MVD Rewind Collection Brings A Campy Comic Book Film To High Definition
For such a bizarre character, Swamp Thing has seen a lot of primetime adaptation. And for someone who’s never read a single Swamp Thing comic book… I’ve seen a whole lot of Swamp Thing in my day. It seems bizarre to think of now, but in my childhood I spent a whole lot of time watching shows on the USA network, and Swamp Thing was right up there on heavy rotation. That show, my first exposure to the character and property, was actually pretty dark and brooding. It felt seedy and dangerous; each episode reminding you to “beware the wrath of Swamp Thing”.
It wasn’t until much later that I experienced the films. Viewing Wes Craven’s 1982 Swamp Thing feature felt really jarring. Dick Durock’s first (?) donning of the swamp suit is a legitimately terrible onscreen look for the character. Running around like a giant green condom, I’ve never quite been able to get past this key element. I might be open to arguments of the film’s quality, but as of now, not even Adrienne Barbeau could convince me to be a fan.
At some point in my youth I must have also seen the sequel in bits and pieces on television, because Heather Locklear has always been wrapped up in the Swamp Thing lore in my brain. But taking a deep dive into Jim Wynorski’s 1989 film The Return Of Swamp Thing was a very fun home video experience and now handily tops all of the Swamp Thing entertainment I recall taking in over my life.
Knowing exactly what it wants to achieve and setting out to do just that, The Return Of Swamp Thing is a humorous and oddly sweet action adventure that wants nothing more than to entertain you with its quirkiness from start to finish, and deliver the mutated, Spanish-moss-ridden, sweaty swamp goods. Louis Jourdan chews the scenery as the villainous Dr. Arcane (returning from the first film), who will stop at nothing to… mutate creatures and… somehow gain eternal life? Dick Durock (who legendarily played Swamp Thing in both films and all 74 episodes of the USA tv show) gets a major upgrade into a suit that looks virtually identical to the one used in the show. The suit functions perfectly in making Swamp Thing look both heroic/menacing, and monstrously freakish. Perhaps most importantly, Heather Locklear stars as the romantic lead. Yes, that’s right, Heather Locklear has eyes for Swamp Thing, and that plays out as amazingly as you’d think it might.
Locklear’s Abby Arcane enters the picture as the villainous Dr. Arcane’s innocent step daughter, who has a somewhat spiritual connection to plants and wants to learn what happened to her mother, long since disappeared without explanation from Dr. Arcane. Locklear isn’t what one might call “good” in the movie, but she’s certainly a willing champ, spouting out humorous dialog and convincingly communicating such a pure and gonzo spirit that falling in love with a plant monster fits right into the bizarre milieu of this world. There are even some comic relief kids who are trying to get a picture of Swamp Thing with their dad’s camera to make a quick buck. This kind of thing can go either way, but these kids are charming and so very late 1980s. Derek Spencer and Grant Morris wrote a movie with a tongue in cheek tone that clicks together to make this comic book adventure feel just right.
The Return Of Swamp Thing is having fun at all times. The comedic elements are all there, whether you like them or not, but the 1980s mutant craze is on full display as well, with tons of bizarre creatures created with practical in-camera effects like the leech man, the roach-faced dude, and my personal favorite, the guy with the elephant growing out of the side of his head. There’s also a bunch of “man in suit” fights and a big “siege the compound” climax that feels straight out of pretty much every 1980s action film.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you The Return Of Swamp Thing is high art. But it is a successful film that achieves all that it sets out to accomplish. Giving the audience all kinds of weird sights, sounds, laughs, explosions, mutants, and even human-on-Swamp-Thing love scenes, it would be virtually impossible not to get a kick out of this fun swamp romp.
The MVD Rewind Collection is really having a great time with their roster of releases, retro packaging, and bonus features. The discs aren’t this super polished, ultra slick product like you get from major studios. There were navigation hiccups in their Black Eagle release. And the discs are adorned with a simple white label. But featuring retro packaging on the slip cover, and reversible art work, as well as a fantastic line up of titles thus far (Return Of Swamp Thing is spine number 5), MVD Rewind is quickly becoming a home video boutique to keep an eye on.
This disc in particular actually does look fantastic, featuring an all-new HD transfer of the movie, and is packed with bonus features. Wynorski has literally over 100 directorial credits to his name (though “his name” is very often a pseudonym) and he’s all over this release with interviews, commentaries, etc. It seems it was easy to bring together a bunch of the talent for interviews on this release since they’re all good friends and have worked together on seemingly dozens of projects. The bonus features are nothing to write home about as individual elements… but as a whole you get a great sense of the humor and family that was behind the creation of this weird monster movie.
And I’m Out.
The Return Of Swamp Thing is now available on Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack from MVD Rewind Collection.