Cast & Crew
Joan Van Ark
Freelance photographer Pickett Smith is canoeing through a swamp in the South, taking pictures of nature and the damage done to the environment by trash and pollution when he paddles onto a large lake and is capsized by a motorboat driven by intoxicated Clint Crockett. Clint and his sister Karen are very apologetic and offer to take Pickett to the shore to dry out at the island mansion of their domineering grandfather, Jason Crockett. The family is staying at the mansion to celebrate the Fourth of July as well as Crockett's birthday. Along with Karen and Clint, the gathering includes Jason's daughter, Iris Martindale, her husband Stuart and son Kenneth, Jason's grandson Michael Crockett, Clint's wife Jenny, their two young children, Tina and Jay, Kenneth's black girl friend, Bella Berenson, and servants Maybelle and Charles. At lunch, Pickett observes the tension among various family members and Jason, who has been confined to a wheelchair for many years and knows that his only hold on the family is his money. Jason and others relate that, for the past few nights, the increasingly visible frog population has been making so much noise that they cannot sleep. Because Pickett specializes in ecological photography, he offers to look through the grounds and investigate. Later, Karen, the only family member who both shows affection for and stands up to Jason, tells Pickett that he has impressed her grandfather. That afternoon, Jason summons Pickett and privately tells him that he would like him to investigate the disappearance of Grover, an employee who earlier left the mansion in a Jeep and has not returned. Jason believes that Grover has a girl friend across the lake and is annoyed by his absence. When Pickett goes through the woods he comes upon the abandoned Jeep near empty pesticide cans, dead birds and trash. A few moments later, he finds Grover's body covered in snakes and frogs, with his face partially eaten away. Back at the house, Bella offers Maybelle a glass of wine in the dining room and the two black women laugh together when Bella, who is a sophisticated model and designer, confesses that her real name is also Maybelle and she, too, is from the South. That evening, as Clint makes Jenny jealous by dancing and flirting with Bella, Iris laments all of the expensive changes that Stuart has had to make at their mill to comply with new anti-pollution laws. After Pickett drives the Jeep back to the mansion, he privately tells Jason what he has found. Jason is impressed with Pickett's discretion and asks him not to tell anyone else because the Fourth of July week he spends with his family is the only thing he looks forward to and he does not want to spoil it. While they are talking, a number of large frogs throw themselves against the house. Just then, Maybelle screams, summoning everyone to the dining room where a snake has entwined itself onto the chandelier. Jason calmly pulls out a pistol and shoots the snake, then orders Charles to serve dinner. During the meal, Pickett wonders aloud if nature is trying to "get back at us" for ruining the environment. The next morning, after a long night of loud noises made by a burgeoning number of frogs, the family prepares for Fourth of July and birthday festivities. Tina and Jay are anxious to start the games and set off fireworks in the woods while an already drunk Clint, who was a star athlete in college, challenges his effete cousin Michael to a game of "king of the log." Seeing Michael's frustration when he falls off the log, Jason asks him to take the Jeep and drive through the island to find any downed telephone lines that may have caused the phones to stop working. Happy with his responsibility, Michael takes off through the woods, then stops and shoots at some birds flying overhead. Walking on, Michael trips and accidentally shoots himself in the leg. As he falls to the ground, Michael is overcome by tarantulas, which repeatedly bite him until he dies, screaming in pain. Although Pickett passes by a short time later, he does not see the body as it has been covered in spider webs. Back at the mansion, when Iris sees a beautiful butterfly, she asks Kenneth to retrieve the flowers she needs from the greenhouse so that she can catch the butterfly with her net. While she wanders through the woods, Kenneth goes into the greenhouse, where he is killed by toxic fumes released when lizards and frogs break bottles of poison by pushing them off high shelves onto the ground. A few minutes later, Pickett goes to the greenhouse and finds the body, which has been overrun by lizards. Now Jenny becomes hysterical and insists that she wants to leave. Jason refuses to listen and is impatient to start the celebration, so he sends Stuart into the woods to find Iris. Within minutes, Iris dies after being attacked by leeches and snakes, and Stuart is killed by alligators. Although the others do not yet know what has happened to Iris and Stuart, Karen tells her grandfather that they should leave because of Kenneth's death and is even more determined when Pickett divulges that Grover was also killed. Now angry, Pickett insists that they all need to leave the island because something is happening in nature and doubts that they will ever find Michael, Stuart or Iris. Charles and Maybelle also plead with Jason, but he angrily snaps at them for disloyalty and says that they can leave, with Bella, but family members must stay. Clint then takes Bella, Charles and Maybelle across the lake in his speedboat, but when they dock on the mainland, they cannot find the man who runs the small waterfront store. Frightened as large birds take aim at them, Bella, Maybelle and Charles rush off toward a shack while Clint goes back to his boat. Finding that the moorings have been unraveled, Clint dives into the water and swims toward the drifting boat. While Pickett is gathering weapons and ammunition at the mansion, Jenny takes her binoculars and observes Clint swimming toward his boat. Hysterical when she sees water snakes attack him, she rushes down to the shore and is killed by an alligator turtle just as Clint is killed by the snakes. By now even Jason has become worried but still will not leave, and lashes out at Karen, who had always been his favorite. He grudgingly allows her, Tina and Jay to leave with Pickett and tells Pickett that he will be able to take care of himself. Pickett, Karen and the children then silently paddle across the lake, with Pickett fighting off attacking snakes. When they reach the store, Pickett sees the scattered suitcases and clothing of Charles, Bella and Maybelle and realizes that they, too, have been killed, but rushes the children past the debris. Pickett then flags down a woman driving a station wagon on the highway. As her son Bobby shows Tina and Jay the new frog he has found, his mother relates that they have not seen anyone else for hours. That night, as Jason sits alone, drinking scotch in his wheelchair, he looks at the big game heads on his wall and imagines them wailing. Hundreds of large frogs start to break the windows of his study, and he is soon forced to the ground, screaming in pain as the frogs overcome him.
