Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Hell Comes to Frogtown - Review

Hell Comes to Frogtown follows the post-apocalyptic (mis)adventures of Sam Hell, one of the last fertile men on Earth, who finds himself tasked with travelling across a wasteland in the company of a couple of female escorts, one a scientist, the other a beautiful gun-toting badass, to a settlement populated and ruled by a race of humanoid frog creatures.  His mission?  To rescue a harem of kidnapped sex slaves from the town’s froggy overlord before impregnating them with his mega-healthy baby batter.  The end result is a ridiculous but energetic sex-comedy riff on Planet of the Apes.

The movie plays out like a Troma production with almost all of the violence and gore that typifies that studio's output surgically removed.  It comprehensively checks all the b-movie boxes and with a playful, innuendo packed script and some spirited, if hammy, performances succeeds in becoming a surprisingly engaging, thoroughly enjoyable watch.  Certainly it's easy to see why it's become a cult hit and there was even some talk of an ideas-starved Hollywood giving it the remake treatment a couple of years back (please, no). 

Starring as the heat packing protagonist with a hard task ahead of him is none other than the aptly named Roddy Piper who in the same year featured in John Carpenter’s brilliantly subversive slice of sci-fi horror They Live.  Piper is perfectly cast as the wonderfully monikered hero of the day.  The rapport that develops between him and Spangle (Sandahl Bergman), the scientist who controls the booby-trapped cod piece he’s forced to wear, is frequently amusing.  Perhaps because of his relative inexperience as an actor at the time, Piper’s performance, probably more through accident than actual design, hits exactly the right tone for Hell Comes to Frogtown and is a large part of the reason the movie works as well as it does.  The rest of the cast's performances are all delivered with the same zeal and everyone looks like they were enjoying themselves.

The mutant frogmen that Sam Hell and company find themselves up against were created by Steve Wang who had previously worked on The Monster Squad and Predator under the tutelage of special effects legend Stan Winston. His work on Hell Comes to Frogtown is somewhat hampered by the low budget nature of the movie but the practical make-up he employs is, nonetheless, effective and in the case of Commander Toty, the ruler of Frogtown, downright impressive (if still more than a little daft).  The frog leader's costume gets the most lavish treatment and comes complete with a fully animatronic head and a trio of animated appendages that come into play during the movie's memorable Dance of the Three Snakes scene.

None of this is intended to suggest that Hell Comes to Frogtown is a great piece of cinema.  It’s as goofy as its title suggests and then some.  B-movies are by their very nature difficult to rate.  I wouldn’t say this is a good film.  But it is a great b-movie.  Just as there are good and bad a-list films so too are there great examples of low budget schlock.  Hell Comes to Frogtown is a moderately well executed film and that helps.  The director knows how to point a camera and the cast, regardless of the quality of their performances, are fun to watch and easy to cheer on.  With a delightfully bonkers idea at its core this is a movie that should provide 88 minutes of cheesy fun for anyone on the lookout for a pacy slice of unapologetically preposterous post-apocalyptic action.


The movie looks stunning for most of it's run-time.  Far more so than you would expect from a b-movie of 1980's vintage.  Some darker scenes suffer from some excessive grain but for the most part the image looks sharp, detailed and colourful.  The only audio available is an original uncompressed stereo 2.0 PCM track which sounded great to me.

Special Features

The extras on the DVD are mostly of the interview variety.  In Grappling with the Gargantuans star Roddy Piper reminisces on his experiences making Hell Comes to Frogtown in a manner that is equal parts candid and delusional.  I found this interview a slightly uncomfortable if frequently funny watch as he veers between stroking his ego, referring to himself in the third person and rambling on about how he was misused by Hollywood and hates every movie he's ever appeared in.  Steve Wang gives us his perspective via the Creature Feature Creator interview segment and his attitude is the antithesis Pipers. He seems to have had a genuinely great experience making the movie and has nothing but nice things to say about everyone involved (Piper included).  Amphibian Armageddon, the third and final interview segment, shines a light on Brian Frank, the actor who brought Commander Toty to life.  The only other extras are an extended scene and the movie's trailer.

It's worth mentioning that this Arrow release is a limited edition of 1,000 copies.  So if you're a fan of the movie or think it might float your boat head on over to their online store and snap up a copy.

Steve's Score:

No comments:

Post a Comment