Tuesday, July 10, 2012

FROGs (originally MARSH ISLAND)

Remember a film entitled “FROGS” starring Ray Milland, Sam Elliott and Joan van Ark?  Released in 1972, this film was originally destined for full production in Louisiana. Didn’t make it. Here’s the story.

In the late 60s I had completed phase II of my Louisiana Film Development project. One afternoon I received a call from an American International Pictures producer by the name of Peter Thomas. He asked if I could meet with him and his set designer. I agreed and they picked me up from my office and we were on our way down La Hwy 1 south to visit some prospective filming locations.

I sat in the back seat with the set designer, whose name I think was Michael. Peter rode passenger in the front. During the first hour of our trip we small talked about film production in general, but nothing specific to FROGS. Finally I decided to satisfy my curiosity and ask what types of locations  were they looking for. Peter said they were going to build the fa├žade of a large classical southern mansion on Marsh Island. I said “Where?” He repeated “Marsh Island”. He pulled out a Louisiana road map and pointed to Marsh Island which is about 50 miles just west of Houma in the Gulf of Mexico. I expressed surprise that they would choose that location. He asked “why?” I told him that Marsh Island was simply the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico that had broken the surface, that it was indeed a marsh and would not be able to support a film crew much less a construction team and equipment.

Peter immediately ordered the driver to “STOP THE CAR!!” He pulled off into a service station. Peter asked “Then why would it be on a map?” I repeated “because it is above the surface of the water and thus qualifies as an ‘island’.” Peter then said to Michael “You mean we’ve made this trip for nothing?” Michael shrugged. I offered to show them some other prospects, but Peter was needing to recover from the disappointment . The plan had been for this movie (which had originally been named “MARSH ISLAND”) to start with a slow zoom onto a Louisiana map, zeroing in on “Marsh Island”, then morphing into the actual mansion’s front. 

The IMDB describes the plot thus:   “Jason Crockett (Ray Milland) is an aging, grumpy, physically disabled millionaire who invites his family to his island estate for his birthday celebration. Pickett Smith (Sam Elliott) is a free-lance photographer who is doing a pollution layout for an ecology magazine. Jason Crockett hates nature, poisoning anything that crawls on his property. On the night of his birthday the frogs and other members of nature begin to pay Crockett back.”  It was easy to see why they were inspired by the Marsh Island location and name.

The return trip was not nearly as pleasant. When we got back to my office, Peter thanked me and I again offered to further assist their location needs. Peter said he was not sure at this point, but may be back in touch.  I suspected they would not be calling or staying in Louisiana for the shoot.  And no he didn’t get back in touch and no I never saw the film.  Has anyone seen it? Or remember it?

According to the IMDB they wound up at Eden Gardens State Park and Panama City Beach in Florida.

I just couldn’t let them sink in the Marsh Island muck. They probably would have been pretty pissed at me.  This is one we lost, but the state’s film production experience since then has been phenomenal.  The loss of FROGS obviously has not discouraged future projects ….. thank heavens.

HEY, film makers: MARSH ISLAND is still a MARSH.


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