Joan Van Ark
Lance Taylor Sr.
Samuel Z. Arkoff
Fred R. Feitshans Jr.
Norman T. Herman
James L. Honore
William J. Immerman
Jose L. Mignone
Julian F. Myers
James H. Nicholson
Set on an island estate of a tyrannical millionaire industrialist in the Florida Everglades, Frogs opens with scenes of natural beauty and serenity intercut with shots of pollution poisoning the ecosystem. Sam Elliott plays a photojournalist canoeing through the swamp and documenting the pollution of this natural world. As he paddles through the waterways, the frogs follow, ultimately converging on the mansion in the center of this poisoned paradise. Ray Milland plays the patriarch who rules his extended family like a dictator and treats the ecosystem around him as an unruly private garden to be tamed by pesticides and other toxic chemicals.
Unlike the giant monster movies of the 1950s and 1960s or the disaster epics of the 1970s, the film eschews elaborate special effects and instead relies on the nature photography of Mario Tosi, who shot the film on location in Eden Gardens State Park on the Emerald Coast of Florida. He captures the beauty of the Everglades and the natural inhabitants of the eco-culture, both in dramatic close-ups and in action shots, which director George McCowan edits to create the impression of animals working in concert like a strike force to attack the humans poisoning their home. While frogs are indeed prominent throughout the film, the title is somewhat misleading as the entire eco-culture of the Florida Everglades is in on the attack: spiders, scorpions, snakes, alligators, snapping turtles, even Spanish Moss. Along with the ecological message is an undercurrent of social commentary involving a grandson of the millionaire, a fashion photographer played by Nicholas Cortland, and his date to the family gathering, an African-American model played by Mae Mercer. The strains of class, money, and power are also felt throughout the film as the patriarch wields his fortune like a bribe to coerce his family to follow his directives.
Ray Milland was no stranger to this kind of role or to the genre. Once a suave leading man, he became adept at darkly charismatic villains and tragic antiheroes, and as a director he made the memorable end-of-civilization thriller Panic in the Year Zero (1962), in which he also starred as a father doing what it takes to protect his family in the lawless world after a nuclear attack. Young Sam Elliott had graduated from bit parts to a recurring role on the TV series Mission: Impossible but this was his first starring role and he played it clean shaven. He is not immediately recognizable to contemporary audiences without his trademark mustache, but that bass growl of his is unmistakable.
Stage actress Joan Van Ark made her feature debut in the film and went on to success on the small screen in the nighttime soap operas Dallas and Knots Landing. It's also the feature directorial debut of TV veteran George McCowan. He went on to make The Magnificent Seven Ride! (1972) and The Shape of Things to Come (1979) for the big screen but found greater success directing episodes of such hit TV shows as Starsky and Hutch, Charlie's Angels and Fantasy Island.
The film was praised by some film critics for its ecological themes and often lovely nature photography and film historian Phil Hardy called it "one of the best of the revenge-of-nature cycle of films that erupted in the seventies in the wake of renewed interest in ecology." The theme was further explored in such films as Day of the Animals (1977), Long Weekend (1978) and Prophecy (1979).
Wide-Eyed in Babylon, Ray Milland. William Morrow & Co., 1984.
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Phil Hardy. Woodbury Press, 1974.
AFI Catalog of Feature Films
By Sean Axmaker
Many of the 500 Florida frogs and 100 giant South American toads purchased for use in the film escaped during production.
A statement at the end of the closing cast credits reads: "Shot entirely on location in Eden Park, Historical Museum, Florida, U.S.A." A few moments after the final title card for American International Pictures appears, an animated frog hops across the screen and squats down. An animated human hand dangling from the frog's mouth then appears, as if eaten by the frog. On the opening cast credits, actor Adam Roarke's credit reads, "And Adam Roarke as 'Clint.'" Throughout the film, there are numerous cut-away shots of frogs, snakes, lizards, alligators and other fauna approaching the Crockett mansion or gazing menacingly at various unsuspecting characters in the story.
A Daily Variety news item on October 6, 1971 reported that Barry Trivers had been signed to write a screenplay based on Robert Hutchison's story, but only Hutchison and Robert Blees are credited with the screenplay in the film's credits and reviews, and Trivers' contribution to the completed film has not been confirmed. According to news items, Eden Park, also known as Eden State Park, is about 25 miles from Panama City Beach, FL, where the film crew was stationed, and where the picture had its world premiere on March 23, 1972. As noted in reviews, Frogs marked the motion picture debut of stage actress Joan Van Ark, who later appeared as "Valene Ewing" on the popular 1970s nighttime television soap operas Dallas and Knots Landing. Frogs also marked the motion picture debut of actor David Gilliam and the first film directed by George McCowan. Critics commented on the film's "nature-strikes-back" theme and the similarity of Frogs to Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 production of The Birds and the 1971 horror film Willard ( and below).
Released in United States 1972
Released in United States 1972