Science transformed him into a monster. Love changed him even more!
Year of Release: 1982
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Running Time: 91 minutes (1:31)
Director: Wes Craven
Louis Jourdan ... Arcane
Adrienne Barbeau ... Alice Cable
Ray Wise ... Dr. Alec Holland
David Hess ... Ferret
Nicholas Worth ... Bruno
Reggie Batts ... Jude
Don Knight ... Ritter
Al Ruban ... Charlie
Dick Durock ... Swamp Thing
Ben Bates ... Arcane Monster
Tommy Madden ... Little Bruno
A group of scientists join forces to create a potion to halt world hunger by making things grow to enormous proportions. Chaos breaks loose when the experiment in the swamplands of Florida is attacked by two thugs who want to steal the secret potion. During the struggle, the scientist is covered with the flaming potion - dives into the swamp and emerges as Swamp Thing.
Swamp Thing, remindin' us that when Ray Wise says "there is great beauty in the swamp - if you know where to look," it's just his cute little way of talkin' about Adrienne's Barbobos. I mean seriously, what's beautiful about pickin' leeches the size of a Czechoslovakian marital aid offa your butt cheeks? Or perhaps he was referrin' to that magic moment when you notice what looks like an oil slick in the water, only to realize the goo in the center is actually a wad of chaw that got flipped outta the lip of somebody filmin' an episode of Swamp People. I dunno about anybody else, but about the only way I can imagine beauty in the swamp is if a gator was to get ahold of Bobby Jindal durin' a fan boat ride.
An speakin' of hopeless bastions of all things unsuccessful, Skunky Hernandez finally gave up on any kinda large scale plan involvin' my last four hours of indentured servitude, an decided to have me nail up some new boards in his barn to cover up all the woodpecker holes so his cattle'll stop freezin' to each other when they try bunchin' up in the winter time. Which is somethin' I've suggested doin' approximately 37 times since last February when I noticed he was havin' to get up at 5 in the AM every day to pry his herd apart with a shovel, an it's only even happenin' now because the man's prolly clinically depressed at this point. But anyhow, after my final four hours were up an I'd gotten all the holes patched up, I started smellin' smoke from inside Skunky's barn an stepped outside to find what appeared to be the rapture burnin' down the adjoinin' hillside an headed straight for Skunky's property. So I ran over to Skunky's hammock to rouse 'im, cept it took about five minutes for me to build up enough momentum to sling 'im outta there an onto his bib overall'd backside, an by the time he figured out what I was tellin' 'im his eyes bulged out like he was in a Ren & Stimpy cartoon an he started screamin' somethin' in Spanish like Desi Arnaz. It would seem that the county thought it'd be a real good idea to add three guys who'd been locked up for arson to their controlled burn prison crew, an the damnedest thing happened. Burnt up every inch of land in a 75 acre radius... right up to Skunky's property line, where the fire was stopped dead in its toasty tracks by the only thing that'll grow in that soil: Dwarf Sage, which burns about as good as a water-logged radial. So with mosta their forest burnt up, all the deer, elk, rabbits, pine squirrels, an prolly some other critters I ain't seen yet've taken up residence in Skunky's cow pasture, an he's started chargin' tourists $20 a car load to check out his "nature reserve." Course, given what happened a coupla weeks back, now Reverend Dollarhide's scared scatless thinkin' this is a sign from God, an that Saint Skunky was saved from the blaze due to his religious devotion to His Big Cheesiness, who wanted to make it clear that He ain't about to stand for Dollarhide's crapola. Dollarhide ended up commutin' the excommunications of all the victims involved in what's now bein' called "the Reefer Sadness" incident, but I expect that's just cause this is what those kinda people do when they think the big guy's P.O.'d at 'em. I'll prolly head over to the Land of the Rising Son church over in the Japanese district the next time I need savin' anyway. Everybody's just so much calmer over there, an when the sermon's over they letcha make little origami cranes outta the hymn sheets. So I guess all's well that ends well; Skunky's rakin' it in ham over hock, Dollarhide's hailin' Mary so hard she hadda take 'er phone off the hook, an as for me? I'm finally free of the judicial BS, an I got Swamp Thing on the tube. I think we can pretty plainly see who the real winner in all this is.
