Rental Review - Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing (1982), PG, 91 minutes - I've been on a bit of a Swamp Thing kick lately.  I recently finished reading two comic book runs that I've never heard anything other than high praise for.  One was the recently completed Scott Snyder/Yanick Paquette Swamp Thing re-launch that was part of DC's New 52 beginning in 2011.  The other was the Alan Moore/Stephen Bissette run from the mid-'80's that is widely regarded as one of the best comic runs ever.  Both were excellent and they piqued my interest in revisiting Wes Craven's film from 1982.  I've always known that the movie was based on the comic book (or at least the characters therein), but now having a better understanding of the characters and their back stories, I was curious to see how closely Craven's vision followed the source material of Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson's creation.

It's been a number of years since I have watched Swamp Thing, a monster movie from the days of my youth. I know that I had seen it at some point but really had no recollection of what happened.  The film actually keeps a number of basic character/story points in tact from the accepted comic continuity.  There are some changes (which I will touch on in the spoiler section below - should I even worry about spoilers for a thirty one year old movie?), but nothing that drastically changes the character's origin story, which is essentially what the film is.  This was a pleasant surprise considering that it was made at a time when adapting comic book properties was not commonplace (as it is today), and when appealing to the world's comic nerds certainly wasn't anything that production companies worried about.

Swamp Thing picks up with Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) traveling to Dr. Alec Holland's (Ray Wise) research facility buried deep in an undisclosed swamp.  Holland is a botanist trying to create a formula that will allow for the creation of an animal/plant hybrid that can thrive in the harshest climates.  Unfortunately, he is not the only one trying to achieve such a result.  Rival scientist Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan) infiltrates the Holland facility and attempts to steal both the formula and the research.  Holland attempts to destroy the formula and in the resulting accident he is doused by his own creation and catches fire.  He flees the lab and hurls himself into the waters of the swamp.  Arcane retrieves what research he can from the burning lab and orders his men to kill any survivors.  Cable manages to escape along with one of Dr. Holland's research notebooks, but as Arcane's men track her down a creature from the swamp comes to her rescue.  Cable actually finds that this Swamp Thing (played by Dick Durock) comes to her rescue repeatedly as Arcane's goons make multiple attempts at finishing their bosses orders.  Those events set up the second half of the film which sees Arcane's evil plans unfold while also unveiling more details as to just how the Swamp Thing came to be.

Swamp Thing may not be anything more than a B-rate monster flick but I was entertained by it.  I think that my enjoyment of its '80's cheesiness was increased by having read some of the character's long comics history, but I don't think that it is a requirement.  I really appreciated how faithful it was to the source material, even with some of the changes that it did make (i.e. Alice being an analog for Abby Arcane and using Arcane's married name Cable).  With the film now being thirty one years old, I wouldn't suggest tracking down a copy of Swamp Thing unless you're a fan of the comics, old monster flicks, or early Wes Craven projects.  But if you do enjoy any of those things, you'll probably find something there that you appreciate.


- I'm not sure that I ever actually saw 1989's The Return of Swamp Thing, which Craven had nothing to do with, but I do plan on checking it out in the near future. It does have some carry over from this film as both Louis Jourdan and Dick Durock reprise their roles as Anton Arcane and Swamp Thing respectively.  Durock also went on to play Swamp Thing in the television series that ran from 1990-1993. 

- Differences in characters from the comics to the movies:
  • In the comic, Linda Holland is Alec's wife.  In the movie she is his sister.
  • Alice Cable didn't exist in the comics, but she is an analog for Abby Arcane in the movie.  Her last name is Arcane's married name and she also plays Swamp Thing's romantic interest as Abby did in the comics.
  • Anton Arcane still becomes a monster as he did in the comics, although its design in the film is nothing like that in the comics.
- I liked how they touched on Swamp Thing's powers, showing him healing others on a couple of occasions as well as using the energy soaked up from sunlight to regrow his arm.

- Arcane's facility in the swamp was very similar in appearance to the Cable's house in the comics (not that it is an uncommon style house...I mean, it is a plantation style house in the south).

- Arcane appears to die at the end of the film, I am curious to see how the character carries over to 1989's The Return of Swamp Thing.

- There was one scene at Arcane's facility in which a secondary character looked very much like Abby Arcane from the comics but without the black streaks in her hair.  I have no idea if she was meant to be a nod towards Anton Arcane's niece or not, but that's what I thought of when I saw the scene.

- Older films like this make me laugh at how movie ratings have changed over the years.  This film has multiple scenes involving nudity.  One scene really wasn't even necessary at all and could easily be considered gratuitous these days.  But in 1981 it was only rated PG!

- My enjoyment of the Snyder/Paquette and Moore/Bissette runs (that is the order in which I read them) lead me to also read the Brian K. Vaughan run from 2000.  I didn't mention it earlier because it focuses on Alec and Abby's daughter Tefé.


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