I love MST3K. When it was on Comedy Central every weeknight, I tuned in more often than not. The closing music would instill a childhood melancholy just like the one felt when you reached the end of a book of Peanuts strips. You had to part company with friends. MST3K is like that for me, and as such I've often had one of the many tapes I've accumulated playing in the background as I do other stuff, and I'm pretty familiar with several episodes. When I avoid potential Horrorthon entries because they've been featured on that show, it's not because I can't stand movies of such low caliber. I love that stuff. It's because I remember the episodes well enough that I'd actually miss the extra jokes, like somebody had put the episode through a strainer and removed all but the thin, watery broth. I watched The Crawling Hand a while ago and loved it, because I'd never seen it air on MST3K.
"So farking what, Uncle Octopunk?" I hear you say. The point is padding. Bad movies tend to have lots of padding, that's one of the reasons they work so well with MST; there's room for the jokes. And because I didn't plan these first few days all that well, and my movie selection has been pretty random, I've been subject to some distinct flavors of padding.
Frogs is much like Sssssss, in that there's lots of footage of the actors interacting with real animals. There's also a bit of stock nature footage tossed in, and when I say "a bit" I mean lots and lots and lots and lots. The cast is constantly being stalked by stock nature footage. And footage of frogs being places. The viewer is meant to infer a severe feeling of menace and dread because "frogs are here." I've never seen so much evidence of frogs being on things.
As filler goes, however, this is some pretty good stuff. This is like decent pumpkin pancakes in a restaurant verses those last few regular pancakes that've been sitting on the kitchen table for a half hour, or the pitcher of purple Zima that was the padding in Unnamable. For one thing, there are more characters. Frogs centers on the secluded house of crotchedy rich patriarch Ray Milland, sourly demanding that his sycophantic relatives attend his ritual birthday party. Sam Elliot plays Pickett Smith, and he gets to crash the party because one of Milland's grandsons gets drunk and capsizes Sam's canoe. As a rule I kind of hate Sam Elliot, but I found his earlier, mustacheless incarnation to be far more palatable. He's kind of like Scott Bakula if you put him in a taffy puller.
Pickett is the perfect 70's hero: cares about the environment, is his own boss and a real man, wears blue jeans a denim-blue shirt, casually lopes around the house with a raw and stringy sexuality, etc. He's the voice of reason while Grampa keeps insisting his birthday schedule be followed even after the bodies start piling up.
You see, Gramps has been trying and failing to poison all the wildlife on his lush island, succeeding only in making the animals big, pissed off and apparently intelligent. At one point they cut off the phone, and then later make it ring just to screw with someone's head. One human goes down because a team of lizards knock big bottles of deadly poison off the top shelf in the greenhouse. After a victim dies the animals carry out stage two of their agenda -- crawl on them!
This movie reminded me repeatedly of Ed Wood, particularly the part in which Lugosi has to pretend he's being attacked by an inert rubber octopus. A shining beacon for actors everywhere, particulary those who have to convince us they're being consumed by, say, a strike team of tarantulas and Spanish moss working together, or being threatened by footage of a big snapping turtle. Or, my favorite, freaking out because your hand is bloody and as you go down smearing the blood on your own face. Who does that?