Hell Comes to Frogtown DVD Review
What’s it about? In a post-apocalyptic America destroyed by biological and nuclear war, the majority of the survivors have been left infertile due to the effects of fallout. Sam Hell (‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper), a nomad who roams the wasteland, is one of the few fertile males left alive. When the mutant amphibians of Frogtown kidnap a group of fertile women to use as sex slaves, Hell becomes a wanted man. Captured by an organised collective of warrior nurses (from whom the amphibians took the women), Hell is needed both for his semen and his fighting skills. The nurses press Hell, on pain of death, into entering Frogtown to launch an audacious attempt to free the imprisoned women.
Verdict: In the world of B movies, pretty much anything goes. You only need read the synopsis for Hell Comes to Frogtown to see that. What a pitch that must have been – warrior nurses, infertility, mutant frog-people, a lead character played by a wrestling star – but Donald G. Jackson and R.J. Kizer’s 1987 sci-fi action comedy got made, becoming a minor ‘cult’ oddity in the process. Hell Comes to Frogtown ticks a lot of the boxes that make a film a ‘cult’ offering – wrestling star ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper in his first role, Sandahl Bergman (She, Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja) and an ageing Rory Calhoun in supporting roles, a bizarre premise and its share of off-screen problems – so you can see why the excellent Arrow Video have made it the subject of a new DVD/Blu-ray release. I vaguely remember seeing Frogtown on VHS during the late 80s, my distant recollections perhaps pointing to the movie’s lack of impact on my then still teenage mind.
A mish-mash of ideas, themes and genres – social breakdown, nature gone awry and infertility presented with dystopian sci-fi, action, comedy and western traits – Frogtown is, in truth, only of interest for its curiosity value. It’s a disposable slice of retro B-movie fun, notable mainly for Steve Wang’s creature effects and Dins W.W. Danielsen’s production design, both of which are commendable given the relatively tight budgets at their disposal. The post-apocalyptic landscape and locales look suitably ravaged and the frog-people, featuring animatronic and puppet work, are more aesthetically appealing than most of the CGI-creatures that dominate contemporary cinema.
Unsurprisingly played mostly for laughs, with Piper and Bergman (who plays one of the warrior nurses) amiable, if limited, leads, Frogtown is a brisk, cheesy serving of daftness. Not in so-bad-it’s-good territory, it is, however, not particularly memorable despite the ‘cult’ attributes.
Extras: Far more entertaining than the film itself, the extras package features a collector’s booklet written by Arrow regular Calum Waddell, an extended scene, the original trailer and three interviews. The first, Grappling With Green Gargantuans, sees Roddy Piper reminiscing in amusing and honest fashion about the film, Hollywood’s attempts to turn him into a leading man and his subsequent acting roles. Amphibian Armageddon places Brian Frank in the spotlight as he recalls his role behind the mask of Commander Toty and Steve Wang talks us through his time designing the frog-people effects and his other work on such films as the original Predator. All the interviews are engaging and illuminating, throwing light onto the off-screen world of B-movie productions.
Final Words: A definite oddball of a movie, it’s just a shame it isn’t actually that great. Plenty of movies get the ‘cult’ tag and are bona fide classics; Hell Comes to Frogtown, on the other hand, is merely an occasionally amusing romp that feels like a sweded version of Mad Max: The Road Warrior dreamt up by a drunk Lloyd Kaufmann.
Hell Comes To Frogtown is out on DVD & Blu-ray now.