Monday Morning Movie Review: Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)

Binge-watching The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs has introduced me to some obscure and forgotten flicks.  Several of the films the freedom-loving Texan screens are deservedly forgotten, and even hard to watch, with only Joe Bob’s off-the-cuff rants and film history knowledge keeping me going.  Others, however, are real gems—rough-cut and a little sooty, but gems nonetheless.

One such film is Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988), a post-apocalyptic sci-fi action-comedy starring wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.  Piper is better known for his role in They Live (1988), the John Carpenter classic in which Piper’s character discovers a pair of sunglasses that show the world for how it truly is.  They Live—with its infamous six-minute fistfight—is the better film, but Hell Comes to Frogtown is really delightful.

The premise of Hell Comes to Frogtown is that nuclear war has decimated populations, and the resultant radioactive fallout has led to widespread sterility among humans.  Additionally, humanoid frogs have mutated, and are at odds with the remnants of humanity.

A provisional American government uses MedTechs—weaponized female nurses—to identify fertile males and females, and essentially forces them to reproduce in order to grow humanity.  Sam Hell (Piper) stumbles into the clutches of these civilization-saving Karens, and soon finds an explosive chastity belt on his, uh, unit.  Hell’s sexual prowess has reached ludicrously legendary proportions in the wastelands, so the MedTechs seek to put him to work.

However, the wicked frog Commander Toty (Brian Frank) has kidnapped a group of fertile females, and Hell and the MedTechs must get him into Frogtown so he can use his wartime experience to save the girls.

Thus—Sam Hell comes to Frogtown.

Along for the journey are Spangle (Sandahl Bergman), Hell’s love interest and the by-the-book commander of the mission; and Centinella (Cec Verrell), a sporty and seductive gunner who attempts to find out “if the rumors are true” about Hell’s potency.  The team meets up with Looney Tunes (Rory Calhoun), a kooky prospector and friend of Hell’s, and the mutant frog dancer Arabella (Kristi Somers).  There’s even a frog in a fez and white coat whose bar gets shut down by Bull (Nicholas Worth), Commander Toty’s brutish henchman.

The story is like a samurai Western, with Hell throwing a sword on a surprise villain in the film’s climax.  It very much had a Star Wars feel, but with more humor and slapstick, and less awe-inspiring wonder.

I particularly like the frog costumes and make-up.  I love frogs, and I’ve been enamored of the idea of a race of frog-like people going about there business since at least seeing the frog knight in Chrono Trigger.  The frog make-up is really well done, as is the world-building:  frog beer is disgusting to humans, and they eat coleslaw that is made from grubs and insects, rather than cabbage and mayonnaise.

Indeed, the post-apocalyptic setting is familiar—I think the film is actually intended to be a mild satire of the genre—but the universe is still fresh and unique.  The idea of infertile women going around and rounding up virile males and fertile females for breeding purposes to repopulate humanity is interesting.  The film plays with that idea, too:  infertile women like the MedTechs aren’t allowed to copulate with fertile men, for fear that doing so would rob the men of their potency.  That rule naturally creates some conflict and emotional longing when Spangle falls in love with Hell.

Despite the focus of the film on sex—at least here to save civilization, not as some kind of hedonistic vehicle for carnal pleasure—it’s very lighthearted.  Piper never plays Hell as creepy or oily; instead, he is often baffled by the many women—including a frog mutant!—making passes at him.  There is a certain twinge of sad desperation to their advances, but it’s played for laughs.  Hell’s reactions are innocent and hilarious, for the most part.

The plot is a bit all over the place at times, but the film is pretty easy to follow.  It’s one to watch more for the creature effects, the humor, the unique set pieces, and the world-building than the story line.  Piper delivers a stellar performance as the befuddled hero, and his sometimes secondary role reminded me slightly of Kurt Russell’s role as Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China (1986), one of my all-time favorite films.

I heartily recommend Hell Comes to Frogtown.  Ribbit!

10 thoughts on “Monday Morning Movie Review: Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)

  1. What a fun way to start the work week! Great article! I couldn’t help laughing, reading the names of the actors; only their moms and dads know who they are, lol!

    Oh, my gosh! Rory Calhoun??? He was a pretty good actor back in his Westerns day but then slid into (bad) horror movies as he aged. Gosh, Port -what was the name of the (bad) horror movie he was in; he was a ‘farmer’ and out back, he had rows of human heads popping out of the ground like heads of lettuce … Motel Hell!!!! (I had to look it up, lol).

    I liked Roddy Piper in They Live; he didn’t take himself too seriously and just sort of went with it. It was a pretty good story line, as well, I thought. They Live might be considered ‘prophetic’, if one takes seriously all the YT content regarding aliens, reptile people, etc.

