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When the botanical experiments of Dr. Alec Holland go awry and a lab explosion renders him more plant than man, rival scientist Anton Arcane plans to capture the Swamp Thing and learn his secrets.
For more about Swamp Thing and the Swamp Thing Blu-ray release, see Swamp Thing Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on August 2, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Adrienne Barbeau, Louis Jourdan, Ray Wise, David Hess, Nicholas Worth (I), Al Ruban
Director: Wes Craven
» See full cast & crew
Swamp Thing Blu-ray Review
The less than credible hulk.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, August 2, 2013
It might not have risen to the level of the Florida woman who checked out a VHS tape (remember those) of Disney's Home on the Range from her local library for her son to watch and was shocked when it contained a porn video instead, but another mother, this time in Texas, was outraged when she rented Swamp Thing from her local Blockbuster (remember those?), and was shocked—shocked, I tell you—when she discovered the film contained nudity! It turned out that MGM had inadvertently released the unrated international cut on DVD, a cut that ran just a couple of minutes longer than the "kinder, gentler" American version and which indeed had a few passing glimpses of the female form. MGM went into instantaneous damage control mode and recalled the "unauthorized" version, quickly releasing the relatively more chaste American version. The first release has now become a collector's item, fetching some unholy prices on various online auction sites, and some fans were probably hoping against hope that this new Scream Factory Blu-ray would contain the controversial footage, either in the form of the international cut, or at least as bonus material. Alas, that's not the case, but that perhaps at least has the upside of reassuring vigilant mothers across our great nation that should they buy this version, their children will not be exposed to any untoward material. That is, if you don't consider a monstrous half plant-half human hybrid untoward. Swamp Thing, based on a DC Comics character who has had more lives than a veritable cat, is a flat out goof-fest that came relatively early in Wes Craven's career, and which finds the director concentrating more on mood than scares. Set in a Louisiana bog (Craven states the film was actually shot in South Carolina), Swamp Thing details the trials of Dr. Alec Holland, a man who, kind of like Dr. David Banner of The Incredible Hulk fame, is inadvertently affected by his own experiments and turns into a gigantic green behemoth who marauds through various adventures in a fit of pique.
The problem of global hunger never seems to find a really satisfying solution in films. Witness the largely lamentable Shark!, where a mercenary played by Burt Reynolds thinks he's getting involved with scientists intent on developing a massive new food source, only to figure out he's actually involved with modern day pirates (doesn't it just frost you when something like that happens?). Swamp Thing at least has a scientist who really is working on solving global hunger, though his research has attracted the attention of both the government as well as a nasty villain who wants to use it for his own personal purposes.
Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise) has a secret lab buried in the backwoods of a Louisiana swamp, but that doesn't keep government researcher Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) from tracking him down, at almost the same time that a bunch of mercenaries show up to commandeer the good doctor's work. (What is it with mercenaries and solutions to the global food supply?) Alec and Alice barely have time to notice how similar their names are, let alone that they're deeply attracted to each other, before the mercenaries break in, douse Dr. Holland in his own formula and set the poor guy ablaze. Holland manages to stumble out and dives into the bog, extinguishing the flames but, one assumes, extinguishing his life as well.
It turns out the mercenaries are working for a mastermind named Antone Arcane (Louis Jourdan), a supervillain who is convinced that Holland's formula to create mutated vegetation will help him to attain superpowers (don't go looking for much logic in this enterprise, as there frequently isn't any). Not content to have the formula, Arcane also kidnaps Alice and holds her hostage as he begins to experiment with Holland's formula. In the meantime, a monstrous creature has shown up in the swamp who seems to be a bizarre hybrid of human and vegetation. He does have superpowers, as is made clear when he is able to miraculously cure some victims who have become collateral damage in Arcane's swamp escapades.
Swamp Thing teeters precariously close to camp a lot of the time, but the good news is, the filmmakers seemed to know that going in, and so the film has a rather breezily self-deprecating sense of humor. The film is yet another take on the Beauty and the Beast trope, with Swamp Thing (played in his transmogrified form by Dick Durock) pining after Alice but getting about as far with her as King Kong did with Fay Wray. Barbeau and Craven both mention in various supplements included on this Blu-ray that Swamp Thing turned out to be decidedly different from what was originally planned. There seems to be a slightly buried remnant of a film that was meant to be an outright parody, but which got dialed back a bit into a cheesier B-movie ambience, for whatever reason. Perhaps that's only fitting, though. Swamp Thing creator Len Wein is also on record stating how much he loved comic books of yore, those often silly horror entries from the fifties that emphasized style over substance. Swamp Thing in its film version is a pretty apt film version of that same ethos. A lot of modern day comic book adaptations are more portentous and a lot more serious, but they don't necessarily provide as much pure fun as Swamp Thing does.
Swamp Thing Blu-ray, Video Quality
Swamp Thing is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory, an imprint of Shout! Factory, with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. Much as with John Carpenter's The Fog, Swamp Thing was made on a pretty paltry budget, and that frankly shows at times in this high definition presentation. The overall image is rather gauzily soft most of the time, though fine detail rises to very good levels in close-ups. Grain is quite abundant and at times overwhelms process shots (as should be expected) and darker sequences. Colors are quite good, accurate looking and nicely saturated. Swamp Thing has never been an overly "pretty" film by any standard, but it looks considerably improved on this new Blu-ray, given reasonable expectations.
Swamp Thing Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Swamp Thing's original mono track is delivered via a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix. This is actually one film that might have benefited from a 5.1 retrofit, given the abundance of environmental ambient sounds that populate the swamp sequences. That said, this lossless track preserves the ubiquitous sound effects with good fidelity and it also presents both the dialogue and the kind of clunky score very well, too. Dynamic range is fairly wide, helped by some explosions and other mayhem.
Swamp Thing Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Swamp Thing Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Swamp Thing is neither as scary nor as funny as it really could have been, but it's still enjoyable most of the time, aided by Barbeau's earnestness and a surprisingly well done villain turn by the ultra-suave Jourdan. Craven is still finding his directorial legs here, and the film has some pacing issues as well as a certain tonal unevenness, but this is a near perfect recreation of fifties' drive-in fare, whether that result was intended or not. This new Blu-ray features very good video and audio and comes with some excellent supplementary material. Recommended.
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Swamp Thing Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Swamp Thing Detailed - May 29, 2013
Scream Factory, the horror-thriller offshoot of independent film distributor Shout Factory, has detailed its upcoming Blu-ray combo pack edition of director Wes Craven's Swamp Thing (1982), starring Louis Jourdan, Adrienne Barbeau, and Ray Wise. The release will ...
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