Studio: Shout Factory
Cast: Ray Wise, Adrienne Barbeau, Louis Jourdan, Dick Durock
Director: Wes Craven
Release Date: September 7, 2013, 5:18 pm
Rating: PG for (adult themes, violence)
Run Time: 01h:31m:12s
“I don’t know where we are, Toto, but this sure isn’t Kansas.” - Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau)
Movie Grade: A-
DVD Grade: A-
Oh, Swamp Thing, how I love you so…seriously, I still can’t get enough of this super-cheesy, totally 80s “super hero” flick. Unleashed to theaters in 1982 to very little fanfare, most of my experience with the film is in watching it on what had to be a weekly basis on cable TV. Now, over 30 years later, this early Wes Craven film (yes THAT Wes Craven) makes its way to Blu ray courtesy of the great Shout! Factory. While I’m beyond ecstatic to have this childhood favorite on Blu, it is disappointing to find out that the version included here is, indeed, the American version and not the uncut one that MGM accidentally released during the first pressing of its DVD release in 2000. Those discs were immediately pulled off the shelves when it was reported by angry parents that this PG- rated film that their kids were watching featured a “more thorough” look at Adrienne Barbeau’s anatomy. I’m one of the lucky few to have snagged one of these discs before it was pulled, but it’s a shame that all Swamp Thing fans can’t finally enjoy this longer cut on this new Blu ray disc.
The plot, at its core, is simple hero vs. villain stuff, but it takes a half hour or so before we get to that aspect of things. We’re introduced to Alice Cable (Barbeau) as she’s about to land smack dab in the middle of a Louisiana swamp to replace a man who was recently done in by an alligator. Alice will be working for Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise), who, in his secret lab, is working on a formula to combat world hunger. This being the quintessential type of formula that should never fall into the proverbial “wrong hands,” does just that, as a band of mercenaries, led by their employer, Antone Arcane (Louis Jourdan), find Holland’s lab, and appear to kill him at the hands of his own invention. Naturally, they’re wrong and Holland isn’t dead, instead transformed into the titular character (played, in creature form, by Dick Durock), and hell bent on revenge, and, more importantly, rescuing Alice from Arcane’s evil clutches.
Much of Swamp Thing’s charm lies in its murky, dirty, very green look and feel, which, despite the budget limitations and subsequent cheap appearance, still defines much of my love for the film today. The one thing that has lost its punch from my childhood to now, is the makeup effects. I remember being thoroughly creeped-out when any of the film’s characters are transformed into creatures, but, now, any and all of the warts of the effects work stands out way too much to remain even the least bit spooky. Of course, I’ve seen thousands of effects-laden movies in the last 30 years, so I’m not as easily spooked these days, but it’s just tough to overlook Swamp Thing’s bargain bin special effects. The performances certainly haven’t lost their punch, however, with Barbeau being as lovely, funny, and just plain endearing as ever, remaining the timeless beauty that she was when I was growing up. It’s also great to see a young, pre-Leland Palmer, Ray Wise bringing a great bit of charisma to the character of Dr. Alec Holland, before his transformation. The best performance, here, comes from the often underappreciated Louis Jourdan, who steals the handful of scenes that he’s in, in the sophisticated, villainous way that only he can. This is even more commendable, given that his son had died shortly before filming began on Swamp Thing.
The film comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p transfer in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The overall, resulting image is a bit of a disappointment, but, given the film’s low budget nature, it’s not a huge surprise. Still, I’ve always enjoyed the overriding murkiness of things, but I’m slightly surprised that more of the grain and dirt weren’t cleaned up for this release. The audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track that doesn’t deviate much from the film’s original mono mix, keeping things up front, nearly at all times, but, nonetheless, always delivering crystal clear audio that blends seamlessly with the music.
The great collection of extras includes a pair of audio commentaries, with the first featuring writer/director Wes Craven. This track is moderated by Sean Clark, who talks to Craven about the film and how tough the shoot was. Craven is very candid about his feelings on Swamp Thing’s (lack of, in his eyes) artistic value, but he does seem to still regard it as an integral part of his career. The other commentary track features Makeup Effects Artist William Munn, who, along with host Michael Felsher, discusses anything and everything involving the film's effects work.
Other extras include Tales From the Swamp, an almost-17-minute piece that gives us the glorious experience of watching Adrienne Barbeau talk about all-things Swamp Thing. She tells a bevy of interesting stories about her “Scream Queen” career, and goes into great detail on behind-the-scenes info about Swamp Thing’s production. Hey, Jude is a 14-minute look-back at the film with actor Reggie Batts, who played Jude. Batts talks about acting as a child, and emphasizes that being in Swamp Thing is a true blessing for himself and his family.
That Swamp Thing takes a 13-minute look back at the film with Len Wein, the comic book artist who created Swamp Thing. He also discusses how true the film was to the original comics and how much he loves the beginning of the film, through the moment where the title character is born. Also amongst the extras is the theatrical trailer for Swamp Thing and a collection of photo galleries.
Chuck Aliaga September 7, 2013, 5:18 pm