Release Date(s)1982 (August 6, 2013)
Swamp Thing is Wes Craven’s cult classic movie about a scientist who is genetically transformed into a swamp-like creature after an accident in a laboratory caused by the evil Arcane. The story and the character came from a comic book of the same name by DC Comics. The film was successful enough to warrant a sequel, a TV series, a cartoon series, video games and other merchandise.
Swamp Thing is also Wes Craven’s attempt at making a bigger budgeted movie, and perhaps show other interested producers that he could do these kinds of movies. At that time, he was mostly known for the exploitation classics The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. His previous film, Deadly Blessing, had just been released and it would be another couple of years before his big success with A Nightmare on Elm Street. So he was in a kind of transition period, more or less a director for hire. Swamp Thing has the distinction of being the less-distinct Craven film in his entire catalogue, mainly because he didn’t come up with the idea on his own.
As for the movie itself, it stars Adrienne Barbeau, Louis Jordan, Ray Wise, Dick Durock and David Hess. It’s set within the swamps of Louisiana, as Swamp Thing attempts to avenge himself against Arcane, but also to protect Barbeau’s character. In complete honesty, it’s not one of the best comic book adaptations out there, nor is it one of Wes Craven’s best films. It’s a guilty pleasure and it has some unintentional humor to it, but is also competent enough to get you through it properly. It’s hard to take it seriously sometimes though. Anyone would be hard-pressed to take a wolf-like creature swinging a sword against a swamp monster seriously, wouldn’t they? And even though the film was a moderate success and generated some favorable, but average, reviews, it didn’t capture the public’s eye that much. But thanks to home video, the film has survived, thanks in no small part (pun intended) to the presence of Adrienne Barbeau and, depending on which cut of the film you watch, Adrienne Barbeau’s breasts. That aside, it’s still a fun movie on its own.
Because the film was shot on a low budget with soft lenses, the Blu-ray presentation of Swamp Thing is not as sharp a film as you would hope for. That being said, it’s still a step up from previous DVD releases in terms of clarity, with thick levels of grain. Colors are nice and strong, most especially (and to be expected) greens and browns, black levels are good, and both contrast and brightness are just ok. And it should go without saying, especially considering the grain levels, but I didn’t notice any signs of an digital manipulation. For the film’s soundtrack, you get an English 2.0 DTS-HD track of the original mono mix. All of the dialogue is clear, and the sound effects come through very well. The score is the least apparent, even though there’s some dynamic range, but not much. It’s an adequate soundtrack, but not an overly punchy one. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
As for the extras, there’s a pleasant assortment to dig through. First up is an audio commentary with writer/director Wes Craven and moderator Sean Clark, another audio commentary with make-up effects artist William Munn and moderator Michael Felsher, an interview entitled Tales From the Swamp with actress Adrienne Barbeau, another interview entitled Hey Jude with actor Reggie Batts, yet another interview entitled That Swamp Thing: a Look Back with Len Wein, Creator of Swamp Thing, the film’s theatrical trailer, a set of photo galleries, and finally, a DVD copy of the film, as well.
To be honest, Wes Craven’s films can really go in either direction when it comes to the quality of the content, but in this instance, it seems that it fell somewhere in the middle between camp and serious. Swamp Thing delivers on cheese. What more could you want from a movie about a guy in a rubber suit? Making its debut on Blu-ray, this is probably a disc that most genre fans will want to pick up and enjoy.
- Tim Salmons