• Hell Comes To Frogtown (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: August 27th, 2019.
    Director: Donald G. Jackson
    Cast: Roddy Piper, Sandahl Bergman, Julius LeFlore, William Smith, Kristi Somers, Nicholas Worth, Cec Verrell, Rory Calhoun
    Year: 1988
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    Hell Comes To Frogtown – Movie Review:

    Directed by Donald G. Jackson and released in 1988, Hell Comes To Frogtown is set in a post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland. The events of the Third World War have left humanity a roving gang of nomads, scavenging what they can when they can in a constant search for food and supplies. Into these badlands comes Sam Hell (WWF superstar Rowdy Roddy Piper of They Live), a smart-mouthed tough guy who is completely unaware that he is the last man on Earth with any potency left in his loins and, as such, key to humanity’s survival.

    When a rash of pregnancies occur, what’s left of the government sets out to capture Sam hoping to have him collaborate, willingly or not, with a scientist named Spangle (Sandahl Bergman) to fix the planet’s impotency problem. They’ve got to make sure that Sam doesn’t waste any of what he has and, as such, they slap a chastity belt on him to protect the family jewels and keep Sam in line. Sam’s plight becomes even more important when he gets word that a group of virgins are being held by a gang of mutant frog-men. After learning of this, he and Centinella (Cec Verrell) are sent to rescue them and, of course, see what he can to repopulate the planet… with their help.

    Hell Comes To Frogtown just flat out kicks ass. If it isn’t quite the showcase for Piper’s natural charisma and showmanship that They Live is, it’s pretty damn close. He chews through the scenery like it’s going out of style and the movie is all the better for it, and it’s Piper, more than anyone else, who really makes the big impression here. That said, there is a pretty killer supporting cast here too – Sandahl Bergman and lovely Cec Verrell are both quite alluring, and look for both William Smith and Nicolas Worth to show up in supporting roles as characters named Captain Devlin and Bull respectively. They too do fine work in this picture and are a lot of fun to watch. And on top of that? Rory Calhoun shows up!

    Director Donald G. Jackson, who cut his teeth in the director’s chair with the amazing 1976 film The Demon Lover but who was also behind Roller Blade, The Roller Blade Seven, Lingerie Kickboxer and Rollergator to name only a few, paces the film really well. The film was clearly made with a modest budget but Jackson and company get a lot up there on the screen. Tonally, the movie is all over the place, mixing humor and horror and sci-fi and action in fairly equal measures, but it works! Throw in some fun practical effects work and neat creature design and it’s easy to see why this one has managed to retain and grow its cult following over the years – it’s just a really, really fun film.

    In 1992, Jackson would direct a sequel – Frogtown II – in which Piper was replaced in the role of Sam Hell by the mighty Robert Z’Dar. If that weren’t enough, in 1996 Jackson would direct Todd Warrior starring Scott Shaw and Joe Estevez and then in 2002, Max Hell: Frog Warrior, again with Shaw and Estevez and the added bonus of a cameo from none other than adult film actress Jill Kelly.

    Hell Comes To Frogtown – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Hell Comes To Frogtown to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer on a 50GB disc. Newly scanned and restored in 4k from its 35mm interpositive and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, the picture quality here is excellent. The image, which is virtually pristine, looks very film-like – there’s a nice, natural amount of grain but very little in the way of actual print damage. Colors area reproduced beautifully, skin tones look lifelike throughout and black levels are nice and deep. Detail is very strong throughout, there’s a lot of impressive texture here as well, while the image remains free of any noticeable noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression issues.

    Audio chores are handled by an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo mix. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The track is clean and nicely balanced, free of any hiss or distortion. The sound effects are pretty punchy and the score sounds quite strong, occasionally demonstrating some appreciable depth. A DTS-HD Mono track, the film’s original mix, is also included and it too sounds just fine with properly balanced levels and clean, clear audio.

    Carried over from the DVD release is an audio commentary with cinematographer/director Donald G. Jackson and writer/producer Randall Frakes. For those who haven’t heard it (the Anchor Bay DVD has been out of print for years), it’s an interesting talk. They cover the origins of the film, how there was a serious buzz around the script that lead to its budget being increased, the casting of Piper and some of the locations and effects work but they also offer a lot of interesting details about their careers up to this point, working for Roger Corman and more.

    Exclusive to this release is Mean And Green, a heretofore unseen video interview with Randall Frakes. In this fifty-six-minute piece Frakes speaks about the source materials that inspired the film, his relationship with Donald G. Jackson and how they got to know one another in the first place, Jackson’s I Like To Hurt People 16mm wrestling documentary and how he helped him find a video distributor for the title, how Tim Truman’s comic book Scout ties into all of this, Jackson’s reputation for working on profitable films and how that helped get this project moving, how and why the budget grew from a $150,000.00 16mm project to a much more expensive 35mm film, bringing Steve Wang onboard to do the makeup after he finished on Predator and how Jackson’s wrestling connections led to Piper coming on to play the lead. He also talks about the difficulties of shooting a dance scene, what was shot outdoors and what was shot in a studio, the joys of being fired by New World Pictures, the film’s cast and crew screening that took place before it’s national release and how he felt about the film when he first saw it and quite a bit more. This is a very detailed and interesting piece, quite through – it covers a lot of ground.

    Grappling with Green Gargantuans is a twenty-minute video interview with lead actor "Rowdy" Roddy Piper carried over from the previous Arrow Video UK Blu-ray release from 2014. It’s as entertaining as you’d hope it would be if you’re familiar with Piper’s work as it allows him to talk about what it was like on set, how he wound up in the film, how he got along (or not) with Jackson, his acting ‘abilities’ and lots more. Carried over from that same disc are two more features. Amphibian Armageddon gets actor Brian Frank on camera for fourteen-minutes to discuss how he wound up in the film, working with Jackson and Piper and his thoughts on the picture. Creature Feature Creator is a fifteen-minute video interview with special effects artist Steve Wang wherein he talks about creating the different prosthetics that are used throughout the picture. Both of these are also quite interesting and definitely worth checking out.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a single extended opening scene (sourced from a work print) that runs two-and-a-half-minutes, the film’s original theatrical trailer menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release, we also get a DVD version of the movie taken from the same new restoration and including the same extras. Vinegar Syndrome has also packaged this with some very cool reversible cover sleeve art.

    Hell Comes To Frogtown – The Final Word:

    Hell Comes To Frogtown is a ridiculously entertaining picture highlighted by a great lead performance from Roddy Piper. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds great and features a nice selection of extra features as well. Loads of entertainment value to be had here – highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Hell Comes To Frogtown Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. JoeS's Avatar
      JoeS -
      R.J. Kizer should be credited as Co-Director. In fact, RJ directed much of the picture solo.

      I know. I was there for the whole shoot.
    1. Darcy Parker's Avatar
      Darcy Parker -
      From the maker of Rollergator is one hell of a pull quote!