Tuesday, January 13, 2009
If a frog is big enough to ingest a human being, that frog is something to be feared. When it is followed by other frogs like some slimy version of the Pied Piper of Hamlin, it is something to be respected.
When my mother was finished with the Obituaries on that busy Thursday morning in '72, I slipped the newspaper out from under her ink-stained fingers and opened it to the "Incredible Horror" above. "Millions of slimy bodies squirming everywhere," the ad mat announced, "millions of gaping mouths Devouring Devouring Devouring."
Je-sus Christ! To my 10 year old mind, this was true horror. This was my kind of hideousness. The poster said everything I needed to hear. I grabbed the dictionary immediately to look up "gelatinous". What a word! It had to mean something scary and taboo. The definition of gelatinous read something like "having the nature of or resembling jelly". Whatever that really meant, I was so up for every gelatinous minute of this.
I couldn't wait to see the woman on the poster attacked by frogs. She'd struggle and fight and act bravely, but, deep down, I'd want her to lose her struggle because I wanted the frogs to win. If they won, they'd start coming after other people. People like me. That meant I'd get days off from school to fight them and outsmart them. Eventually, I'd be forced to fight the big one who'd want to swallow me whole, even though he'd allow my hand to dangle from his mouth as a kind of warning to others.
Chucking school and spending my days facing "a slobbering, pulsating mass of gelatinous immensity" was an exciting prospect.
A prospect that died in my parents' hands.
Although the film was only rated "NRC" (Not Recommended For Children) and was showing at many drive-ins and a city hardtop (Albany), school was in full swing and holidays were a long way off. Between guitar lessons, skateboarding, being chased on a daily basis by a skinhead called "Merrigan" and his acne-ridden cohort "Monkeyface", there wasn't much room to squeeze in "Incredible Horror" like this.
My plunge into pre-teen depression was Olympic-sized.
I knew that I'd never be able to see these creatures again. There were no videotapes in '72. Once a movie played at the drive-in or theatre, it was done. It disappeared. Some movies turned up on TV, but not the really scary ones. TV was reserved for girly nonsense like "The Sound of Music", my mother's favorite. The only thing that had going for it was Penny (Angela Cartwright) from "Lost in Space" who had somehow ended up in it. How she found her way back to Earth to star in a musical puzzled me for years. Didn't she think to bring the others back with her? Maybe not Dr. Smith.
The Albany cinema was part of the Village chain. A lot of exploitation and AIP stuff was dumped in there. It was a small, claustrophobic grindhouse with a narrow, off-street entrance. You didn't find "The Towering Inferno" or any blockbusters playing there. During its theatrical release, "Frogs" was paired with "Chrome and Hot Leather" for one week only. What a glorious double that would have been! For someone else. Not me. My influence on the pares (my preferred nickname) was minimal at best. Even crying and moping lost its persuasive power. As I said in another post, these ad mats WERE the movie for me. Where they started, I stopped. A ten year old genre fan like me had limited funds, limited transport, and limited options, so pulp ad mats became the triggers of my imagination.
If you've ever seen "Frogs", you would understand the horrific sense of disappointment I experienced years later. The biggest letdown was their size. They couldn't have swallowed a thumb, let alone a human. Did they at least hop at supersonic speed? No. They hopped and stopped. Hopped and stopped. Hopped and stopped. They were practicing patience, not murder.
A couple of people did get attacked by snakes, but you expect that from a snake, don't you? It's not like they have a rep for being nice to people.
The film was set in a jungle. An old bloke called Ray Milland lived in a house in that jungle. He didn't move very fast when frogs started hopping and stopping around him. He died, sure, but he wasn't swallowed whole and his hand didn't protrude from the mouth of that fraud on the movie poster.
Finally I understood why the film was rated "NRC" and not "M" or "R". It should have been "RWC" (Recommended for Wimpy Children).
Perhaps my parents sensed that "Frogs" was a gelatinous, slobbering dud long before I developed a nose for smelling crap . Perhaps they were learning what I didn't yet know at the tender age of 10 -- that any "horror" that is rated NRC or PG-13 isn't horror at all.