I like Swamp Thing alright enough, but I think we can all agree that Wes Craven's at his best when he's tellin' Rob Englund how he wants somebody's head cut off, or yellin' at one of the grips to get Mike Berryman a bottle of water before he dies from heat exhaustion. Still, you've gotta give 'im credit for not only castin' the 37 year old Adrienne Barbeau as the heroine, but also showin' some decency in lettin' 'er pop 'er top even after 'er Barbewbs would've been considered "past their prime." They'd never do that now, cause these days if you're over 20 an your breasts can't withstand those G Force tests they put the astronauts through without remainin' perfectly still, you're considered too floppy. So to thank Wes for remindin' us that women can still be attractive even after they're old enough to join you at the bar, I've assembled a few bits of conventional wisdom that I'd like to share to prove I wasn't just watchin' this to see Adrienne Barbeau get nekkid. First, an elixir that explodes when it contacts a solid surface is perfectly safe to toss back an slosh around in your stomach with your digestive acids. I mean, yeah, it'll turn you into the mascot of the Arkansas Razorbacks, but I figured for sure Dr. Arcane was about to experience some serious internal combustion after takin' a swig of that stuff. Second, when Adrienne Barbeau's been stabbed in the chest an you've got the healin' touch in the palm of your hand, no court'll ever convict you of sexual harassment. An third, a woman with the hots for the Swamp Thing's Swamp Thang can easily work out a fairly realistic fantasy scenario usin' nothin' more than props taken from the vegetable crisper. Kinda like how Twilight fangirls put their dildos in the freezer, cause as I understand it, all that glitters is cold. But after watchin' this one all the way through, one question continues to plague my mind, an that is; if Ray Wise is tryin' to accomplish the same thing as Donald Pleasence in The Mutations, how come Ray ends up bein' the hero, while Donald's gettin' so much heat from the locals that he hasta spend his weekends tryin' to scrape the egg yolk offa his 1968 Pontiac GTO without scratchin' the paint? I mean, what's the deal here? Does Donald just have a lousy PR staff or somethin'? Now sure, the precise methods of each scientist are slightly different, but both guys're tryin' to wipe out world hunger. Donald's simply takin' a more direct approach, an tryin' to turn everybody into sentient sycamore trees that can plant themselves in the ground anytime they needa photosynthesize some grub. But they're still both mixin' plant an animal cells together, an at least Donald wasn't tryin' to make cattle taste like tofu, so what gives? Maybe Swamp Thing just gets all the glory for crushin' David Hess's head, cause I know that after seein' 'im in Last House on the Left, that guy couldn't die slow enough for me. I still say Donald got the hose, though.
The movie begins with Adrienne Barbeau gettin' choppered into the swamp, while Krug Stillo's leadin' all these camo-clad ROTC drop-outs towards the secret FDA research facility for advanced vegetal studies. Once Adrienne lands, this weenie, who's gone about half scooters, tags out an hops on board the chopper cause he can't stand the sound of the banjo music anymore. So while Krug's out in the bayou whippin' out his trouser snake an lettin' it leave poison hickies all over one of the FDA guys, Adrienne an 'er travel agent (Charlie) finally make it to the base, where he introduces 'er to Ritter. Ritter's in charge of the operation an basically runs around actin' like a strung out play director who's constantly on the verge of havin' a heart attack. Then Charlie takes 'er into this big industrial greenhouse where these two scientists (Alec an Linda) are fishin' around in a scum pond tryin' to catch this critter that musta stole their keys or somethin', til we find out the critter's got some kinda herpes parasite that they need for their rutabaga research. Alec really likes Adrienne on account of her bein' the only woman on site that he hasn't engaged in sissy slap fights with in the backseat of his parents' station wagon, so he decides to help 'er head out into the swamp to find this sensor with a blown head valve, an once they finally locate it it looks like somebody crushed it into a Borg cube. Then they head back to the research station where Ritter's goin' apeshit cause he's afraid Adrienne mighta drained all the blood outta Alec's brain an derailed his train of thought to the point that he can't do science stuff anymore, til everybody hasta rush into the laboratory after hearin' noises like somebody's dynamite fishin' in the scum pond. Turns out Linda's brewed up this nuclear Mountain Dew that explodes on contact with anything solid, an thought it'd be real funny to scare the crap outta everybody. Then Alec turns his old Trinitron to channel 3 so he can show Adrienne these plant cells he's spliced in with animal cells cause he wants to grow a ficus that can guard a junk yard or somethin'. Cept he gets distracted when he spots a buncha little Tamarack trees sproutin' outta the wooden planks where Linda dribbled the Re-Animator juice an hasta make out with Adrienne without 'er consent so he can calm down enough to send 'er out to find Ritter. Unfortunately, when she heads outside, just about everybody's been massacred by Krug's chunkheads an she ends up havin' to brain Krug with a propane tank before beatin' the tar outta one of his meatbags an blowin' away his mercenaries with an automatic weapon to teach 'em some manners.
