From its humble DC comic origins through to its decidedly B-Movie appeal, Swamp thing is one of more interesting comic book failures (along with its low budget 1989 sequel The Return Of Swamp Thing from schlock-mister Jim Wynorski). Overwhelmingly camp in places, with some incredibly dated effects work; Swamp Thing’s first foray onto the silver screen does contain a few moments of endearing quality. And with The Good Bad Movie Club doing a 35mm screening this coming March (along with the recent new 52 start by DC Comics), what better time to revisit this cult comic book flick.
One of the films main problems is that it has trouble deciding whether it is for kids, or juvenile adults. It may constantly feel off-kilter, a muddled mess and never really manages to grab the attention long enough, but Swamp Thing has enough charm within its gooey green center that it holds a nostalgic feel (like most 80s comic book adaptations) over all who watch it.
Lets start with a bit of Swamp Thing history for those unfamiliar with the big mean, protect of the green. Originally published in the early 1970s by DC comics and from the creative mind of Len Wein (creator of Wolverine) Swamp Thing has built up an extensive back catalogue of writings, including an interpretation by notorious brilliant comic book writer Alan Moore. Although Alan Moore would have likely got up and thrown the screen out of the window if he saw this all the way through.
Unlike Cravens previous efforts this is a little more light and breezy. This means it contains very little of his darkly comic wit or terrifying sense of dread. But as mentioned before this does contain a few moments that make you warm to its undeniably camp charm.
Most of the early stunts which happen primarily involve bad guys been thrown into the swamp or onto soft looking patches of ground. While towards the films climax there is a marginally enjoyable moment of high camp as our hero takes on another mutated monster (I won’t spoil who that is), which has some considerable sword skills. Not bad when you consider that it is just a bloke in a suit. It becomes strangely hard not to, at the very least, chuckle when the rather hokey looking effects are shown. But then that is all part of the films appeal, the moments of high camp truly giving off the feel of a comic book come to life.
Well a comic book coming to life is all well and good but the performances are more wooden and C-grade then the trees surrounding the swamp at times. That said the late great psycho for hire David Hess provides an entertaining performance as the lead henchman (along with some of the better lines). He chews the scenery almost as much as head honcho Louis Jourdan, producing a good portion of the films more enjoyable moments. His attempted seduction of Adrienne Barbeau’s feisty researcher, only to be promptly abuse – in a rather sensitive male area, is certainly an enjoyably lighthearted sequence. It is almost as if his character is a distant (and less perverse) relative of Krug from Last House On The Left. Plus if any of the guys (or girls) out there had a thing for Barbeau in the 80s, there is a titillating skinny dipping scene for the well-intentioned pervert.
Its clear how over the years this has gained a steady cult following and as a piece of entertaining hokum, it has more then its fair share of silly moments. One thing it does do (at times) is make one pine for the good old days of CGI free monster films, when men wore suits and a suspension of disbelief took care of the rest. In hindsight 80s genre films where certainly a breed unto their own particularly in the case of Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing. And even if time has not been kind to its aged effects and action scenes, its cult following has made it live a long and more fulfilled life long after its cinema release. Here’s looking forward to March and the first 35mm print to be screened in England for a very long time.
Louis Jourdan … Dr. Anton Arcane
Adrienne Barbeau … Alice Cable
Ray Wise … Doctor Alec Holland
David Hess … Ferret
Nicholas Worth … Bruno
Don Knight … Harry Ritter
Al Ruban … Charlie
Dick Durock … Swamp Thing
Directed By … Wes Craven