That’s a hell of a title… if you’ll excuse the weak, and genuinely unintentional, pun. What would you expect a film called Hell Comes To Frogtown to be about? You’d probably imagine that the title has some sort of figurative meaning. That “Frogtown” is referencing something in the film that you’re not privy to yet. That the “Hell” is a person or a force that represents death and destruction. Unfortunately got Hell Comes to Frogtown this potential metaphorical title isn’t that at all. Hell Comes to Frogtown is about a man called Sam Hell that’s been sent into a place called Frogtown. That’s not a parallel for Paris either, oh no. The Frogtown of the title is a town inhabited by frog people. Also, Sam Hell needs to rescue some babes so he can get them all pregnant and stuff. Yeah… click the link.
To extrapolate on that brief synopsis I feel I should explain further. Sam Hell (Rowdy Roddy Piper) has a reputation of being quite the ladies man, and in a post apocalyptic world where 68% of the world’s male population has been wiped out being a fertile male is quite a big deal. For reasons Sam has been caught by the military and tasked with heading into Frogtown to rescue some women being held prisoner in a harem. If he does not do this the military grade chastity belt currently locked around his gonads will explode. He’s accompanied on this mission by Spangle (Sandahl Bergman) and Centinella (Cec Verrell). Spangle has earrings that can shock and incapacitate Sam at will or if he tries to escape. Looks like Sam is stuck between a cock and a hard place! HAR DE HAR HAR! Ahem… So yeah, this is Escape From New York but with frog people.
Where to start with Hell Comes to Frogtown? That’s a tricky question. This film came before Roddy Piper was all badass and awesome in They Live. Here he’s being his usual charming self, and to be fair the only watchable element of the film, but man what a weird film he’s stuck within. The first 30 minutes or so are spent reminding us of the fact Sam’s underpants are fitted with a taser. He runs away and gets zapped. Centinella tries to get frisky with him and he gets zapped. The two women drive off leaving him on the road until he realises he’s about to get zapped and starts running after them. When Sam isn’t getting his crotch tickled by Tesla he’s in situations where women are throwing themselves at him. Eventually he gets to be the action hero you’d expect Roddy Piper to be but that’s over an hour into the film. The majority of the film is silly event after silly event.
Now the film isn’t meant to be taken seriously by any means. There are attempts at comedy the whole way through. The film has that oppressive dark future look films were so fond of in the 80s which really doesn’t help to sell the comedy which is never well executed enough to juxtapose with the dark setting. The make up effects for the frog people varies from just about passable for late 80s TV to Halloween mask quality. It’s clear more effort was put into certain characters masks than others too. Whilst there is a certain charm to the film’s low rent aesthetic very little else can hold your attention.
The script feels like it was scribed… scribed is too good a word… The script feels like it was vomited up by a 14 year old when he and his best friends were trying to come up with the most awesomest movie ever whilst drinking bottles of White Lightening they paid a tramp to buy for them. Sandahl Bergman reads every line like she’s in a coma. No-one seems to want to have put anything above the bear minimum of effort into their performances. That is, except for Roddy Piper, who was clearly enjoying being in a film so much that all he could do was do his best. Piper has always been a strong performer verbally in wrestling and it comes across from time to time here. He must have felt like his big movie star break was happening as this was, for the time, quite a moderate to high budgeted film. Thankfully hardly anyone saw it and his following film, They Live, was a hell of a lot more popular. Well, eventually it was.
So the film isn’t very good. But is it bad-good? Does it fall into that realm of quality where a film can be so perfectly awful that you can’t help but love it? Will it stand proud alongside such greats as Troll 2, The Room and Miami Connection? Oh God no. It’s just not that perfectly bad. A good-bad movie often gets to its status by being terrible yet clearly made with a love, passion and sheer joy for film. The people making it may not know what they’re doing but, dammit, they try their best. Hell Comes to Frogtown was made by some competent people. This was a $7 million production with a team that may not have been cinematic heavyweights but at least they knew what they were doing. Plus the film just isn’t fun. At all.
When you get to the last half hour you’ll likely be tired and zoning out from the nonsense you’ve seen. That’s a bad thing though. Because for the last half hour Roddy Piper gets to kick some ass, presumably because he is all out of gum. The finale is even a big fat recreation of the fight between Kirk and the Gorn from the original series episode Arena. It’s shot at the same location and mirrors a whole bunch of the shots. A nice nod and wink that isn’t played for laughs, unless you know what you’re looking at of course. It’s strange that you’d get a professional wrestler such as Piper for an action role and not have him doing anything action based until the final act. You can only pull that off if the preceding hour is spent building towards him letting rip with the fists and that that first hour isn’t boring and painful.
I always like my milestone reviews to be something a little on the crappy side of things (with the exception of Chinatown, of course) and I sure have picked a crappy one here. Hell Comes to Frogtown isn’t fun or charismatic enough to be truly enjoyable. For a film with such a bizarre concept and setting it ends up being quite woefully dull. I can understand the cult status it has attained over the years but this is by no means a film that can hold a candle to the cult greats. Watch it if you want to see just evidence that all film execs in the 80s were snorting coke, but I wouldn’t recommend watching it for any other reason.