It might be a fondness for cheesy action movies from the 1980s speaking in this case, but Hell Comes To Frogtown is one heck of a fun ride. Starring former WWF (kids, the WWE used to be known as the WWF until the World Wildlife Foundation sued them for trademark infringement) superstar “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in his first acting role, the 1987 B-movie features the professional wrestler and a bevy of beautiful women fighting mutant frogmen. The movie never takes itself too seriously but had a shockingly high budget at nearly seven million for a B-movie of its time. A surprisingly coherent script built around a silly premise, the movie delivers loads of fun and good-natured action.
The post-apocalyptic actioner focuses on Sam Hell (Roddy Piper), a roguish outlaw that plays by his own rules and takes orders from no one. After warfare led to the collapse of civilization, most of the world’s population has been rendered infertile. Sam Hell happens to be one of last remaining fertile men on the planet. The surviving government is led by Med Tech, a group bent on pairing up fertile couples to re-populate their side in the war.
Med Tech will give Sam a pardon for all of his crimes, if he agrees to rescue a group of kidnapped women held by the Frogmen and then uses his potent virility to impregnate the ladies. To keep Sam in line, Spangle (Sandahl Bergman) attaches an explosive device to his groin that looks suspiciously like a chastity belt. Spangle and Sam begin to develop some sort of chemistry, despite the hokey nature of the set-up between them.
Med Tech sends them to Frogtown in the wasteland, where the fertile women are being held in Commander Toty’s harem. Frogtown is run by the thuggish Commander Toty and populated by humanoid frog creatures. A special note should be made that the practical FX and make-up for the creatures are extremely well-done, matching up well with bigger Hollywood productions of the era. It then becomes a fight to the finish between Sam and the villainous Toty, as Toty has abducted Spangle and forced her to perform an erotic dance for his froggy pleasure.
The storyline is ridiculous but Piper is a natural actor, exuding charisma and a certain magnetism in the heroic action role. “Eat lead, froggies!” is a classic B-movie line uttered perfectly by the professional wrestler. Much of the film is over the top and cheesy, but it hangs together in a way that is sure to please nostalgic fans looking for a slice of the 1980s.
Special Note: Arrow Video’s Blu-ray set is limited to 1000 units and is locked for Region B.
It is amazing that Arrow Video decided to release Hell Comes To Frogtown in a Blu-ray edition at all. The movie was never very popular and has fallen into obscurity, even in the United States. Originally the UK distributor had intended to solely release it on DVD, when they discovered a suitable HD transfer was available for them to use from Lakeshore Entertainment. Given an expansive AVC video encode, the film looks as good as one could expect in 1080P. The 35mm Technicolor film stock from 1987 looks quite adequate in Hi-Def and represents a serious picture quality improvement over the existing 2001 Anchor Bay DVD.
This transfer represents a typical-looking telecine struck from secondary film elements. The film source is either an Interpositive or an Internegative. Regardless, it is a stable film print with few notable defects and little wear. Grain structure and density is probably a little heavier than what was initially on the original camera negative, but the transfer is largely film-like with no obvious signs of overt processing. Any evident softness and lack of detail can mostly be laid at the hands of the original cinematography. A wisp of low-amplitude edge enhancement creeps into a few shots.
Arrow Video has certainly applied an AVC video encode at top-notch parameters to replicate as much of the existing detail found in the master as possible. The main feature averages a robust 35.00 Mbps, practically maxing out the available space on a BD-50. Hell Comes To Frogtown runs for 86:35 minutes, presented in a slightly opened 1.78:1 aspect ratio from its original 1.85:1 configuration.
The picture quality is somewhat soft, varying in detail from moderate to dull. No one will think this is demo material. Flesh-tones and color saturation are nicely balanced out, producing a solid contrast that rarely wavers. As long as one’s expectations for a 1988 B-movie aren’t too high, Arrow Video has served up a fine presentation for this piece of 80’s cheese. The BD is certainly a true video upgrade over other home video editions.
Hell Comes To Frogtown has one audio option, an acceptable 2.0 PCM stereo soundtrack that claims to reproduce the original stereo mix of the film. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and the sound effects pack some punch. The stereo mix does include some nice rumble, enhancing the action scenes a great deal. Limited directionality and a lack of stereo placement produce a cramped soundstage.
No subtitles have been included.
Arrow has become known for including more supplemental features than just about every other Blu-ray distributor in the world. This Blu-ray set is extremely limited at only 1000 copies. Though the set is locked to Region B, the chance another company releases Hell Comes To Frogtown on Blu-ray is slim and none. If you want to see the film in 1080P, buy it now before prices skyrocket on the secondary market. Once word gets out about this Blu-ray, don’t expect it to last at retailers. Arrow has also included a DVD in this combo set, mirroring the contents of the Blu-ray. (ed note: Video of the packaging is available on DoBlu’s YouTube channel)
The extra features are interesting this time around, though not quite as substantial or weighty as prior Arrow efforts. The booklet is a nice affair with several great photographs, though the liner notes only provide a cursory overview of the movie production. By far the best special feature is the interview with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, though interview is a misnomer. Piper opens up in his genial style, going on for a long monologue about various issues behind the scenes and his thoughts on later work, including John Carpenter’s They Live. One thing missing from this set is the audio commentary found on the original Anchor Bay DVD.
- Grappling with Green Gargantuans: Wrestling icon “Rowdy” Roddy Piper speaks about his leading man turn in Hell Comes to Frogtown (22:12 in HD)
- Amphibian Armageddon: Actor Brian Frank remembers his role as Commander Toty (14:10 in HD)
- Creature Feature Creator: Effects wizard Steve Wang reveals the secrets behind Hell Comes to Frogtown’s mutant manifestations (15:25 in HD)
- Extended Scene (02:31 in HD)
- Original Trailer (01:51 in HD)
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jeff Zornow
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author and critic Calum Waddell
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.