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Swamp Thing (1982) - Blu-ray Review

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Swamp Thing (1980)

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3 stars

Released years before the Alan Moore revisions of DC Comics Universe’s environmentally concerned soul crusader, Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing isn’t so much a superhero movie in the traditional sense as it is a creature feature for the camp crowd of matinee attendees.  Both fun and stupid, Swamp Thing – with only the slightest of budgets – manages to pull off some cheesy fun in the middle of a hot and sticky bog.

The year was 1982 and, while not a banner year for comic book films, quite a good one for writer/director Craven who was finally catching the eye of Hollywood.  Though Swamp Thing appears a mere two years before Craven’s Elm Street classic, one can see the beginning seeds of that nightmare planted here with this rubber-suited monster movie.

The original marketing might have played down the whole comic book angle but Craven’s script doesn’t.  Sure, he combines character’s and truncates some of the basics but the story – like the comic created by writer Len Wein and artist Berni Wrightson – is about Doctor Alec Holland (Ray Wise) whose experiments in botany leads to his rebirth as ol’ Swampy (portrayed by Dick Durock).  Government agent Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau), arrives to the swamps just in time to be Holland’s immediate love interest and bitter enemy of Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan) and his band of cronies who want the Holland’s experiments for themselves.

Shot in South Carolina (posing as deep Louisiana), Swamp Thing gets its green and lush location right but offers more of a campy vibe than people might expect – especially if raised on the character’s current incarnation.  At times, this is a poor man’s episode of The Incredible Hulk (due to the overuse of action-oriented slow motion) and other moments – notice the fades and wipes and other stylized transitions - show a fine use of brains behind the scenes.

Durock, a stunt guy with no formal acting training, is pretty good as the creature (and it should be noted he would return to play the part in the 1989 sequel and the short-lived television show which followed).  Barbeau doesn’t have much to do but take off her shirt, splash around in the swamp, and get rescued by the creature but her presence somehow elevates the picture from staying in a vegetative state.  Also of note is wheelchair-bound sidekick Jude (Reggie Batts) who might annoy some with his quips but does bring some needed comic relief to the picture.

Whether intentional or not, Swamp Thing is an almost perfect imitation of 1950s drive-in horror.  It isn’t funny enough or scary enough to be classified in either category, but the film – even if Craven is still working on his skills as a director – does prove to be entertaining for 90 quick minutes.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Swamp Thing (1980)MPAA Rating: PG.
Runtime:
91 mins.
Director
: Wes Craven
Writer
: Wes Craven
Cast:
Louis Jourdan, Adrienne Barbeau, Ray Wise
Genre
: Horror | Sci-fi
Tagline:
Science transformed him into a monster. Love changed him even more!
Memorable Movie Quote: "A man who loves, gives hostages to fortune.
Distributor:
Embassy Pictures
Home Video Distributor:
Shout Factory
Official Site:
Release Date:
February 19, 1982
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
August 6, 2013

Synopsis: After a violent incident with a special chemical, a research scientist is turned into a swamp plant monster

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Swamp Thing (1980)

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
3 stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
3.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - August 6, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); DVD copy
Region Encoding: A

Presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory, an imprint of Shout! Factory, with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1.  The film – even if it is shot on a low budget - looks great in its high definition, which brings out all of the rich colors of the Louisiana Swamps the title character lives in.  At times, there are dips in the overall quality of the image – some scenes are more reddish than they should be – but this is due to the original budget limitations and not the transfer itself.  Dark moments are crushed a bit by too much film grain.  Colors, however, are sharp throughout and detail is strong throughout.  While it might have benefitted from an audio makeover, the film’s original mono track is delivered via a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There are two separate (and quality) commentaries by Craven (with HorrorHound magazine’s Sean Clark) and Makeup Effects Artist William Munns (with DVD Producer Michael Felsher).  They are both vivid with details about the shoot and the work that went into the film.

Special Features:

The bonus features on the discs (the set does contain both DVD and Blu Ray with identical content) offer more of the same of what Shout! Factory has produced for other titles.  They do mine the vaults and include some new interviews for fans.  The release also includes a photo gallery, the theatrical trailer and three in-depth interviews. The first of these is with star Adrienne Barbeau and discusses her evolution from TV star into unlikely horror icon as well as her nude scene.  The second interview catches up with Reggie Batts, the kid sidekick of the film, now all grown up. The third is with comic book writer Len Wien.

  • Tales From the Swamp with Actress Adrienne Barbeau (17 min)
  • Hey Jude with Actor Reggie Batts (14 min)
  • That Swamp Thing, a Look Back with Len Wein, Creator of Swamp Thing (13 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Photo Gallery

{2jtab: Trailer}

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