This is Mark Lewis’ second documentary about the eponymous amphibian. His previous one, CANE TOADS: AN UNNATURAL HISTORY was his tribute to the triumph of nature over the folly of humankind, in this case, importing cane toads from South America to Australia where they failed to eradicate a crop-eating beetle. Instead, they multiplied and migrated to the consternation of the Austalian populace. When I spoke with Lewis by phone on September 7, 2012, he described why he found the toads irresistable despite their penchant for exuding venom. As wry as the film he made, he went on to recall his first encounter with the toads, his approach to visualizing what a canine tripping on cane-toad venom might see, and why he decided to immortalize it all in 3D.
CANE TOADS: THE CONQUEST is his 3D documentary about human folly, amphibian determination, and the law of unintended consequences. THE CONQUEST is a follow-up to his 1988 documentary, CANE TOADS: AN UNNATURAL HISTORY, which first studied the unfortunate results of what happened when, following the advice of scientific experts, the eponymous toads were imported to north-eastern Australia in the early part of the 20th century with the hope that they would eradicate a beetle that was devastating Australia’s sugar cane crop. The beetle was untouched, but the toads found a paradise in Australia, breeding in prodigious numbers, and provoking a wide spectrum of reactions, all of them fierce, from admiration to revulsion from the humans, and an unexpected addiction to the hallucinogenic properties of the toad venom from some members of the canine population. With intelligent observations, exquisite cinematography, and a wry sense of humor, Lewis presents the situation from the toad’s point of view, and, in the process, makes a credible case for that being the proper one to consider.