Swamp Thing is based on the popular DC Comics character and couldn’t be any more different than Craven’s previous film, Deadly Blessing. A departure into science fiction for the horror director and one of Adrienne Barbeau’s early genre films, it’s a Beauty and the Beast romance with some industrial sabotage thrown in for good measure. Just released to Blu-ray / DVD by Scream Factory, Swamp Thing is a great blast of nostalgia for kids of the 1980’s.
Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise) has been holed up in the swamps with his sister (Nannette Brown), working on a way to hybridize animal and plant DNA in an attempt solve the world’s hunger problems. Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) enters the picture as a government agent sent to investigate and report on his progress. The two quickly strike up a relationship, but their time together is interrupted when a band of thugs on orders from Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan) break into the compound. They kill Linda, set fire to Dr. Holland, and douse him with the compound he has been working on, turning him into a mutated human/plant hybrid bent on revenge and sworn to protect Alice at any cost.
While the plot isn't anything special, it’s a fun film that manages to juggle the action, fantasy, and love story angles quite well considering the production troubles revealed by Adrienne Barbeau and Wes Craven in the bonus features. Always an admirably open actress, Barbeau gives a warm and well-rounded performance as Alice Cable. Known for being the ample bosomed Carol from TV’s Maude, she makes a believable and likeable heroine. Ray Wise, always a welcome presence, is great here, and David Hess makes an ideal if bumbling baddie. Dick Durock, who plays the creature, is a sympathetic embodiment of the evil that was done to him. Louis Jourdan of course cannot go unmentioned, as his slick and charming villain lends a great deal to the comic book feel of the movie.
A lower budget film and one full of foggy, swampy atmosphere, it doesn’t get as big a boost in high definition as one would hope. The source material is pretty soft to begin with, but as always, close ups have better detail than mid and long shots. It’s a commendable effort and the film’s beautiful locations look great though. Colors are bright and vibrant, and skin tones are natural and clean.
Scream Factory presents Swamp Thing with a nice slate of bonus material, starting with a commentary with Wes Craven. Moderated by Sean Clark, Craven is always an informative and entertaining listen. My only wish is that Adrienne Barbeau was in on this talk. A second commentary with makeup effects artist William Munn follows, moderated by Michael Felsher. Separate interviews with Barbeau, Reggie Batts, and Len Wein (co-creator of Swamp Thing) are next and they’re all worth a look. A photo gallery and a trailer finish things up.
Genre favorites Adrienne Barbeau and David Hess turn in convincing performances in Swamp Thing, a film that can entertain adults as well as kids. While there are some dodgy effects and costume work here, they only add to the 1980’s nostalgia for me. This is worth a look for fans of the Swamp Thing comic book series, as well as those who love Adrienne Barbeau. It also gives Wes Craven fans a chance to see some of his non-horror work.
Film Score: 3/5 Disc Score: 3.5/5