Krug needs a coupla extra strength Excedrin tablets in the worst way, an once he downs those he takes the gun away from Adrienne an busts 'er right in the teeth for embarrassin' 'im in front of the guys. Then he drops 'er on the floor of the lab, where Ritter's peelin' off the mask he's been wearin' like a guest villain in a Scooby-Doo cartoon an reveals 'imself to be Dr. Arcane; pompous yuppie jagoff an supervillain extraordinaire. Arcane wants Alec's Hi-C Ecto Cooler recipe, cept when Alec tells 'im to take his beret wearin', pinky finger liftin', wine club organizin' can back to Paris, Arcane ends up shootin' Linda an that makes Alec so mad he hasta douse 'imself with the Slurm an literally blaze a trail toward the swamp where he dives in like Greg Louganis. This doesn't bode well for the local ecology, cause pretty quick the water starts turnin' into Nickelodeon slime an explodin' like Bill Goldberg's entrance pyro, while Krug an his flunkies begin torchin' everything so it'll get hot enough to dry out their swamp asses. Adrienne's able to escape under the cover of darkness, only she hasta go back the next mornin' when she realizes she forgot 'er purse, an Krug drags 'er butt down to the swamp to scrub all the chiggers off the bottom of his boat with 'er Brillo pad hairdo. Fortunately, a P.O.'d asparagus stalk reaches up outta the water an yanks Krug overboard before Adrienne's lungs start lookin' like Jame Gumb's bathtub, an pretty quick the angry avocado flips Krug's boat over like a pancake at the IHOP before carryin' Adrienne off like Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman. By the time it's all over, Krug's got this look on his face like a recently cured deaf guy whose first experience with sound was Rebecca Black's "Friday," but he's eventually able to regroup an organize his swamp honkies an sets out to run the Swamp Thing through the ole Salad Shooter. Then Krug's droogs commit the cardinal sin of any horror movie an split up to cover more ground while a Harry Manfredini composition is playin' in the background, resultin' in a whole lotta redneck snappin' at the hands of the less-than-Jolly Green Giant. Elsewhere, Arcane's lookin' over Alec's biology notes in preparation for his big final exam an puttin' his fingertips on his chin so that everything he says seems real profound, while his receptionist tells 'im about how it's alright that he used to get pants'd in gym class everyday since he grew into a man who can afford to have his own secret lair. Meanwhile, Adrienne makes 'er way to this dilapidated old Mom 'n Pop gas station that looks like it ain't sold nothin' since the Nixon administration so she can use the phone.
Unfortunately, she dunno that Ritter was Arcane in disguise, so when she calls the secret FDA veggie warfare division phone number she gets patched through to Arcane an tells 'im where she's at an he whips his limousine around like he just got halfway home an realized the fry bin jockies at Burger King got his order wrong. Then the 14 year-old shop owner (Jude) Fonzerellis a Coke outta the pop machine for 'er til Arcane an Krug show up an chase 'er all over the Everglades in their camouflage '73 Blazer. But before they can run 'er down like Tony Stewart after a coupla 6-packs, his swampiness starts blockin' the road like a chicken-head solicitin' donations for the Jimmy Swaggart Holy Tabernacle an All Night Brothel fund, resultin' in the Blazer's front end gettin' mashed in like the nose on a Chinese Pug, an its canopy gettin' ripped off like Custer's scalp after the Little Bighorn when they try commitin' vehicular herbicide. Then he starts Black Hole Slammin' alla Krug's goobs like Abyss on an Everclear bender til they decide to split, cept when the swamp man tries helpin' Adrienne outta the bog she acts all stuck up like she's too good to consort with dried up lily pads, an the Swamp Thing gets this look on his face like he just found out his parents were gettin' divorced in the middle of his 8th birthday party. So while the sentient can of string peas goes to brood in the bayou, Jude locates Adrienne an takes 'er to get some dry clothes before she develops a permanent titty rash an paddles 'er out to the remains of the charbroiled laboratory. But back at Arcane's place, Krug an his fat Miguel Ferrer lookin' sidekick (Bruno) tell Arcane about their rumble with mister fungal an Arcane tells 'em to get their hineys back out there an to capture the green machine, but without harmin' one leaf on his head of lettuce or they're gonna be back workin' for Marion Barry by sundown. Elsewhere, Adrienne an Jude're nosin' around the lab rubble lookin' for Alec's last notebook, only the cabbage creole's already there fartin' around, gettin' real mad about the state of his work station, an Adrienne figures it prolly ain't the best time to ask 'im about his feelins. Course, Krug just has the most obnoxious habit of showin' up at the worst possible times, an when he pulls up in his fan boat tryin' to soak Adrienne's shirt again, ole broccoli britches is just a little bit P.O.'d. So within moments the swamp man's all over these guys like mildew on Jigsaw's bathroom tile, an starts flippin' boats like an enraged veggapotamus til Krug's guys finally start gettin' with the program an begin lobbin' grenades at 'im an pumpin' approximately 34,000 rounds of ammunition into 'im, til he finally gets so mad that he commandeers Krug's fan boat an drives it into their spare, destroyin' any chance of 'im gettin' his deposit back.
