Best Blu-ray Deals
Best Blu-ray Deals, See All the Deals »
Top deals |
A hunter happens upon a fugitive and his daughter living in a Georgia swamp. He falls in love with the girl and persuades the fugitive to return to town.
For more about Swamp Water and the Swamp Water Blu-ray release, see Swamp Water Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on February 28, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Walter Brennan, Walter Huston, Anne Baxter, Dana Andrews, Ward Bond, Russell Simpson
Directors: Jean Renoir, Irving Pichel
» See full cast & crew
Swamp Water Blu-ray Review
Intruder in the Swamp.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, February 28, 2012
The Golden Age of the Hollywood studio system is often likened to a factory where product was churned out on a weekly basis without much regard for content and similarly without too much worry about ultimate quality. The studios, which in those days owned their own theaters and needed to keep those theaters "stocked" with new films on a weekly basis, had their "production line" down pat, and the amazing thing is that despite turning out a huge number of films every year, the quality (in terms of craftsmanship at least) was fairly uniformly consistent, a testament to the hardworking men and women who populated the studio "working class" in those days. And while it certainly can't be denied that there was a certain amount of populist pabulum fed to the masses by the studios in those days, there were also an intriguing number of lesser known films that regularly pushed the envelope in one way or the other.
Case in point: 1941's odd Swamp Water, ostensibly French master Jean Renoir's first American film, though it's rather widely speculated that 20th Century Fox's Darryl Zanuck had producer Irving Pichel reshoot quite a bit of the movie before it was released to a largely uncaring audience. But watching this peculiar, and in a strange way haunting, film, one is immediately struck by a salient question: could anything like Swamp Water get greenlit by anyone, major studio or indie alike, in this era of cookie cutter plots and Syd Field-inspired screenplays? All of the major studios who were cranking out at least a film a week in the thirties and forties had their own peculiar little releases now and again, but Swamp Water is certainly one of the most peculiar of that era, a moody Southern Gothic take on backwoods Georgia life that plays like Green Acres as revisited by someone like Tim Burton or even Douglas Sirk. Yes, that obviously sounds weird, but Swamp Water is a fantastic example of what an unusual auteur could do (even if his work was tinkered with at some stage in the production process) within the confines of the old guard studio system.
The Art Film crowd is certainly well aware of Jean Renoir's inimitable contributions to world film, but for those whose main background is American film, perhaps a brief introduction is in order. Renoir was the son of iconic painter Pierre- Auguste Renoir, and Renoir fils certainly inherited his father's impeccable visual sense, something that sets almost all of his films apart from those of his contemporaries. Renoir's oeuvre is long and legendary, but just mentioning a very few of his most legendary films hopefully will suffice to give some indication of his rather inordinate accomplishments. His 1932 Boudu Saved from Drowning was a fantastically literate look at class differences placed within the confines of a semi-traditional farce (the film was remade decades later as Paul Mazursky's Down and Out in Beverly Hills). Renoir touched on class differences again in two of his most iconic films, the incredible war set The Grand Illusion (the first foreign language film to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture), and another film with war skittering about its edges, The Rules of the Game, perhaps Renoir's most trenchant examination of societal morés. The Rules of the Game was met with rather disastrous response when it was first released, and perhaps at least partially due to that calamity, Renoir withdrew somewhat to lick his wounds, ending up in Hollywood (which also offered him safe refuge from the burgeoning conflicts of World War II).
Swamp Water takes place in and around the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, a setting Renoir aptly sets up in an ominously foreboding opening shot featuring a cross pile driven down into the murky depths, atop which a skull hangs precariously. The Okefenokee is a definite character in this piece, a menacing presence that is full of vicious crocodiles and lunging cottonmouth snakes. Hunter Ben (Dana Andrews) loses his dog Trouble in the Swamp in an early scene, and he decides to go back and find the poor hound, against the half joking, half serious advice of the townspeople congregating at the General Store. There's a disturbing moment in this scene when two ruffians offer to drown some unwanted kittens, and round the poor felines up in a burlap sack before leaving to do the dirty deed. One of the kittens is momentarily spared by feral local girl Julie (Anne Baxter in one of the most unusual roles of her long career), until she's instructed in no uncertain terms to hand the little critter over so that it can be killed. This is unusually brutal and visceral filmmaking for that era, and it sets a troubling tone that is touched upon often times in various ways throughout the rest of the film.
