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Hell Comes To Frogtown (1987)

May 1st, 2007 · No Comments

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Ten years following nuclear apocalypse, Sam Hell (Roddy Piper) is roughed up by a border captain (William Smith) whose daughter Hell apparently got cozy with. Coming to his rescue is Medtech, a division of the Provisional Government whose posters proclaim “Making babies is our business. Our only business.”

Since most of the human race is infertile, Medtech locates fertile women and impregnates them. Hell has left a string of pregnancies everywhere he’s been, and due to his abilities, is forced into government service. His junk is rigged with an electronic lock, which Hell discovers can be a pain if he wanders away from his regent, Spangle (Sandahl Bergman).

Accompanied by a buff babe with an M-60 named Centenilla (Cec Verrell), the trio head into the wasteland in a pink colored hot rod to locate fertile women taken hostage by mutants. Confined to reservations by the government, the humanoid amphibians have somehow acquired firearms. Hell is headed to their last known location: Frogtown.

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Donald Jackson was employed by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures in the visual effects department. While working on Galaxy of Terror, he met Randall Frakes, and the two collaborated on a self-financed movie called Roller Blade, about a group of futuristic, rollerskating nuns at war with the state. He shot three-fourths of the film on weekends for $5,000. After New World kicked in completion costs, it ended up grossing $1 million.

Jackson had seen the word “Frogtown” in an abandoned train station in Little Tokyo and came up with the idea for his next picture. It would involve a hero named Sam Hell. Arriving on the title Hell Comes To Frogtown, Frakes wrote the script for Jackson in one week. The pair envisioned it as a franchise, like what Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ended up becoming.

Initially budgeted at $300,000, their script started getting buzz as it was passed around New World. Jackson was presented with the opportunity to have his budget bumped to $1.5 million and to make a real movie on 35mm film, on the condition that he take on a co-director, a film editor with directorial aspirations named R.J. Kizer. As a result of too many hands on the till, the movie never had a chance at maintaining a consistent style.

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Corman’s studio had really lost its way since the heady exploitation days of AIP. In the ’80s, they shied away from gratuitous sex and violence to make what they thought would be more mainstream fare. The decision was disastrous, and Hell Comes To Frogtown soon befell a similar fate, dumped for one week in a theater in Texas, before becoming somewhat of a cult curio on cable TV.

There are certain movies that are so far ahead of their time that they need audiences to catch up to them before they’re bestowed the respect they deserve. Hell Comes To Frogtown is not one of these. It’s amusing here and there. Piper has a goofy innocence that made me grin, and the flick opens with welcome doses of wit. I got a kick out of the pink Medtech van tooling across the wasteland while “When The Saints Come Marching In” plays.

However much was finally spent on the film, it still looks third rate. Most of it was shot out on Indian Dunes, or the abandoned Kaiser steel mill in Fontana. Action scenes were either watered down or cut from the script all together, and with it, the sense of fun the picture should have had quickly deflates. There are some nice little touches, like a border patrolman wearing a goofy patch that says “Toad Stomper”. For the most part, Frogtown is a novelty that got made without the tie-in movie.

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Tags: Alternate universe · Cult favorite · Shootout

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