I’ve always been a huge fan of John Carpenter’s brilliant sci-fi actioner They Live
starring one of my favorite WWE superstars from my youth, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. It’s one of my personal standouts from Carpenter’s rich filmography. They Live
’s provocative social commentary, Piper’s surprisingly authentic everyman performance and the infamous alleyway brawl between our hero and the always good Keith David are just a few of the elements that make this cult classic every bit as enjoyable and vital today. In the same year of its release but with much smaller fanfare came another Piper-starring sci-fier, Hell Comes to Frogtown
. For some reason, I’ve never sat through the movie in its entirety until now; Arrow Video’s recently released Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD combo. The film is pretty much what you’d expect from a low budget post-apocalyptic film with a former wrestling legend, scantily clad women and a bunch of mutant frogs. Much to my surprise, Hell Comes to Frogtown
packs a little something extra along with its B entertainment value.
In a post-nuclear war landscape where the human race is bordering on extinction, ex-con Sam Hell (Piper) happens to be one of the last few fertile men on the planet. He is captured by a group of women who happen to be the closest thing resembling a government and is sent on a mission to rescue a group of fertile ladies from a gang of mutant frogs. If this all sounds rather silly, it’s because it is. Somehow though, Hell Comes to Frogtown
manages to works due to the filmmakers striking the right tone; mixing a bit of social commentary, along with not taking its B-movie roots too seriously. Clocking less than 90 minutes, Hell Comes to Frogtown
never overstays its welcome. It’s breezy, quick-footed fun throughout.The casting of Piper is easily the film’s best attribute. He brings an oddly affecting and easy-going charm to Sam Hell, much in the same way he brought to They Live
’s Nada. There is a grounded honesty to Piper that none of his wrestling counterparts have managed to inject into their film roles to date. It adds a share of heart to all the silliness which I’m not sure Hell Comes to Frogtown
would have worked as successfully without. On a technical level, the film is competent enough. The standout being the mutant frogs by effects whiz Steve Wang (Director of The Guyver
flicks and the criminally underseen 1997 action/comedy Drive
) which still looks shockingly good after all these years. Hell Comes to Frogtown
is far more enjoyable than it probably deserves to be. After finally getting the opportunity to view it, I now realize how the movie has earned its loyal following 26 years since its release. 3/5 Skulls
The A/V: I’m pleased to announce that the dark, murky appearance that’s plagued Hell Comes to Frogtown in previous home video incarnations is now a thing of the past. This HD video is brighter, revealing details previously unseen. Colors look far more natural to the eye. The image is soft but that has to do with how the film was shot than the transfer itself. The print is also in far better shape than I was expecting. The original 2.0 stereo PCM mix is as good as this film will ever sound. This is one major upgrade. 4/5 Skulls
The Supplements: The commentary by Director Donald G. Jackson and Writer Randall Frakes from the Anchor Bay DVD is unfortunately not here. However Arrow Video gives us 51 minutes worth of fine, new featurettes for our enjoyment. “Grappling with Green Gargantuans” (22 mins) is an entertaining interview with Rowdy Roddy Piper. As per usual, he’s honest, humble and engaging as he reminisces on his experiences during the production. “Amphibian Armageddon” (14 mins) is a chat with Commander Toty himself Brian Frank and “Creature Feature Creator” deals with Wang’s still impressive contributions. An extended scene and original trailer is included, as wells as a reversible sleeve featuring original and a newly commissioned artwork by Jeff Zornow (which is very cool), a booklet featuring new piece by author and critic Calum Waddell. 3.5/5 Skulls
Overall: Hell Comes to Frogtown is goofy fun yet with just enough smarts with its satirical underbelly to make it a cut above most B pictures. Arrow Video gives it more love than a title of this kind is generally accustomed to. The special features, not to mention the far superior A/V makes this purchase a no-brainer for fans. Hell Comes to Frogtown is limited to a run of just a 1000 copies so act today if this sort of thing strikes your fancy. It’s well worth a spot in your collection.
Note: This Blu-ray is Region 2-locked so you’ll need a Region-Free Blu-ray Player in order to enjoy this.