Review Date: February 10, 2002
Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: 7/10/2001
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
In the final years of the 20th century, mankind was almost destroyed by a nuclear war that reduced the world's male population by nearly 70% and left most of the survivors sterile. The war also caused many people to become ghastly mutations, half-frog and half-man. In the former United States, the mutations, often referred to as "greeners", were rounded up and sent to reservations out in the desert. The greeners were also forbidden from possessing firearms, but it seems that many of them are now managing to get a hold of them anyway and rebelling against what little remains of humanity.
Hell Comes to Frogtown
tells the story of Sam Hell (Roddy Piper
), a war hero who has been wandering the land ever since the conflict ended. While traveling through the southwest, he is placed under arrest after a local girl accuses him of raping her. He is interrogated by the sadistic Captain Devlin (William Smith
), whose daughter just happens to be the one crying rape. Devlin is about to sever Sam's manhood with a broken bottle when agents from MedTech, a government agency charged with producing babies and getting the population back up, burst in and stop him. They take Sam into their custody - it seems that Devlin's daughter changed her story after she found out she was pregnant. It seems that Sam is a rare find - a fertile male!
After examining Sam, MedTech discovers that he has the highest sperm count that they've ever seen, and has left a string of pregnancies wherever he's gone. He is given an option - he can sign a contract of service with MedTech to help them impregnate fertile women, or he can go back and face Devlin. He signs the contract (obviously), but regrets it almost immediately when he finds out that a pair of Kevlar underwear that he's been wearing throughout the examination isn't just mean to monitor his vital signs - it locks, too, and he can't remove it. It seems that his special area is now government property. Sam is informed that he will start work immediately. He is informed that a year and a half earlier, a military patrol in the desert was ambushed and massacred by the greeners. The creatures also apparently captured a number of fertile women who had been traveling with them. It's now believed that those women are being held hostage at Frogtown, a greener reservation in the desert. Sam, accompanied by MedTech agent Dr. Spangles (Sandahl Bergman
) and Corporal Centinella (Cec Verrell
), a military escort, are going to go rescue them and get the women pregnant.
Soon after, the team arrives in Frogtown. Centinella remains in the desert as backup, and Spangles has Sam put a chain on her, and they walk onto the reservation with her posing as his slave. Upon entering a nearby bar, Sam is surprised to meet an old friend of his, Lonnie 'Looney Tunes' Anderson (Rory Calhoun
), a human who is helping the greeners mine uranium. He takes them to see Leroy (Cliff Bemis
), the bar's owner, who tries to set up a trade for Spangles, but Bull (Nicholas Worth
), who is the first lieutenant to the reservation's chief, Commander Toty (Brian Frank
), barges in and appropriates Spangles for Toty's harem. Sam is able to make contact with Arabella (Kristi Sommers
), a dancer in Leroy's bar who has sworn to defeat Toty, and now Sam has to not only rescue the women, but Spangles as well, knowing that the fate of the human race could very well depend on him completing the mission.
With a title like Hell Comes to Frogtown
, I was expecting the movie to be either terrible or very good. I was surprised to find that it was a fairly entertaining, but not spectacular film. The best part of the movie is 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper (in a role which had many candidates, including none other than Jay Leno) as Sam Hell. Although this was his first movie, made at the height of his wrestling career, his performance is surprisingly good. His physique and wrestling experience make it perfectly easy to accept him in the action-hero role, but his down-to-earth, every guy persona also makes it easy to accept him as the reluctant hero. He doesn't give quite as good a performance as he gave in John Carpenter's They Live
the following year, but he is very sympathetic in the role.
Unfortunately, there is a general lack of action for the first part of the movie. It takes about forty minutes to get to the meat of the story, so as a result it takes awhile before anything really exciting happens, and even after that the action scenes are a little bit of a letdown (it should be pointed out that this is not the fault of the filmmakers, who requested to shoot additional action sequences but were turned down by cash-strapped New World Pictures). The frogs, or greeners, are rather fake looking as well, although this actually works to the advantage of the movie, since it reminds the viewer that this is a spoof that isn't to be taken seriously at all.
Hell Comes to Frogtown
is presented letterboxed at 1.85:1 and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The image quality was uniformly excellent. Colors were bold and vibrant, the picture was sharp and detailed, there was no sign of artifacting - even in some of the darker scenes - and there was virtually no print damage at all, aside from a few negligible specks here and there. The only appreciable flaw is a little bit of grain that could be seen here and there, and the fact that some of those darker scenes were overly dark and a bit soft looking, but then again even those weren't too too bad. This is another standout transfer from Anchor Bay.
The audio is presented in Dolby 2.0 Stereo. This was a pretty good-sounding audio track, with clear dialogue and good range, although some of the sound effects and music came off as a little harsh-sounding at times. English closed-captions are provided.
The main attraction here is a commentary track from director Donald G. Jackson and screenwriter Randall Frakes. Overall it's a good commentary, the two men remain laid-back and keep a constant discussion going and are always fun to listen to, leaving only a few brief, quiet moments here and there. The track is somewhat imbalanced, with the two spending the first half of the movie talking about the background of how the film came to be, and it only gets screen-specific towards the end, although it's always interesting to hear. The two cover a variety of topics like special effects, budgetary constraints, the pre-production hell that New World Pictures put them through, and offer up some advice to aspiring filmmakers.
Also included are a trailer and some humorous liner notes.
Hell Comes to Frogtown
is a mindless, but enjoyable movie, one which got far too little attention as it was released while New World Pictures was going through it's final death throe. Hopefully this DVD release will expose it to a wider audience, and hopefully the fine video transfer and entertaining commentary track that this release sports will help.
Movie - B
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B+
Supplements - B
- Running Time - 1 hour 26 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- 22 Chapter Stops
- Dolby 2.0 Stereo
- English captions
- Audio commentary by director Donald G. Jackson and writer Randall Frakes
- Theatrical trailer
- Liner notes