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MGM Studios DVD presents
Swamp Thing (1982)

"The formula works in so simple a way. What Bruno took is what changed me. It only amplifies your essence. It simply makes you more of what you already are."
- Swamp Thing (Dick Durock)

Review By: Justin Stephen   
Published: August 08, 2000

Stars: Adrienne Barbeau, Louis Jourdan
Other Stars: Ray Wise, David Hess, Dick Durock, Reggie Batts
Director: Wes Craven

Manufacturer: Laser Pacific
MPAA Rating: PG for (violence and nudity)
Run Time: 01h:32m:30s
Release Date: August 01, 2000
UPC: 027616851529
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-B-C+ D

DVD Review

As Swamp Thing opens, we are presented with this introductory text:

"Not long ago, in the unexplored reaches of an unmapped swamp, the creative genius of one man collided with another's evil dream, and a monster was born."

In a secret scientific laboratory hidden deep within a dangerous swamp, Dr. Alec Holland is busy at work. His goal is to use recombinant DNA technology to combine the nucleus of animal cells with the cellular structure of plant cells and create a substance that will allow plants to grow at phenomenal rates, thus ending world hunger, and so on. Enter Alice Cable, a special agent with the government (what branch we never find out) who has joined the team that is charged with keeping Dr. Holland safe from those who might do him harm or seek to disrupt his research. Of course, in typical Hollywood fashion, a sexual attraction almost immediately develops between Cable and Dr. Holland.

Unfortunately, our protagonists have little time to explore their new feelings as chaos erupts. Evil henchmen under the employ of the sinister Dr. Anton Arcane swarm through the camp, killing almost everyone. In the struggle that ensues, Dr. Holland is inadvertently doused in his newly developed secret formula, is set on fire, and falls off of a dock into the swamp. The evil henchmen, of course, assume he is dead. Wrong! He is not dead. His formula has transformed him into Swamp Thing (ta-dah!).

Agent Cable miraculously escapes (surprise, surprise), traveling overland and dodging evil henchmen at every turn. She joins forces with a local boy, meets up with the Swamp Thing, and together they attempt to put a stop to the evil Dr. Arcane before he can create the formula himself and use it to fulfill his nefarious goals. We're really not sure what these goals are, but they undoubtedly involve world domination.

One of a long list of films made before and since that are based on comic books, Swamp Thing was published by D.C. Comics from 1972-1976. Swamp Thing was written and directed by Wes Craven, already relatively well-known for 1972's controversial Last House on the Left and 1978's The Hills Have Eyes. Craven went on to become the force behind Nightmare on Elm Street, the Scream films, and, surprisingly, 1999's Oscar®-nominated Music of the Heart (which stars Meryl Streep and couldn't be farther removed from the horror genre). Cult movie mainstay Adrienne Barbeau plays Cable. Louis Jourdan (the evil Kamal Khan in Octopussy), turns in a performance as the equally evil Dr. Arcane.

Made on a small budget from less than stellar inspirational material, Swamp Thing revels in its campiness. Shot in a real swamp in the wilds of South Carolina, it does possess some effective atmosphere. Swamp Thing was granted a "PG" rating by the MPAA but would almost certainly receive an R-rating today due to its two nude scenes. One features Ms. Barbeau in a rare topless scene and undoubtedly provided fantasy fodder for thousands of young boys growing up in the early 1980s. There is also a fair amount of violence in Swamp Thing but virtually none of it is in the least bit graphic and will undoubtedly seem tame compared to many PG-rated films released today. Still, because of the nude scenes, I would strongly advise parental guidance before letting the kiddies view this.

Like many others who grew up in the 1980s, this was hardly my first viewing of Swamp Thing. However, this was definitely the first viewing in ten or more years. Rewatching this film now proved to be an entertaining reminiscential experience.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: This DVD marks the first time that Swamp Thing has been available on video in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, but it is a non-anamorphic presentation. While this new transfer is undoubtedly an improvement over previous VHS releases, it is still a far cry from being reference quality video. Colors are generally soft but still look pretty good for their age. Black levels are generally mediocre but are not poor. The most noticeable problem is the severe graininess in a small number of scenes (most notably the dungeon scene late in the film).

Swamp Thing also offers an open-matte full frame version on the opposite side. Color and definition are comparable to the widescreen transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: There isn't much to write home about in the audio department. Swamp Thing is offered in mono in both English and dubbed Spanish. The sound levels do remain very consistent throughout and the sound is generally clear and crisp for a mono track but don't expect your subwoofer to show much interest.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English (close-captioned), Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. "Collectible booklet" with production notes
Extras Review: Swamp Thing is very shy on extras. Only the original trailer is included for on-disc extras. The trailer has not been remastered and is visually awful (but it is kind of cool to see it in its most raw form). Also included is a booklet with two pages of relatively interesting production notes.

Swamp Thing comes complete with both Spanish and French subtitles accessible from your remote's subtitle key. To view English captions, you will need to turn on close-captioning on your television.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Swamp Thing is not an especially strong film in any particular way. However, if you are a big fan of the comic book or, like me, haven't seen it since childhood, it is cheesy, campy fun and probably worth the effort.


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