Recently on the absolutely fantastic “The Movies That Made Me” podcast, which is hosted by Josh Olson and Joe Dante, the topic of walking out of films came up. Dante said Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing from 1982 made it OK for him to walk out of a film, after being a die-hard about never walking out of a film. Soon afterwards, I received the chance to review the new Blu-Ray from 88 Films of Swamp Thing, and given Joe’s dismissal of the film, it had me intrigued.
The comic book of Swamp Thing, especially the Alan Moore run, is considered by many to be one of the greatest comic book series in history. The funny thing is that DC Comics only revamped this falling comic book to capitalise on this 1982 film. The ’80s had the first big splat of comic book films after the mammoth success of Superman in 1978, but it wouldn’t be till Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989 that the planets aligned for a bit, and it was still the case—until the X-Men and Spider-Man films at the turn of the century—that superhero/comic-book films were considered a risky project.
Wes Craven is considered by many to be one of the great horror directors, but if you actually go through his filmography, he has one of the most inconsistent track records in the field. Swamp Thing was the first film where he went out of the horror formula with what is basically a campy send-up of the mad scientist films that Craven grew up with in the ’50s. This was probably all Craven could do, because the much deeper take that Moore did was still a year or two away. On the surface, the character itself is just a cheap knock-off of The Incredible Hulk by DC, but with Alan Moore it became something else.
However, the cast for Swamp Thing gives it some psychotronic credibility. Adrienne Barbeau stars as Alice Cable, who is sent down to the swamp to work with Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise). But Anton Arcane wants his science breakthrough for his paramilitary group, and soon Dr. Holland becomes the Swamp Thing. Naturally, he and Alice have to fight back against Arcane and his cronies to make sure he can’t get his hands on all of Holland’s research.
Swamp Thing remains a curiosity, both in Wes Craven’s career and in the ranks of comic book adaptations on screen. It may not completely work, and yes, the special makeup effects are abysmal. And this was same year as The Thing… sigh. Despite everything, though, it remains a fascinating film, and Barbeau gives it enough spunk to prevent it from being a total failure.
The disc that 88 Films has compiled includes the old commentary by Craven and new interviews with production designer Robb Wilson King and critic Kim Newman. The film is presented in the Uncut International Cut, which has some tits and more violence, the US cut was PG! The first run version also includes a nice slipcover, a poster and a booklet.
Joe Bob Briggs is a big fan watch his commentary below.