Hell Comes To Frogtown Blu-ray Review
Written by Ilan Sheady
DVD released by Arrow Video
Written and Directed by Donald G. Jackson
1988, Region 2 (PAL), 83 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 3rd February 2014
Roddy Piper as Sam Hell
Sandahl Bergman as Spangle
Cec Verell as Centinella
William Smith as Captain Devlin
Rory Calhoun as Looney Tunes
A 'difference of opinion' results in all out nuclear war. As well as the obvious destruction of civilisation as we know it, the world is now full of mutant frog people and women are in charge. With the human race on the verge of extinction it's up to Sam Hell (They Live and WWE icon 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper), the most fertile man on Earth, to repopulate the planet. May God have mercy on us all.
Accompanied by government agent Nurse Spangle (Sandahl Bergman, Conan The Barbarian) and beautiful but deadly soldier Centinella (Cec Verrell), Sam's first reluctant assignment is to enter a heavily populated mutant enclave called Frogtown, save a group of fertile females from the evil frog mutant Commander Toty and start making some babies.
Hell Comes to Frogtown has the plotline and acting calibre of a softcore porn movie without the money shots. Further still it has the political correctness of a Southpark episode. The first time Sam has to perform his 'duty' is with a scared and lost girl who's quickly tied up and injected with a chemical called Ovadol that facilitates procreation by getting her stoned. So let's be honest, we are talking date rape here.
The only reason the movie gets away with it is by making Sam Hell extremely reluctant to perform any of his reproductive duties, even making him rather courteous about the whole thing. Even though he is infamous for being a bit of a ladies man he in no way corroborates the title, even struggling to fight off women throwing themselves at him.
Considering Piper is full of wrestling machismo and a bit of a man's man I would assume at least once he'd come out with a 'heck yeah' to the whole scenario. It's exactly what every guy who read the synopsis felt. Instead when Sam Hell is given his orders and is asked if he feels up to the job, he responds with a bizarre delivery of 'are you serious?' that is neither for or against the situation. Then we watch our reluctant hero trying to do everything BUT have sex as he receives an automated chastity belt that inflicts pain and possible death depending on his obedience or proximity to his minder's earrings. This dictates Sam's role for the remainder of the film. the constant brunt of the joke as we see him punched, tortured and shot at, all for the future of the human race.
There are many reasons to love a film as bad as Hell Comes to Frogtown. As awful as the script, acting and plot is, the movie is so knee deep in absurdity that ONLY Roddy Piper and Sandahl Bergman could make it likeable. Special effects are dated, but impressive for its time thanks to the work of Predator modeller Steve Wang and there are some brilliantly memorable moments like the 'Dance of 3 Snakes' and Nicholas Worth (as Bull the frog) shouting 'SHUT YOUR HOLE' in, by far, one of the most inspirational interpretations of dialogue I have ever witnessed on film.
Hell Comes to Frogtown is easily one of Arrow's weirdest titles and is a stark contrast to the Fulci and Argento films that started off the collection. It is a film more for the Big Trouble in Little China and Buckaroo Banzai audience than the typical cult movie fan. For that reason I think casual fans may be pushing their endurance and tolerance. However, devoted collectors of the Arrow titles will enjoy seeing some great actor and film crossovers. William Smith, who plays Captain Devlin, also plays Captain Ripley in Maniac Cop while Rory Calhoun, who plays uranium miner Looney Tunes, also plays Vincent Smith the cannibalistic meat merchant in Motel Hell.
If the idea of Roddy Piper starring in Tank Girl versus Conan The Barbarian sounds interesting then you will love this film. It's immature, quotable and a few steps away from being a classic. If you don't know who Roddy Piper, Tank Girl or Conan is then avoid it like the plague. It's quite simply too late for you.
Video and Audio:
The widescreen presentation picture quality is typically impressive for an Arrow restoration though inconsistently varies from camera to camera. Regardless you can make out every inch of pock marked masculinity on Roddy Piper's face. According to my XBOX ONE info button (a feature I'd previously never had) the audio is Dolby AC-3. There's a short scene at the beginning in an interrogation room that sounds horribe due to an echo effect that has probably been added artificially and there's a few lines that feel lost in the peformance and music, but generally the audio is really clear.
There's almost an hour of features to keep you company after the film has finished:
- Grappling with the Green Gargantuan: Roddy Piper's humorously honest 21 minute account of his experiences on the film, his wife's discovery of the storyline and his abilities as an actor padded out with comments on Frogtown 2, John Carpenter and his wrestling career.
- Creature Feature Creator: A 15 minute interview with Steve Wang (who also worked on the first Predator) talking about the inspiration for the frog mutants and working around the low budget for the effects.
- Amphibian Armageddon: A 14 minute interview with Brian Frank on his performance as Commander Toty and experiences with the cast.
- A deleted scene which adds to Captain Devlin's hatred of Sam Hell
- and the original trailer
Being an arrow release you have certain expectations that you wouldn't have with other distributors. This is what makes Arrow one of the most collected DVDs of all time and if this was any other film company I'd say bravo for getting an interview with Roddy Piper, SFX artist Steve Wang and man-behing-the-mask actor Brian Frank. But because it's Arrow, deep down my heart sinks when I see that there's no commentary. It's like having an uncle who always gave you the best and most inspired presents for Christmas but then one year he gives you high street vouchers. Yes Director Donald G. Jackson is unfortunately not with us any more but I'd settle for an actor, producer or a critic. Hell Comes to Frogtown has so many political under(and over)tones I'd love to hear someone's take on it and from what we see with Roddy's interview his humour, self-deprecating charm and brutal honesty would have made a fantastic commentary (though I am inclined to believe Roddy wouldn't sit through a screening to save his own life).
Fun Fact: Both Sandahl Bergman and William Smith played key characters in Conan The Barbarian one as Arnie's love interest and one as his father. I'll let you work out which is which.
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