Swamp Thing tells the tale of a swampy good scientist who is left for dead but then comes back as a sweet, yet violent swamp creature who falls in love with John Carpenter's ex-wife. Solid gold filmmaking here by the one and only Wes Craven. MVD Rewind's new 4K transfer with Dolby Vision looks excellent, but the DTS-HD 2.0 audio seems to be the same as the previous release more than a decade ago. There are no brand-new extras, but all of them have been imported over here and are worth watching again. Highly Recommended!
Before he gave the world Freddy Krueger, the legendary, late filmmaker Wes Craven hopped onto the comic book train and adapted the DC Comic book Swamp Thing for the big screen in 1982. What was supposed to be an entirely different take on the creature and property turned into something much more fun, entertaining, and memorable that had developed a cult following over the decades with some famous genre stars including Adrienne Barbeau and Ray Wise. Swamp Thing conjured a sequel film, a television series, and numerous iterations in comic book form over the years. Still, it all started on the silver screen with this funny, slap-sticky original movie with quite a bit of heart and soul.
The Swamp Thing creature was formally a human man named Dr. Alec Holland (Wise), a scientist who was creating the solution to world hunger by allowing plants to grow in any climate or place. Alice Cable (Barbeau) is the researcher who traveled to the remote swamp lands to help the good doctor with his experiments. A madman by the name of Anton Arcane (Louis Jordan) arrives to steal their research for nefarious gains, believing to kill Holland in the process by throwing his own recipe on him and setting the guy on fire. Just like a spider bite or falling into a vat of toxic waste, this violence does not murder Holland, but turns him into Swamp-Thing, a brute, mossy creature who is still a scientist, but has super-human strength and can heal people he chooses to. Throw in a few henchman mercenaries and Swamp Thing has room for plenty of adventures and fight scenes.
At one point, Craven wanted to make a more serious film that capture the essence of the love story between Holland and Cable and dive deep into their research to solve world hunger. And of course, Holland coming to terms with being Swamp Thing. But the studio execs wanted something more pleasing to a general audience, including families, which is why the theatrical cut of the movie is PG and had Swamp-Thing appealing more towards the younger fans than the horror buffs of the '80s. Maybe this is why Craven went knee-deep into the horror and gore in Nightmare on Elm Street two years later. But the way Craven framed this narrative relies more on the suspenseful atmosphere than anything really scary and it works with Swamp Thing and Cable forming a team to take out the bad guys, or at least a Beauty and the Beast scenario full of unbridled and over-the-top romance.
Barbeau, Wise, Jordan, and Dick Duroc (playing the Swamp Creature himself) all turn in fantastic performances and commit to the fun and self-aware entertainment value as the movie plays on. This element along with the likability of Swamp Thing allowed for the studio to make its sequel and gear towards the family-friendly monster going on adventures with kids. The funny thing about that is Craven wanted more violence and nudity in this film where he actually added some additional scenes of the beautiful, naked Barbeau bathing in swamp water.
That version was axed from theaters upon its release in order to gain a wider audience, but when it was released on DVD all those years ago, MGM Studios accidentally put the amazing Barbeau nudity out until one Dallas, Texas woman with nothing better to do, rented the movie at a Blockbuster to show her kids and thought it was the holocaust when her children saw bare-chested Adrienne (pretty much the complete opposite of WWII), complained, made a stink about it nationally, which had MGM recall all copies. Until now, that better cut of the film hasn't seen the light of day on disc.
With or without those two minutes of Adrienne Barbeau, Swamp Thing works on so many levels as one of those early comic book movies where practical effects were king and when it was ok for a swamp creature to fall in love with a woman and save the day. More than forty years later, Swamp Thing is still a breath of fresh air in this wacky comic-book universe that has a family-friendly appeal along with some fun, adventurous fights. Not only that but to see Jordan pay homage to his 007 days is hilarious. This is still a work of wonder and a fantastic great time.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Swamp Thing swims its way to 4K + Blu-ray courtesy of MVD Rewind, Studio Canal, and MGM Studios. This is the inaugural release of MVD's new LaserVision Collection and has the spine number 1. The two discs are housed inside a hard, black plastic case with a cardboard slipcover. Even the discs are designed to look like old LaserDiscs! The artwork features a retro SelectaVision-styled cover with Swamp Thing and Adrianne Barbeau. There is a poster folded up that comes inside the case.
Swamp Thing comes with a wonderful 2160p UHD 4K transfer with Dolby Vision that looks fantastic. This movie has never really looked amazing over the years, but MVD Rewind has finally given it the love it deserves with its new image.
The color palette is finally more natural and allows the swampy greens of the bogs and surrounding forest to flourish. Those nuanced greens are distinguishable now thanks to the Dolby Vision where the grass, leaves, and vines all have their own distinct color. The brown and greenish-grey rubber suits of the creature look amazing as well. The blue sky contrasts nicely with the earthy colors below. The red bandanas and blood, and other brighter primary colors either take place at the start of the film or inside the houses where Arcane hangs his hat. Black levels are now inky and rich for the most part and the skin tones are more natural. The Scream Factory release more than a decade ago had a much brighter image and it looked unnatural. But this new MVD Rewind picture is a bigger improvement and is probably the best the film has ever looked.
The detail is sharp and vivid throughout giving way to that funny rubbery suit Swamp Thing wears. It's very easy to tell it's just a onesie pajama set full of vines and veins that don't really fit the actor as most skin-tight superhero costumes do nowadays. Closeups reveal individual facial hairs, scars, practical makeup applications, beads of sweat, and pores really well. Wider shots still allow for the shrubs, trees, and landscape of the swamp to bring in their natural details. There are still some minor specks of debris on the print and some heavier grain in certain sequences, but overall, this is one major upgrade in the video here.
This release comes with a DTS-HD 2.0 audio track which sounds like the same audio mix from that Scream Factory release years ago. While the 2.0 track sounds very good, it would have been nice to have a bigger and bolder 5.1 option so that the nature sounds could immerse everyone into the swamp land or for the gun blasts to surround each listener. But the case is that the 2.0 audio mix has some great sounding effects that stick its landing, even if they don't pack much of a punch with the bass or in the surround activity. The score is still great which adds to this romantic side of the story and the dialogue is never tin-canny and is always clean, clear, and easy to follow along. There should have been a 5.1 choice here.
There are 101 minutes worth of bonus materials here. All of these were previously on the Scream Factory edition. They are super fun to watch.
Disc One - 4K UHD
Disc Two - Blu-ray
Swamp Thing is still a great time some four decades later. The performances stand true and the action, violence, and romance are a blast to watch unfold on screen. This is one early superhero adventure with a lot of heart directed by the guy who gave the world Ghostface and Freddy Krueger. He knew how to have fun making a movie. The new 4K image from MVD Rewind is excellent and the DTS-HD 2.0 audio track is satisfactory. The bonus feature might not be new, but there is plenty of them and they are all candid and informative. Highly Recommended!