Cult Cinema: Frogs (1972)
The frogs are literally everywhere as the camera overwhelmingly cuts to close ups and group shots of very large bullfrogs, a nuisance that the family desperately wants eradicated. The typically stubborn,white, elder patriarch Grandpa Jason Crockett (Ray Milland) even at once states that his money nor technology can't get rid of them. The land that the family has inhabited is theirs. The film cleverly shows us many cuts of different kinds of wildlife, most inherently dangerous (snakes and reptiles) to give us the overwhelming feeling that this movie is about the unwanted encroachment on their habitat. There is more of them than there are of the humans they've surrounded.
Smith represents nature's favor. Advocating for respecting it while Grandpa Crockett and family's only concern is their comfort at the expense of it. Environmental rights are tackled right next to the social dynamics of race. Judy Pace's Bella Garrington, is the lovely and graceful model working with photographer Kenneth Martindale (Nicholas Cortland), a cousin of the Crockett's. Bella is flirtatious with the men who aren't machismo and obnoxious, and kind even when she's being undermined by Grandpa Crockett's bigotry. Frogs doesn't rely on racial overtones, but rather gives us a snapshot of a Black female character fluidly navigating her upper-class, White social and professional setting while demonstrating a genuine comfort with the Black servants hired to care for the Crockett's.
In one scene, Bella pours herself a drink and approaches the maid, Maybelle (Mae Mercer) in the dining room insisting she have a drink with her. At first hesitant, Maybelle takes the drink and the women exchange smiles. Bella confesses that her real, full name is Maybelle as well, furthering an engaging exchange. Concluding, Maybelle let's her know and she's willing to offer coffee and conversation anytime she needs. The tone in which Maybelle expresses that she'll take her up on the offer is a wink and nod to Black spectators understanding of a desire for community and kinship amongst those who receive the burden of white supremacy on a daily basis. "Coffee and conversation" is a way of 'talking back,' exercising frustration in a manner that under their circumstances, is socially acceptable.
Whether the Crockett's see it that way or not, Bella's actions dictate a self awareness of her Black womanhood that is not a part of the white Crockett's legacy of wealth and ideological privilege and imposition.
Frogs may seem preachy to the trained eye, but it's a shift from camp and silly looking 70s special effect offers a slightly unpredictable, slightly serious fare that relies much on suspense and your fear of some of earth'screatures... that can kill and eat you.