Movie Review: Swamp Thing (1982) – MVD Rewind Collection 4K

July 31, 2023

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Deep in the humid green hell of the Louisiana bayou, Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise, Twin Peaks) toils with his sister Linda (played by Nannette Brown… and changed from his wife in the DC Comics source material upon which this film is based) in a government-funded high tech lab hidden in an abandoned church.

Because of that whole “government-funded” biz, Washington wants to keep the duo’s experiments involving rapid plant without soil under close scrutiny so they send Agent Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau, Escape From New York, The Fog, Creepshow… and gender swapped from the comic’s Matthew Cable, an ally/foe of Alec’s) to give it all the ol’ look-see.

Unfortunately the Holland’s work has also fallen under the ghoulish gaze of suave villain Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan) who plans on using the resulting chemical to make himself immortal, and he just up and steals the formula for that shit with the help of his private army lead by the sadistic Ferret (David Hess, The Last House on the Left), but not before killing Linda, blowing up the lab, and immolating Alec who appears to drown in the swamp after trying to extinguish himself.

Later, while trying to drown Cable (who had managed to flee the previous night’s chaos before her luck ran out), Ferret and his gang encounter the Swamp Thing (Dick Durock, who went on to play the creature in the film’s sequel, 1989’s Return of Swamp Thing as well as all 72 episodes of the 1990 – 93 television program Swamp Thing: The Series, as well as an environmentally themed P.S.A.); the plant creature that once was Alec Holland who absolutely wrecks their ass by punching their boat to shitareens!

Arcane soon finds the formula is incomplete, and Cable has the missing notebook containing the final piece of the puzzle… which results in our heroine attempting to stay out of the villain’s clutches while hiding deep in the deadly swamps.

Thankfully for her, Swamp Thing has things well in hand… and by that I mean his primary pastime is throwing Arcane’s troops through the air with wild abandon while costing the dastardly doctor a fortune in those boats with big-ass fans on the back (his secondary pastime is screaming like a maniac into the void for those keeping score at home).

But soon Swampy must face Arcane himself, and no one may survive the final confrontation!

Written and directed by the legendary Wes Craven (The Last House on the Left… again, The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream), 1982’s Swamp Thing is one hell of an entertaining romp from the days when comic book adaptations weren’t as omnipresent, and while delivered on a relatively low budget still looks pretty damn great to this day!

For starters, an absolute ass-load of production value is provided by the locations themselves. Braving the elements to lens in the actual swamp provides countless verdant vistas from which the humidity is almost palpable and Cinematographer Robbie Greenberg achieves some masterful, painterly shots here… and these environs clash suitably with the technology of Alec’s lab and the Southern Gothic opulence of Arcane’s mansion abode.

The acting here is solid, with Barbeau providing a strong female hero that doesn’t shrink in the face of danger, Jordan as his usual debonair self, and Wise… with what little screen time he has… coming across as charming and hot-headed (no easy feet indeed). And in the hero role Durock manages to generate intense pathos even buried under tons of rubber while still delivering an ass-kicking.

Special mention must be made of the performance of Reggie Batts as Jude, the teenage boy who befriends Cable and helps her navigate the swamp. Batts is an incredibly natural actor, and his performances filled with dead-pan humor and heart that add immeasurably to the affair.

As for the suit utilized to bring Swamp Thing to life, it’s a simple but effective, beautifully realized rubber suit that is as close an approximation to the character’s appearance in the pages of the then-current first volume of the Saga of the Swamp Thing comic book series that you could get at the time.

Speaking of that series, ol’ Swampy faces-off against many a monster menace during the course of it’s run and the film follows suit with a climatic creature showdown, and you won’t believe your fuckin’ eyes when you see our hero’s opponent… it’s a part boar, part armadillo, part man sort of affair, all fangs and wild hair topped off with an expression that’s both unreasonably crazed and full of wonder that it exists at all… and it wields a sword. Naturally, I love it hardcore…

Adding some spicy dressing to this superhero salad is a truly fantastic psychotronic transformation sequence, cartoony transition wipes, and a dynamite score courtesy of composer Harry Manfredini (Friday the 13th).

Let me just say, I am not technologically inclined, but I can definitely state that I have never seen this film look better than it does on this 4K release from MVD Entertainment (under their Rewind label); the colors are suitably comic book vibrant with various hues of green front and center (including paint applications that make the suit properly look like the work of art it is) and a crystal clear image that is so solid I actually was able to see wires used to achieve some of the effects in the film that were not visible on past releases.

But this release has more to offer than lookin’ mighty fine, as two audio commentaries are included; one an archival chat between Craven and Horror’s Hallowed Grounds host Sean Clark that takes us through the film’s production in a lively, good natured conversation, and the other featuring Makeup Effects Artist William Munns (moderated by film producer Michael Felsher) that focuses on the challenges of realizing the film’s effects under harsh filming conditions.

Both of those commentaries play over the Theatrical Cut of the film, but fret not boils n’ ghouls because the legendary un-cut version is present here as well for those that wish to view Adrienne’s Barbeaus (as well as a few rando “party scene” boobs).

Also included is a Blu-ray version of the film that features both commentaries mentioned above, as well as interviews with Barbeau, Batts, and Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein, a look at the film’s art design, a retrospective on Craven (featuring author Kim Newman), a host of image galleries (featuring posters & lobby cards, a collection of photos from the film (and behind-the-scenes), and William Munns (my fav as it features creature photos a-plenty) and Geoffrey Rayle’s behind-the-scenes photos respectively), and the film’s theatrical trailer.

Also included is a mini-poster featuring new art featuring artwork from the film’s theatrical one-sheet, and a slipcover displaying the same.

To put a beastly bow on it; Craven’s Swamp Thing is a comic book flick classic filled with color, creatures, and a surprising amount of heart… and this release really makes it bloom!

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