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    Horace Cordier
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  • Swamp Thing (Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack)

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: August 6, 2013.
    Director: Ray Wise, Dick Durock, Adrienne Barbeau
    Year: 1982
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    The Movie:

    Wes Craven's goofiest and most atypical film (aside from that Meryl Streep thing best forgotten), SWAMP THING has always been a bit of an acquired taste. Watching it recently I was also struck by how far removed it is from the typical "comic book" films of today. Whether it be the unremittingly grim antics of Batman or the loudly assaultive cgi overload of MAN OF STEEL, today's comic book related films rely primarily on deadening overindulgence. SWAMP THING is decidedly an old school product of its era however with emphasis on real stunts (including a pretty spectacular fire one), great practical makeup and fx and genuine humor.

    Based on the DC comic of the same name, this 1982 production is also quite PG in both spirit and actual rating. The legendary "international cut" (not included here, by the way) which MGM accidentally issued years ago contained some brief nudity from actress Adrianne Barbeau but wasn't exactly awash in explicit violence. SWAMP THING just isn't that kind of movie - hard as that is to believe from the dude who gave us Freddy Krueger.

    The plot is a basic monster movie revenge mad scientist setup with brother and sister team Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise) and his sister Linda working on a formula at their secret lab based in the swamps of Louisiana to create a super intelligent hybrid animal/plant organism. The battle plan is a bit murky but the upshot is that this new creation will be able to survive in the most inhospitable conditions. While making progress on their project the duo is visited by government agent Alice Cable (Barbeau) on an investigation. Romantic feelings start to develop between our very sexy agent and dedicated male scientist. But right after attaining real progress on their project the group is attacked by evil genius/paramilitary guy Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan) who is after the secret formula because he believes he can use to attain immortality (or something). Holland's sister dies and he is left for dead (kinda like the Punisher) after a nifty fire stunt and chemical drenching that ends with him fleeing into the swamp. Agent Cable also manages to escape - but without the chemical bath. Of course we know how Holland is coming back - as an overgrown head of cabbage that's been left in stagnant water too long. And there's also the matter of Arcane now having that formula...

    Like Cronenberg's THE FLY, SWAMP THING is a genre flick with a love story that actually works. But unlike the Cronenberg film with its genuinely horrific physical deformities this movie is going for more of a "fun gross" vibe with the leafy monster trying to protect his human love interest from the hambone clutches of Dr. Arcane (who is now messing with the stolen formula for himself with predictably disastrous results) and his henchmen. And what henchmen they are. The late great duo of David Hess (channeling a PG Krug from LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT) and character actor powerhouse Nicolas Worth (DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE and THE RAPE OF RICHARD BECK) as Arcane's thoroughly ridiculous heavies.

    One of the chief complaints about SWAMP THING back in the day was that it wasn't very scary or edgy, which seems silly. This is a horror COMEDY and closer in spirit to films like THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN than a nasty piece of work like LAST HOUSE. The script - penned by Craven - sports the kind of goofy dialog you'd hear in something like FLASH GORDON. It's also filmed in very particular style to evoke the feel of the panels of a comic book with a lot of cheesy screen wipes and dissolves. But put yourself in the right frame of mind and it all comes together nicely. This one is not to be taken seriously. And that's a good thing!


    Shout Factory delivers SWAMP THING in a serviceable and highly watchable 1080p 1.85:1 framed AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer that gets the job done. There is a lot of softness in the image here but that is the product of the original photography. Detail is significantly improved from previous DVD editions. There is also a bit of a hazy look to portions of the film but my research tells me that that has to do with lens effects used during filming. What it boils down to is this: Shout have delivered a transfer faithful to the original elements and avoided the pitfalls of overzealous DNR and video manipulation.

    The audio is a very nice English DTS-HD Master 2.0 Mono presentation. Not much to report here - it's faithful to original elements and has strong clarity and a well- balanced mix. What more do you want? And kudos to Shout for not messing around with newly created surround mixes that often go horribly wrong.

    Extras are plentiful and good. Two audio commentaries - one with Craven and the other with makeup man William Munns. Craven is an old hand at this stuff and keeps the info and anecdotes flowing nicely. He covers the bases about casting, shooting, budget and everything else. Munn's track is full of more technical info and a personal career overview but he's a very informative guy and has some terrific stories.

    Barbeau sits for a 17 minute interview where she really shines with both a career recap and some cool SWAMP THING memories. A very enjoyable listen. We also get a nice chat with supporting actor Reggie Batts in a separate featurette as well as comic writerLen Wein - the creator of the Swamp Thing character. Finally we get an HD trailer and decent still gallery. A comprehensive selection of extras with a strong focus which is quite nice.

    The Final Word:

    Check your brain at the door and enjoy some goofy old school comedy horror fun. Approach this one the right way and you'll have a blast. Sure it's silly but it's also a great way to decompress from all those overheated action movies based on current comic books that are giving you a migraine.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

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