Squirm (1976) and Frogs (1972)

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Friday, February 8, 2013

Squirm (1976) and Frogs (1972)

Let us continue the man versus nature theme from last week with two more terrible ideas put to celluloid.  Grab the one you love, turn down the lights and get comfortable as we once again head to the drive-in.

  • Actors: Don Scardino, Patricia Pearcy, R.A. Dow, Jean Sullivan, Peter MacLean
  • Directors: Jeff Lieberman
  • Writers: Jeff Lieberman
  • Producers: Edgar Lansbury, George Manasse, Joseph Beruh
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • Release Date: August 3, 1999 (VHS) - August 26, 2003 (DVD)
  • Run Time: 92 minutes
  • Now that is a lot of worms! Squirm is a "nature-strikes-back" horror film starring Don Scardino and Patricia Pearcy.  It was the debut of cult horror director Jeff Lieberman and remains the director's most popular film.  Squirm also features early makeup work from Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker.  The film was shot over the course of 24 days in Port Wentworth, Georgia.

    Looks like it's business on both ends! When a powerful storm knocks Fly Creek, Georgia's power lines down onto wet soil, the resulting surge of electricity drives large, bloodthirsty worms to the surface-and then out of their soil-tilling minds.  Soon, the townspeople discover that their sleepy fishing village is overrun with worms that burrow right into their skin. Inundated by hundreds of thousands of carnivorous creatures, the terrorized locals race to find the cause of the rampage-before becoming tilled under themselves.

    Squirm was a popular late night feature on SuperStation TBS in the 1980s after Atlanta Braves baseball games. Braves announcer Skip Caray famously "promoted" the movie by sarcastically offering Braves fans an autographed baseball if they actually stayed up to watch it, then sent in a review of it.  TBS got a couple thousand reviews in response.

    Pittsburgh musician Weird Paul Petroskey created an entire album dedicated to the worm in the egg cream scene. The album is called Worm in my Egg Cream, and all 16 tracks are titled "Worm In My Egg Cream".  It makes extensive use of sound bites from the film.

    Yeah, it's that kind of movie! Did you think I was joking? In 1999, Squirm was one of the final films to be featured on the cult TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000.  The film was heavily edited for its appearance on Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Among the many scenes cut from the film was the scene of Mick trudging through the swamp, the conversation between Mick and Alma, the worms' graphic attack on Roger, the gruesome fate of Mrs. Sanders, and the climax where Roger crawls after Mick and attempts to bite him.

  • Actors: Ray Milland, Sam Elliott, Joan Van Ark, Adam Roarke, Judy Pace
  • Directors: George McCowan
  • Writers: Robert Blees, Robert Hutchison
  • Producers: George Edwards, Norman T. Herman, Peter Thomas
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • Release Date: June 6, 2000 (VHS) - September 19, 2000 (DVD)
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Frogs is a 1972 horror film directed by George McCowan.  The film falls into the "eco-horror" category since it tells the story of an upper-class U.S. Southern family who are victimized by several different animal species, including snakes, birds, and lizards, as well as the occasional butterfly. Nature, the movie suggests, may be justified in exacting revenge on this family because of its patriarch's abuse of the local ecology.

    Pickett Smith (Sam Elliott) rows in a canoe and takes photographs of various animals in a swamp from around the Crockett family's estate; a scenic plantation located on an island on a lake in rural Florida.  After Clint (Adam Roarke) accidentally tips Pickett's canoe over, he and his sister Karen (Joan Van Ark) escort Smith to the family mansion where he meets the entire Crockett family.  The grouchy, wheelchair-bound patriarch, Jason (Ray Milland), intends on spending the next day enjoying both the 4th of July and his own birthday celebrations uninterrupted.  Due to the mutual dislike of the fauna around the mansion, Jason has sent a man called Grover to spray pesticide in order to get rid of the amphibians.  Pickett discovers Grover's corpse covered in snake bites in the swamp not far from the house.  Despite this warning, Jason continues with his celebrations the next day, unaware that the frogs and other animals plan to get revenge for the constant pollution around the area.

    On the mainland, Michael checks the telephone lines in his car (when the phone line is dead) but is distracted by birds.  Hoping to shoot them down, he chases them but accidentally shoots himself in the leg.  A swarm of tarantulas cover him with webbing and moss, cocooning him completely.

    On the island, Kenneth leaves to get flowers from the greenhouse but lizards infest the greenhouse and knock over jars of chemicals.  The mixture fills the place with poisonous gases and Kenneth asphyxiates.

    Pickett warns everyone that everyone should try to leave the island but Jason is adamant that nothing will ruin his day.  Meanwhile, Iris is lured into the path of several frogs and snakes while chasing after a butterfly.  Trying to escape, she falls into a small swamp of leeches which latch on to her until she manages to pull them off. Massively fatigued, she falls near a rattlesnake which promptly bites her and kills her.  Her husband Stuart comes looking for her, only to meet a grisly end when he falls into the swamp and is eaten by an alligator.

    Charles and Maybelle, Jason's long-suffering butler and cook, decide to leave along with Kenneth's fiancee, Bella, on Pickett's advice.  Clint takes them across the lake in his speedboat.  Clint stays behind and searches the nearby grocery store while the others walk on.  They are soon attacked by birds and pecked to death offscreen. Clint discovers his boat has been untethered and swims to reach it but a water moccasin kills him in the water.  His wife, Jenny, witnesses this through binoculars and attempts to rescue him, but gets stuck in the lake mud and is killed by a large snapping turtle.

    Karen and Pickett decide to leave with Clint and Jenny's kids and leave Jason behind, his mind still intent on celebrating.  They cross the lake in Pickett's canoe encountering alligators and more water snakes, which Pickett dispatches with the boat paddle as well as a shotgun.  They eventually make it ashore and to a road where they hitch a ride with a woman and her son.  While the woman tells the four survivors that they are driving towards Jackson City and have strangely not seen a single person or car on the road all day, the boy shows them a huge frog he took from summer camp where his mother picked him up...

    Later that night, Jason, now alone in his mansion, witnesses hundreds of frogs breaking their way into the house and staring at him.  Looking around the room at his stuffed animal trophies adds to his tension and he collapses out of his wheelchair from a heart attack.  The frogs croak louder and louder as they hop over his corpse.  The final shot shows all the lights in the mansion flickering out for good... implying that nature has won, and the rest of the humanity is apparently next.

    Needless the say not the happiest of endings or the highlight of Ray Milland’s career.

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