DVD and Blu-ray Combo Review: SWAMP THING
 By Jonathan Stryker (Facebook); Jonathan Stryker (Twitter)

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Source: Jonathan Stryker (Facebook); Jonathan Stryker (Twitter)

Jul 9, 2013, 7:0 AM

Can you believe that it has been 31 years since Wes Craven's SWAMP THING made its way into theaters? I can't, and I didn't even see the film during its initial theatrical RUN. In fact, I didn't even see the film until I watched new Blu-ray.  I've been a fan of Wes Craven's since I saw THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) on a local television station in July 1984, however I was aware of his work when SWAMP THING was released. It was just one of those movies that I never got around to seeing for some reason, despite the fact that my friend kept saying "Cable!" all throughout my high school years.

As far as I know or can tell, SWAMP THING is one of the very few PG-rated movies in Mr. Craven's filmography.  It is most definitely a lot gentler than his previous work such as THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972).  It was made just a few years prior to his very own A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984), the film that introduced us all to Nancy Thompson and the monster inside her head.  It will be released on August 6, 2013 on a DVD/Blu-ray combo by Scream Factory. 

SWAMP THING is a film version of the DC Comic that was created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, the latter of whom is best known for CREEPSHOW (1982). It takes place in the Louisiana swamps (faked in South Carolina).  Alec and Linda Holland (Ray Wise and Nannette Brown) are brother and sister scientists who are working on an experiment that is designed to create a plant and animal hybrid that can withstand the extreme temperatures of various environments. The oddly-named Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) works for the government and visits the lab to see what the pair have discovered.  Suddenly, the henchmen of one sinister Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan), headed by the late David Hess, attempt to steal the scientists' formula.  Linda is killed suddenly, and Alec gets doused with the new concoction, erupts in flames and falls jumps into the swamp, only to emerge as the Swamp Thing who is then played by actor Dick Durock from this point on. 

Dr. Arcane believes that this serum will make him live forever, and he will stop at nothing to make sure that he gets his hands on the formula.  Alice begins to fall for Alec/Swamp Thing as she is eluding Dr. Arcane's machine gun-toting minions.  Mr. Hess plays the usual bullying crazy that he was so good at and the supporting cast that surrounds him is a terrific group of menaces.  Young Reggie Batts nearly steals the film as Judd, a ten year-old store proprietor who does everything he can to help Alice escape.

SWAMP THING was originally available on home video on multiple formats.  Although it made its DVD debut in 2000, the discs were pulled from the shelves when it was discovered that the DVD was sourced from the international print which ran 93 minutes in length and contained an additional two minutes of nudity that was not seen in the original 91-minute PG-rated 1982 domestic theatrical exhibition.  Someone got all bent out of shape over boobs, and so MGM reissued the movie on DVD in 2005 in its original version minus the nudity. It is this version that appears on both the new DVD and Blu-ray.

The transfer of the film is excellent; there are a few spots and very small scratches here and there but nothing to distract from your pleasure of watching the image. 

There are some really nice extras on the discs (which are presented equally on both formats). The movie contains two separate full-length commentaries. The first is with writer/director Wes Craven and it is moderated by Sean Clark who horror fans will know from his excellent Horrors Hallowed Grounds tours of horror film shooting locations.  Sean asks Mr. Craven lots of interesting and intelligent questions about the production and the people involved. 

The second commentary is with makeup effects artist William Munns, moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures.  This track is very interesting and insightful as Mr. Munns remembers a great deal about the making of the film.  He discusses having to wait a long time as the financing was secured, and even went to work on a film initially called Witch (later released as SUPERSTITION) in the interim.  He talks about fitting the suit to the actor, discusses how the makeup crew became the scapegoat when filming came to a crawl, some of the dangers of wearing the Swamp Thing suit, the stunts that needed to be done, and how he took over as Swamp Thing when Mr. Durock could no longer perform.    

The bonus features consist of:

"Tales from the Swamp" is an interview with Adrienne Barbeau.  The segment runs 16:56 and Ms. Barbeau is a delight to listen to. She recalls the time that she spent on the film and talks the long hours on the set while they were in South Carolina, and the challenging elements around them. The original script that was given to her by Wes Craven was far more audacious than what ended up on screen. Unfortunately, just as the film went before the cameras, the production company began to chip away the film's budget, necessitating constant rewriting during the course of shooting and many concessions needed to be made.

"Hey, Jude" is the name of the second segment, and this is a fun and entertaining interview with actor Reggie Batts who plays Jude (hence the name!).  It runs 14:30.  Mr. Batts explains how he got the role in the film and was a fan of DC comics. 

The last segment is titled "That Swamp Thing," and it's a look back with creator Len Wein who explains how he came up with the name for the creature, and how he got his start as an animator. The segment runs 13:19.

The original theatrical trailer is also included, and this is in excellent condition, not the usual scratch-ridden mess that we're used to seeing.

The photo galleries consist of posters and lobby cards; photos from the film; William Munn's behind-the-scenes photos; and behind-the-scenes photos by Geoffrey Rayle.

As an added bonus, the DVD/Blu-ray sleeve is reversible and has the French poster artwork under the title of LA CREATURE DU MARAIS, which translates to THE CREATURE OF THE SWAMP.   

Click here to order SWAMP THING on Amazon.com.



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