Swamp Thing (Shout! Factory, PG)

Swamp-Thing 75If you can just go with the ridiculousness of it all, MST3K-style, you’ll be fine.

Swamp-Thing 500

Swamp Thing is certainly not Wes Craven’s best film, but it comes at an interesting point in his career and shows him trying to do something different. That he

doesn’t entirely succeed is undeniable, but it’s a fun film and also interesting because it forms a bridge between Craven’s early, low budget, extremely violent films (the 1972 The Last House on the Left and the 1977 The Hills Have Eyes being emblematic of that period) and his more mainstream films beginning with A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984.

The titular character was created for DC Comics by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, and Craven built a horror/science fiction spoof around him. It’s clear from the start of the film that nothing is meant to be taken seriously. If you build a drinking game around all the movie clichés Craven manages to work in and send up, you’ll be under the table long before the closing credits, which would be a shame, actually, because this is a good-natured film that’s easy to enjoy, even if it’s not exactly Academy Award material.

Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise) and his sister Linda (Nannette Brown) are working on a top secret program in some unnamed Southern swamp—their goal is to create a formula to foster growing food in any environment (or something like that—it’s the MacGuffin of the film). It turns out that the magic formula can also turn people into half-human/half-vegetable creatures, and that’s what happens to Alec after he’s accidentally splashed with the preternaturally-glowing stuff. Meanwhile, the evil and effete Dr. Anton Arcane (a surprisingly game Louis Jourdan) wants to get his hands on the stuff, and he’s accompanied by a crew of baddies including a Sly Stallone look-alike, complete with combat fatigues and a red bandana. And let’s not forget the Urkel-like Jude, a good guy played by Reggie Batts in what seems to have been his only film role.

Of course, government inspector Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) comes into peril courtesy of the baddies, and you can guess that the Swamp Thing (now played by Dick Durock) will turn up when needed. There’s even a nifty swordfight in the swamp between Swamp Thing and whatever Jourdan has turned into (sort of a half-Wolfman) after he comes into contact with the magic potion. If you can just go with the ridiculousness of it all, MST3K-style, you’ll be fine.

Reportedly, Craven didn’t have much of a budget to work with, and it shows. Still, Swamp Thing’s design is sort of cool—imagine a guy in a body suit with leaf motifs and a head like a miniature Creature from the Black Lagoon—and it’s always wise to keep in mind the real point of it all: with this film, Wes Craven convinced the studios he could do more than shock horror, so he made Nightmare on Elm Street, and the rest is history.

Shout! Factory has released Swamp Thing in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack (the Blu-Ray really makes the colors pop), with a generous selection of extras, including two audio commentaries by Craven and makeup effects artist Bill Munn; interview featurettes with Barbeau (17 min.), Batts (14:30), and writer/creator Len Wein (13 min.); four photo galleries, and the film’s trailer. | Sarah Boslaugh

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply