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  Frog Dreaming Don't Bring Me Down
Year: 1986
Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Stars: Henry Thomas, Tony Barry, Rachel Friend, Tamsin West, Dempsey Knight, John Ewart, Chris Gregory, Mark Knight, Dennis Miller, Katy Manning, Laurie Dobson, Jay Mannering, Tim Hughes, Howard Eynon, David Ravenswood, Peter Cummins, Amanda Fernbach
Genre: Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Neville (Peter Cummins) lives a solitary existence by a quarry pond out in the middle of the Australian nowhere, and today is relaxing in his rowing boat hoping to catch some fish. However, something strange is happening under the surface, which begins to churn as if there is a creature under there, and Neville tries to make a break for shore as his boat is pulled under... Meanwhile, young Cody (Henry Thomas), an American orphan living with his guardian in a nearby village, is trying out his latest invention that is designed to get him to school faster. But Cody's adventures are going to get him into serious trouble...

Brian Trenchard-Smith made his name in Australian cinema by turning out a selection of exploitation movies such as The Man from Hong Kong and Turkey Shoot, but after he made those he offered world a couple of kids movies that have gone on to enjoy a similarly cult following. The first was BMX Bandits, and he progressed to a work that was no less entertaining, but far more mystical in Frog Dreaming, also known as The Quest or The Go-Kids. The key to this appeal was that the script was written by that unsung hero of Oz genre movies, Everett De Roche.

De Roche has written some pretty out there horrors and thrillers over the years, and most feature the landscape of Australia in them in very effective ways. This was no different, and the director made sure to include plenty of shots of the countryside and its denizens, with many of the expected frogs and quite a few lizards as well, as if to emphasise the alien quality of the environment to the American protagonist. Thomas was of course best known for starring in E.T. The Extraterrestrial, and brings a resourceful sense to his role here so that you can quite believe his character would get into the scrapes that he does.

Not that Cody is foolhardy, he simply has an unquenchable curiosity that can get him into trouble as his guardian takes a laissez-faire attitude to parenting that pretty much allows him to do whatever he wants. His best friends are two sisters, Wendy (Rachel Friend) and Jane (Tamsin West), but their parents (their mother is Doctor Who's Katy Manning) are less happy about them hanging around with him because they think he is a danger to be near. They're probably right, as when the three of them venture down to the pond Wendy and Jane are nearly stranded in the middle of the water and Cody does a daredevil jump to save them, especially as that thing from the depths is making its presence felt once more.

What follows is an endorsement of adventures personal to kids, where their parents wouldn't approve but they don't have to know - well, not until Cody gets into an inescapable situation, anyway. He is a budding inventor and his devices not only solve the mystery of the pond, but almost get him killed into the bargain. When we do finally find out what is going on, it's hard to swallow as an everyday explanation, so De Roche weaves into his narrative a more fantastical reasoning that has an enigmatic Aborigine, Charlie Pride (Dempsey Knight), apparently exercising some kind of otherwordly control over whatever is lurking in that pond, and by extension the rest of the nature around it as well. All this manages to avoid being pretentious, and adds up to a neat but quirky tale that could only have come from this land. Music by Brian May.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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