Sunday, March 2, 2014

DVD Review: HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN (1988)

HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN (1988)
Label: Arrow Video
Region: B/2
Rating: 15 Certificate
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English 2.0 Stereo PCM
Cast: Julius LeFlore, RCB, Roddy Piper, Rory Calhoun, Sandahl Bergman
Director: Donald G. Jackson, R.J. Kizer



In this post-apocalyptic b-movie slice of Reagan-era awesomeness nuclear war has nearly wiped out civilization - yup, they finally did it. Sixty-seven percent of the male population has perished during the war and the few remaining men have been rendered sterile from radiation exposure. Humanity survives in small pockets in a wasteland of irradiated water and a new breed of humanoid mutants knows as "froggies" have arisen from the decay and live on reservations that are hostile and best avoided. 

Now that women outnumber men the female populatioon control what little there is left of civilization. A group of feisty women warriors known as Medtech run the show, scouring the land in search of fertile men to repopulate the Earth. To that end they enlist an nomadic ex-con named Sam Hell (Roddy Piper, They Live) who just happens to be one of the last potent men on the Earth. Medtech straps a cock-shocker chastity belt on his junk and take him on a tour of hostile mutant territories where Hell is to deliver his precious baby-batter to the semen-starved women of the wastelands - sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me but I'm a bit of a slut at heart. 

Accompanying Hell on the semen-delivery express are nerdy science type Spangle (Sandahl Bergman, All That Jazz) and an sexy-armed hard body named Centinella (Cec Verrell) and together they drive off in a pink 1950 Chevy Panel van with an machine gun mounted to the roof. The original  plan is for Hell to impregnate a group of fertile women that Medtech have gathered at a desert retreat but when they discover that the amphibian warlord Commander Toty has kidnapped them and imprisoned them in the the Mos Eisley of the wasteland, a place called Frogtown, the plan switches to a rescue and inseminate mission. Hell must now enter Frogtown masquerading as a mercenary looking to sell a human sex-slave, read Spangle dressed-up in a fashion reminiscent of slave girl Princess Leia, nice.

Inside the city they meet an oddball uranium miner played by the very creepy Rory Calhoun from Motel Hell and discover that the mutants frogs are amassing weapons to overthrow Medtech, so it becomes something more than just a spern-donation apocalypse movie but not too much more, it's still very low-brow.

Who better to save the world than professional wrestler and 80's bad-ass Rowdy Roddy Piper? C'mon he would go onto save us once again in John Carpenter's They Live (1986). So yeah, this is a ridiculous sci-fi action movie and it's front-loaded with awesomely cheesy one-liners from Piper, but as 80's schlock goes this is cream of the crop in my opinion and I found it 100% entertaining. 


The sculpted creature designs from  effects artist Steve Wang are pretty great when you take into consideration just how low-budget the movie was, even for the time. The glistening frog heads are fun b-movie creations and match the tone of what is basically a spruced-up Mad Max rip-off. Some KY coated squid lips look a bit better than others, only Commander Toty had animatronic eyes and mouth and thus looks the best, but somehow Wang created a female mutant that comes off as creepily sexy which I am sure that says something disturbing about me as a person. 

Blu-ray: The anamorphic widescreen (1.78;1) from Arrow Video looks pretty nice, it's a low-budget 80's production on cheap film stock so it does not have the depth and integrity one could hope for but the colors are strong and the source material is in great shape. The English language Dolby Digital audio does the job, it's decently balanced with acceptable fidelity but there's not a lot of depth and no subtitles options. 

Unfortunately we do not get the audio commentary track from directors Donald G. Jackson and Randall Frakes from the now out-of-print R1 Anchor Bay DVD but we do get three new video interviews produced by High Rising Productions beginning with Grappling with Green Gargantuans (20:16) an interview with star Rowdy Roddy Piper and simply put this guy is just a nut! Very candid and self deprecating as he speaks about his acting style (or lack thereof), his co-stars Rory Calhoun and Sandahl Bergman, the cult-status of the movie and hiding certain aspects of the production from his wife. He also talks a bit about They Live (1986) and John Carpenter's wife not liking him very much at the time. He's so funny and I could listen to him go on for hours. Watching it I sort of thought he had a nice buzz during the interview and I found immensely entertaining.  

Up next is Creature Feature Creator (15:26) with effects man Steve Wang whom talks about creating the effects on a shoe-string budget, working with Roddy and the on-set politics once Roger Corman's New World Pictures bought into the film the production and replaced the director. 

Actor Brian Frank appears in the Amphibian Armageddon (14:10) featurette and discusses his role as Commander Toty in the film beginning with the audition process and being cast in his first feature film. As you might expect he talks about what it was like to wear the suit and creating the character's voice, a fun Cyndi Lauper set-visit anecdote and Roddy Piper's performance and working with starlet Sandahl Bergman. 

A very nice AV presentation from Arrow with a host of great supplemental material to complement your viewing. For the sake of review I was sent only a DVD screener minus the packaging extras but the retail version DVD/BD includes a sleeve of reversible artwork and a booklet with writing on the film. 

Special Features: 
- Grappling with Green Gargantuans (20:16)
- Amphibian Armageddon (14:10)
- Creature Feature Creator (15:26)
- Extended Scene (2:31) 
- Original Trailer (1:52) 

Verdict: Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988) is a schlocky blast cheese-tastic entertainment starring the impossible not to love Rowdy Roddy Piper and co-starring some knockout 80's babes battling mutant frogs in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. A nice slice of 80's awesomeness that would make a great Roddy Piper double-feature with They Live (1986)3 Outta 5 

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