joan Van Ark). Karen invites him up to the mansion for a shower and clean clothes. Smith is introduced to the other members of the family including the ornery, wheelchair bound, head of the household Jason Crockett (Ray Milland). When Jason learns that Smith is an expert in ecology he asks him to investigate the island. There is an unusually large population of bull frogs that year and attempts to get rid of them have failed.
While checking out the island Smith finds the body of the family handyman covered in snake bites. Smith reports back to Jason the discovery of the body and his view that what is going on around the island has more to do with pollution than with natural causes. Jason is planning a big family shindig the next day to celebrate the fourth of July as well as the birthdays of four of his family members, including himself. Jason wants nothing to interrupt the festivities and disregards Smith’s concerns.
The next day Jason sends his nephew Michael Martindale (David Gilliam) to check out why the phone lines are not working. Michael becomes incapacitated when he accidently shoots himself in the foot. He is then killed by a cluster of Tarantulas. Michael’s brother Kenneth (Nicholas Cortland) is surrounded by geckos, in the greenhouse, that knock over shelves lined with chemicals. He dies from inhaling the poisonous fumes. Jason’s sister Iris (Hollis Irving) gets bitten by a rattle snake after escaping leeches and her husband Stuart (George Skaff) is eaten by alligators.
One by one the members of the household are taken down by various insects, reptiles and amphibians all working in concert with each other to either kill or indirectly cause the death of anyone they come in contact with.
“Frogs” was released in 1972 and was directed by George McCowan. It is your typical “nature strikes back” type film and is part of a sub-genre called eco-horror. What started in the 50’s as giant critter type monsters from nuclear fallout eventually evolved in the 70’s to regular size critters run amok due to pollution. Monsters went from mindless giants devastating everything in their path to intelligent, deliberate and premeditated strategists bent on revenge on mankind. Which is scarier?
Man does not like the idea that there may be life on this planet that is more intelligent than they are. Something big and vicious can be killed. Something normally inoffensive but working together with military precision, well, maybe man has been usurped as the highest life form on the planet. And we did it to ourselves.
Although frogs themselves are rather innocuous when their numbers are in the thousands anyone might get a little creepy crawly. Plus these guys have help in their evil plans. The frogs may not be the actual murderers in this freak show, but they are certainly the instigators. Despite the name, “Frogs” is more of a thriller than you would expect. Each death is bizarre and drawn out. Yes… frogs, as an antagonist, is silly, but you kinda have to go with the flow.
I’ve seen several low budget horror movies with Ray Milland as one of the lead stars and I’ve gotta say that he’s pretty much been a douche in most of them. This is also probably the first starring role in a feature film for Sam Elliott.
The filmmakers used 500 frogs and 100 giant South American toads for the movie. Most of which escaped during production. The uncredited co-stars of the film, the snakes, spiders and scorpions were banned from the hotel where the rest of the cast stayed. No live birds were used due to budget constraints. The bird scenes were stock footage superimposed on film of the actors running.