Saturday, 29 January 2011

Hell Comes To Frogtown

Title: Hell Comes To Frogtown
Director: Donald G. Jackson
Released: 1988
Staring: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Sandahl Bergman, Cec Verrell, William Smith, Rory Calhoun

Plot: Set in the aftermath of a Nuclear war, which has not only left the majority of the surviving human race infertile, but has also created a race of mutant frogmen, who have since their creation been exiled to the desert, creating thier own society for themselves known as Frogtown. With the frogs having recently captured a group of fertile women, the all female government recruit drifter Sam Hell (Piper), to bring them back aswell asking them to reproduce with them, seeing how he is possibly the last fertile man on earth, while at the same time strapping a bomb to his crotch to ensure that he carries out his mission.

Review: I think there seriously must have been something in the water in 80’s, especially when you look at some of insane titles which the era produced, something which this film is a testament not only to, but also highlights the questionable style and content of Director Jackson’s films, which unsurprisingly earned him the moniker of being “The Ed Wood of the Video Age.”, while creating his own style of film making with Scott Shaw, known simply as “Zen Filmaking”, were no scripts were used in the creation of film, which probably goes along way to explaining some of his films, while it’s also worth noting the sheer passion that Jackson has for those same films, frequently directing the sequels they spawned, though it could also be questioned at the same time if anyone else would really want to direct a sequel to one of his films?

“Hell Comes To Frogtown” is probably the best known of Jackson’s films, no doubt as a result of the casting of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, who was at the time was also one of the top name wrestlers in the WWE (back then was still known as the WWF) and when you look at his performance here and the John Carpenter classic “They Live” (1988), it's kinda suprising that he wasn’t used more as an actor, especially while his WWE Stablemate “Hulk Hogan” was torturing us all with some pretty hideous performances, while Piper is strangely watchable. Still the whole tone of the film is pretty light hearted, which certainly helps here, as no one appears to be taking it too seriously, while the frogman special effects are pretty good, even if occasionally the mouths seem to be just opening and closing at random while some of the characters talk, depending on how important thier character is, the effect really do vary with the majority of the money being spent on the main villians, while hench-froggies get effects scraped together from the remainder of the budget.

Sam Hell is the typical 80’s wasteland hero, not only because he has bad hair and a stupid sounding name (See also for this same reason “Violence Jack” [1986] ) but mainly because he cares pretty much about himself and Piper plays up well to the stereotype, even carrying off the reference to the classic eastern tale “Monkey: Journey to the West” by having the bomb attached to his crotch, controlled by the bespectacled and slightly nerdy commanding officer Spangle’s (Bergman) ear ring, with her frequently threatening to set the bomb off whenever Hell attempts to run off or disobey her. Meanwhile Hell has some pretty badass backup from the gung ho Centinella (Verrell), who proves herself pretty handy with the heavy machine gun strapped to the top of their questionably camouflaged in pink Ambulance.

The bad guys are none the less stereotypical or cartoonish, but seriously what were you expecting from a bunch of mutant froggies? Especially ones lead by a Commander Toady! Still atleast he bothers to have a cool henchman with the eye patch wearing and chainsaw welding Bull, who also has some of the best moments of the film. Toady it would seem is also the kind of guy who likes to makes the best of a bad situation, seeing how Frogtown is pretty much an abandoned refinery in the desert, so was fun to see that he bothered to install a GoGo bar complete with it’s own mutant dancer, actually that seems to be all he has installed bar a thrown together torture room and the mention if some mine, with the rest of the action taking place outside of these locations being set in random outside locations. Still I have give Jackson some form of props for atleast giving us a look at the female of the mutant species, who it seems Hell even considers humping thanks to a sudden cut to Hell and the said dancer now wearing a potato sack over her head, to disguise the fact that ….well she’s a giant mutant frog I guess, still it would seem that interspecies relations aren’t to be on the cards here, as Hell ends up spurning her advances, which depending on your view point might be either a good or a bad thing. Personally I was kind of relived as there are some things I can go though live without seeing and Piper humping a mutant frog go-go dancer is certainly one of them.

Action wise these scenes are all pretty solid with Piper unloading shotgun shells, while spitting out classic one liners like “Eat Lead Froggies” and throwing in the occasional wrestling grapple, even though he appears to screw up a suplex on Bull, but on the whole the action scenes are still satisfying enough, even throwing in a Mad Max style chase sequence.

The real main problem this film suffers from is the fact it doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself, with a tricky third quarter, which the momentum from the earlier scenes just about carries the film past, before the action packed finale, thanks to the earlier scenes which are not so much tongue in cheek, but rather tongue forcibly crammed in cheek, which really serves to prepare you for the insanity to come.

“Hell Comes To Frogtown” is pretty much the kind of movie you’d expect it to be and while it might not be for everyone, especially for those who can’t appreciate a mutant frog movie and while that third quarter does hold it back from being a true cult classic, it’s still worth a look, if only so you can name yourself another Roddy Piper movie, other than “They Live” let alone one in which he brawls with mutant frogmen with a bomb strapped to his crotch, which lets face it is pretty much all you should want to know, before hunting this one down and maybe watch it as a post apocalyptic double with the equally zany “Six String Samurai” (1998).


  1. This movie was hilarious, Im glad Six String Samurai's getting some love. I had no idea this director filmed his films without any actual script, I mean, it must have been difficult to get these films green lighted that way.

  2. "Six String Samurai" is a definate favourite of mine, especially for how insanely random it is, which is pretty much the reason to also love this film.

    In regards to the "Zen Films" he made they are pretty much most of the ones he did with Scott Shaw. I actually think they had a script for this one, with the real suprise being that it spawned three sequels, let alone the sheer amount of films Jackson made.

    Both Jackson and Shaw are mentioned in "Showgirls, Teen Wolves and Astro Zombies" by Michael Adams in which he attempts to find the worst film ever made and definatly worth a read, for anyone into cult, obsure and generally bad cinema :)


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