As surprises go there’s nary been one of late as great as the realisation that Hell Comes To Frogtown is nowhere near as poor as its reputation would suggest.
From an opening shot that parodies Planet Of The Apes, to the bizarre casting decision of contemporaneously huge WWF superstar Roddy Piper, a man who embodies the dual-spirits of Kurt Russell and 1970s smutty British comedy kingpin Robin Askwith, it’s clear that Hell Comes To Frogtown is a left-field production.
The film’s strange strange premise revolves around matters of ‘potency’, with the films “hero” one of the few remaining men alive who can inseminate in a world ravaged by nuclear war. Once shorn of any soft core leanings, the smutty overtones eventually give way to a capable post-apocalyptic tale. Here, the post-apocalypic is filtered through the Western. A journey in to a land populated by men who sound like Nick Nolte and Fez-wearing amphibians, where Earth’s latest denizens, a race of mutated anthropomorphic frogs have been placed on reservations, where man fears to tread.
Perhaps the greatest surprise to come from Donald G. Jackson and R. J. Kizer’s film is the realisation that, as these things go, this is a pretty great looking movie. The production values are far higher than one might expect, and one is reminded of the money thrown at such fare, of a film destined for video shelves, not the big screen (Hell Comes To Frogtown had a budget of $7 million).
The supplementary materials are illuminating. The highlight is a frank interview with Roddy Piper, who humorously looks back on his time on the project, his first acting role, declaring that the directors hated him, and that riffing on the idea that he studied the Stanislavsky method before taking on the horrors of Frogtown. It’s funny to place Hell Comes To Frogtown within the wider context of Piper’s acting work. Just months later he would be working on They Live, a bona-fide genre classic.