Does the threat of environmental destruction frighten you? Are you horrified by toxic waste and fearful of what it might do to the wildlife in Florida’s swamps and forests? If so, you might consider skipping the trick-or-treat routine and watching a good scary movie like the 1970s croaker, Frogs.
The plot involves a young photojournalist searching for answers as to why so many amphibians seem to be congregating around an old plantation and its dysfunctional residents. By coincidence (or maybe not?) the family patriarch is in the pesticides business, and has been busily spraying his property to kill every insect on the place. Everything seems peachy until he invites a crowd out to the house for his birthday celebration. That’s when the frogs begin showing up. Bunches and bunches of hungry frogs with something of a grudge against the man who denied them their flies and “skeeters.” The rest is so terrifying, we’ll have to let you watch the movie yourself to find out about it.
The film includes a “stellar” cast including Hollywood icon and Oscar winner Ray Milland, cowboy character actor Sam Elliot, and future Dallas and Knots Landing star Joan Van Ark.
Now considered an early entry in the “Eco-Horror” genre, and possibly one of the funniest and worst movies ever made, Frogs (1972) was filmed in Florida’s Walton County, Panama City, and the Wesley mansion at Eden Gardens State Park. If the riveting plot of Frogs isn’t enough to make you rent the movie, consider watching it just for the shots of this historic turn-of-the-century home.
The over 100-year-old Wesley mansion sits on the eerie, moss drenched Tucker Bayou next to Choctawhatchee Bay and the town of Point Washington. The house was named for the prosperous timber family that built it in 1897. After being abandoned for several years, it was purchased in 1963 by heiress Lois Maxon to showcase her extensive collection of original Louis XVI furniture and other antiques. She soon sold it to the State of Florida in honor of her parents, with the stipulation that none of the furniture or any of her other possessions be altered.
The movie Frogs features extensive views of the house’s interior and also makes use of the long reflecting pool outside. With low budgets and even lower production values, the viewer gets to experience a certain realism for this particular time and setting. During some awkwardly acted scenes, one can hear the echoes of the old mansion and see some striking 1970s get-ups. Sounds and scenes like these would surely have been cut from higher quality films.
So if nature scares you and you’re in the mood for a wild trip through the swamps and mansions of the Florida Panhandle in the 1970s, put on your “open toad” shoes and look through the photos on Florida Memory, or pick up a copy of Frogs…warts and all.