Once Ben ventures into the Swamp, he's soon accosted by fugitive Tom Keefer (Walter Brennan in one of his few top billed roles), a man who insists he was wrongly accused of murder and who had escaped custody years previously and has spent the intervening time hiding out in the labyrinthine nooks and crannies of the Okefenokee wilderness. Tom and Ben forge an unlikely friendship (after a brief opening scuffle), something which deepens when Tom reveals to Ben that Julie is actually Tom's daughter. That sets up the dual ends of the plot arc, which find Ben and Julie becoming romantically involved while Ben uncovers information about Tom's wrongful conviction. Playing out within these ends are a number of central subplots, one including Ben's father (Walter Huston) and his wife (Mary Howard), a woman who doesn't seem especially displeased when a hapless local townsman (John Carradine) shows more than a passing interest in her. There are also a couple of ne'er-do-well men (Ward Bond is one of them) who lurk around the edges of the film and give it some added sinister content.
This is extremely moody filmmaking, more focused on character than big plot movements, and in a way the star of the film is Peverell Marley's unbelievably sumptuous cinematography (IMDb lists Lucien Ballard as an additional uncredited cinematographer). This is simply some of the most gorgeous black and white cinematography of its era, a lot of it done on location in the Okefenokee Swamp. Light dapples on the characters and shadows spill across the frame in some of the most beautiful chiaroscuro lighting effects of the forties. This film presages the then nascent noir idiom, both in tone and look, if not in style or content. Brennan has come in for some critical brickbats for his work in this film, but he's actually incredibly subdued and memorable in an extremely unusual role. Andrews was always something of a cipher in his film career, but he's also unusually good in this film, as is Baxter, in a role that can only be described as part Johnny Belinda, part Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.
Swamp Water Blu-ray, Video Quality
This is what classic black and white cinematography should look like! Swamp Water is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Twilight Time with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.33:1. This high definition presentation is one of the most gloriously beautiful black and white transfers in recent memory, with lustrous gray scale, deep, rich blacks, and glistening whites. Shadow detail is superb and the incredible lighting effects are resplendent throughout. There is some quite noticeable damage running through this presentation, including a long black scratch that reoccurs on the left side of the frame with some regularity. The only minor quibble some may have with the transfer itself is some extremely minor and transitory shimmer and aliasing on some of the moss strewn trees in the Okefenokee Swamp, but even this anomaly is short-lived and not very distracting.
Swamp Water Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Swamp Water's original soundtrack is delivered via a serviceable DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track. While fidelity is excellent, and there's no real damage to report, the track has the generally boxy sound of an early forties feature, something that actually is more noticeable in the score than in the actual dialogue. Everything is cleanly and clearly presented, and there's really not even an egregious hiss to report, but the midrange is definitely this track's strong suit, while highs and lows fall off somewhat.
Swamp Water Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Isolated Score, a Twilight Time hallmark, offers David Buttolph's moody score in mono, delivered via a DTS-HD Master 2.0 mix.
Swamp Water Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
One of the pull quotes on the back cover of this Blu-ray release of Swamp Water calls the film "Faulkneresque", and there's certainly that Southern Gothic feeling running through this film in abundance. This is a bit more soap operatic than most Faulkner, at least in Faulkner's original literary form (he didn't always translate very well to film), and it must be admitted that this may not in fact even be a "true" Renoir film, if scuttlebutt about its convoluted production history is to be believed. But there's equally something undeniably Renoirian about this film, especially with regard to its lush visuals, which remain the film's single most striking aspect. This won't be a film that suits everyone's tastes, but for those who love Renoir, or who are in the mood for something decidedly different, Swamp Water is a fascinating case study in an auteur struggling to escape the confines of the studio system. Highly recommended.
Use the thumbs up and thumbs down icons to agree or disagree that the title is similar to Swamp Water. You can also suggest completely new similar titles to Swamp Water in the search box below.
Similar titles suggested by members
Swamp Water Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Swamp Water Blu-ray - November 10, 2011
Specialty label Twilight Time has revealed that it is planning to release on Blu-ray Jean Renoir's Swamp Time (1941), starring Walter Brennan, Walter Huston, Anne Baxter, and Dana Andrews. The exact technical specs and supplemental features to be included on ...
Swamp Water Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
Swamp Water Blu-ray Screenshots
Back to Swamp Water Blu-ray »
Trending Blu-ray Movies
Trending in Theaters
This web site is not affiliated with the Blu-ray Disc Association.
All trademarks are the property of the respective trademark owners.
© 2002-2014 Blu-ray.com. All rights reserved.