    Loved the article, Port. Great fun!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I also liked Piper in _They Live_, and he plays the character of Sam Hell very similarly in _Hell Comes to Frogtown_. Joe Bob Briggs praised his performance, noting that he was NOT an actor; considering, he did quite well! He has a certain goofy innocence that works well in a film about a man renowned across the wastelands for his sexual prowess.

      Haha, _Motel Hell_—a bizarre classic. I guess everyone has to work, so kudos to Rory Calhoun for slogging it out in the B-pictures.

      Glad you enjoyed the post today, Audre! I had a great deal of fun writing it.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Good morning, Portly Politico.

    I’ve been directed here by Audre Myers who sent me the review for this film. I have to admit, not something I’d ordinarily be interested in but over the last year, I’ve watched an awful lot of tripe – maybe this film fits in that category, maybe it doesn’t but I think I’ll sit it out for now.

    Perusing this site, I found that you have been writing on our Brexit referendum. I’d be very interested to read more.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, 39PD! Audre said you might be coming this way. I wrote about Brexit some time ago, yes; I will certainly have to revisit the topic. I’ve been disappointed to see that after gaining its independence from Europe, Britain is under authoritarian lockdowns and the like (I understand you’re from the Mother Country, so perhaps you can clarify further). I had high hopes for Boris Johnson as a British Trump, but it seems that isn’t the case.

      Am I wrong? Please tell me I am.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. PP.

    Johnson doesn’t know what he’s doing on any given day. Despite his claims to be a conservative and libertarian, he and his party are neither. When Covid hit last March, he put us in a 3 week lockdown, apparently to ‘flatten the curve.’ That turned into the best part of a year and a half, July the 19th being the date when masks became advisory rather than mandatory. Still, many people are wearing them, having been conditioned over this period to think they provide safety, which they clearly don’t.

    After spending a few months towards the back end of last year and early this year telling us that vaccination passports would never come into fruition, come they did, where proof of double vaccination is needed in order to fly and in order to attend some venues across the country. Thankfully, domestic passports haven’t come in for everything yet but if you’re a care worker, working for NHS care and residential homes, you’ll be pressured into getting vaccinated in order to remain/work in this field. I’m a mental health care worker myself but work from home so haven’t been pressured into it – yet.

    Strangely, but not surprisingly, Johnson and his colleagues in parliament, are immune to the rules handed down to the proles. They’ve been seen at mass gatherings without masks, his colleagues have been involved in romantic trysts (despite the instruction for loved ones to stay away from each other) and their social distancing is non existent. Do as we say not as we do has been the order so far.

    We unvaccinated, having been labelled as selfish and ignorant from various businessmen, celebrities and politicians, are fully expecting life to become more insular in the future but we hope not. We’re in wait and see territory like many others across the globe.

    The difference between Trump and Johnson is the former knew what he wanted to do and had the courage of his convictions to carry them out. Johnson has no idea what he’s doing and is very easily influenced. He has embraced identity politics and political correctness and he’s all aboard the green agenda. I’ve been saying, for quite a few years now, that his party has been slipping to the left and it’s good that more are starting to see that. Unfortunately, it’s too late to do anything about it and even when we get to the next election, his party will probably be returned to office because our small parties won’t unite and because many people across the country are still wedded to 2 party politics.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your detailed response, Pontiac. As soon as it came in I had to go to class, and went pretty much non-stop the rest of the day until now.

      Much of what you have written—such as the hypocrisy of the British ruling class—I have heard from Paul Joseph Watson, or read elsewhere. It’s a shame that Boris Johnson is so clueless and malleable. It does sound like Britain has become quite nightmarish in terms of the severe erosion of liberties there. I am praying for you.

      Things are not great here in the States, but thank God for the Bill of Rights and federalism. Our federal government is overweening and capricious, but at least our States still retain some modicum of rights and privileges.

      I do hope you can avoid mandatory vaccination. Such a cruel thing to force on people. I did take two doses of the Pfizer vaccine when they made the shot available to us at work, but I did not feel intense pressure to get it. I honestly thought, “Well, it’s here, it’s convenient, and I should be fine.” A part of me regrets getting it now, but I was fortunate to have no ill effects after either dose.

      My administration has pushed The Vaccine aggressively among students and faculty, but stopped short of requiring it (which I believe violates South Carolina State law). That said, now they have reinforced mask mandates at school _even_ for vaccinated students and faculty, which feels like a bait and switch.

      I’ll continue to keep you posted about goings-on here in the United States. Please keep me abreast of developments in Britain.

      Thanks again!

      —TPP

      Liked by 2 people

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