BLOG YTC_Hollyweird: Episode XI: Toad Be Or Not Toad Be

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In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

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The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…

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Back in 1988, wrestler ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper did something amazing. Something ground breaking. Something that to this very day, a whole two decades on, has yet to be equalled. No, he did not win a Wrestling world title, but rather he acted in a film- and he was good. Really good. That movie was John Carpenter’s They Live.

I don’t remember him in Transformers…

 

Oh sure, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is a charismatic actor of great success, whilst Andre The Giant is certainly lovable in The Princess Bride, and even Hulk Hogan is, um…. present in Mr Nanny. But Roddy Piper is the first wrestler-to-actor to really play a solid part convincingly. In They Live, Piper is understated and believable as a down and out- possibly due to his teenage years living that very life style. Yet he is also swaggering, tough and great at pun-slinging- possibly due to his wrestling career.

So there we are. It’s 1988. Piper has proven to the both world and to the critics alike that he has genuine acting chops. So why didn’t his career take off in movies? Well possibly because of another film released the very same year- Hell Comes To Frogtown.

 

FROM THIS……
….. TO THIS

 

It is a dystopian future (NB: well, aren’t they all? Even the Utopian ones a la Logan’s Run or Metropolis tend to fall apart under scrutiny. Sigh, are we really so doomed?!?!) Anyhoo, it’s a dystopian future. Mutated Amphibians have evolved to form their own society but they despise the remaining humans, the ‘flat lips’ of the world. Humanity’s days seem numbered, not just because of the militant Frogs but also because mankind has been left sterile.

Or has it?

He’s Scot the look

Well no. There remains one man tough enough that no amount of Nuclear radiation could slow him down. This man is Roddy Piper, aka Sam Hell. Now to be fair, Piper’s parents are Scottish, and if anyone is going to be tough enough to shrug off nature, it may well be a Scotsman. Bck to the plot- such as it is- Sam Hell is found to be the last remaining ‘potent’ male. He is captured by the remaining Government, strapped to a bomb and told to seek out kidnapped, fertile woman being held in the dreaded Frogtown. If he can free them, great. If not he is to impregnate them there. And so it begins….

Luckily his Porridge is still all-good, if you know what I mean.

Given that storyline, one has to wonder if this started out as porn version of Escape To NY for Frog-fetishists. But in fact I know the real answer to that and its actually almost as unbelievable. Having sat through the film with Writer and Director commentary I can reveal that Frogtown was written via a stream of consciousness in a few days.

You see the writer, Randall Frakes, was bet by the director, Donald G. Jackson, that Randall wouldn’t be able to write a film in less than a week. Well I guess Frakes sure showed him! Not only did Frakes win the bet, it meant Jackson was left committed to directing it. Sometimes the pen is mightier than the clapper board.

At this stage perhaps you, my dear readers, are expecting me to rag on Hell Comes To Frogtown. It would certainly be easy to do so.

The effects are shocking with the frogs looking about as convincing as someone with some paper machet glued to their head with ‘FROG’ written on it. The lips do sometimes flap but not in synch with the dialogue, so it looks awful.

This Toad looks better than some the extras in costumes

Meanwhile the acting is what you’ may expect from a cast hired to work on a film written for a bet. Piper gives it a fair go, and he’s not actually terrible in this movie. But comparing his ease and subtlety in They Live to his mugging in Frogtown you quickly realise that guiding hand of John Carpenter is very different to the lubed fisting of Donald Jackson.

The other actors actually fare far worse. The lead scientist/sidekick for Sam Hell is played by Sandahl Bergma- or as my mate put it, ”Conan’s bird!”. Sandahl is praised in the commentary for her performance which makes me think she may have slept with the writer and/or the director. In reality she can barely stand still and deliver lines. Oh, and inexplicably former leading man Rory Calhoun crops up as a grizzled prospector. He once worked with Marilyn Monroe, but judging by this flick, his career dies far slower than she did….

 

Lady Gaga makes a cameo

 

But now I’m getting mean, when in truth there is no need for it. My catty comments aside, how can I mock a film called Hell Comes To Frogtown for being a bit rubbish? It stars a wrestler who proclaims he has to “Fuck for America! Fuck for freedom!” and who slices up Frogs with a Samurai sword. Who can expect high art from that?!?

It’s true that this film could actually be a lot more fun if it was better made. Perhaps if a Sam Raimi or Joe Dante had made it, Frogtown could be a genuinely fun experience of anarchic joy. Sadly it’s just a high concept never realised. In fact for the concept alone, if not the execution, it succeeded far more than most completely forgotten action films. And hey, it even led to THREE sequels and a Family Guy episode, Hell Comes to Quahog. So what the (Sam) Hell, it’s got its place in pop culture so let’s leave it be.

 

Now normally I end with the trailer for the film of choice. Not today. Today we’re going for this little number;

 

 

Oh and in closing, for proof that Piper still has it check out his episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. It took a long time, but at least he proved not be a one-hit wonder. Go Roddy!

 

Next time I’ll be writing about something. I don’t know what yet as I have a lot of strange films to pick from. But something. Uh-huh.

 

Thanks for reading.

-MJ

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