This gives Adrienne an Jude a chance to escape, only Adrienne starts feelin' like maybe she coulda been a little NICER to the swamp dude after he saved 'er life 46 times in the last half hour, an she tells Jude to get the notebook to President Reagan while she goes to look for the walkin' spinach casserole. Unfortunately, Krug's goons dispatch Jude the moment Adrienne's outta sight, an then haul her off to Arcane's yacht while Aspara Gus's usin' his hippy Wiccan nature powers to bring Jude back to life. Meanwhile, Krug's out on Arcane's boat gettin' fresh with Adrienne til she gets tired of it an hasta put 'er knee cap into his groin an squash his radishes, before divin' off the port bow an swimmin' for shore. Krug swims after 'er even though the doggy paddle really smarts after bein' kneed in the giblets, but unfortunately for him, the slaughtercress salad's waitin' for 'im on the bank, an once Krug chops off one of his celery stalks with a machete the marsh man gets tired of messin' with 'im an puts the iron claw on his skull til it cracks like a taco salad bowl. Awhile later, Adrienne wakes up at the Swamp Thing's lily pad an finally figures out that it's just Alec under all that rock moss an everybody has a good laugh about the situation. But this momentary lapse in vigilance allows Krug an company to trap 'im in a Tupperware container to lock in his freshness, at which point they proceed to carry 'im back to Arcane's place. Arcane is stoked, an once he's able to brew up his own nuclear St. Patrick's Day beer, he throws a big party an declares Bruno the guest of honor for findin' Alec's missin' notebook. But bizarrely, the man seeking world domination has secretly replaced Bruno's Folgers crystals with the Herbert West house brand an pretty quick Bruno starts slobberin' an actin' like a 6 year-old kid whose mama wouldn't buy 'im a Milky Way bar at the check out counter, before turnin' into a the offspring of John Candy an Arnold Ziffle. Arcane is P.O.'d, an yanks Bruno out of his trough so he can take 'im down to the dungeon an show that green morasshole what happened to his best oaf after ingestin' the Mean Green Puncher. So once the bipedal kale smoothie quits gigglin' to 'imself, he explains to Arcane that the Chernobyl tap water simply amplifies the subject's inner-most self, an that feedin' it to a sack of sweaty pork rinds prolly wasn't the best possible use of it. Naturally, Arcane heads back upstairs an takes a big swig for 'imself to find out what he's really made of, an promptly turns into were-pig who's none too thrilled with the fact that his only chance for employment is now runnin' up an down the sidelines at Arkansas Razorback games squealin' like Ned Beatty. I'll be cuttin' it off here, so if you wanna check out the battle of the stuntmen wearin' latex body suits, you're just gonna have to go buy a copy for yourself.
Alrighty, well, it's not exactly the kinda traumatizing experience you might expect from Wes Craven after having witnessed The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, is it? I dunno about anybody else, but when I'm watching Swamp Thing, I'd probably never guess it was one of his without the aid of the opening credits. And of course, back in those days, when you made a movie based on a comic book, it was almost always goofy, and that's plain to see in Swamp Thing. That doesn't mean it can't still be good, or even deathly serious at times, but when you see that PG rating stamped on the box you're pretty well assured that things aren't gonna be causing your kids nightmares any time soon. It's still a fun movie, but if you were to compare it to say, Dawn of the Dead, which also has that intentional comic book feel to it, there's no comparing the two. This is just my personal opinion of course, because looking at the movie in terms of how they wanted it to come out, I think they pretty well nailed it. Essentially, it's a parody of the 1950s mad science run amok sci-fi movies of the era, and it works perfectly when observed with this in mind. It's just not what I want in a horror movie, and really, even though the IMDB lists the movie's genres as "Horror/Science Fiction", it isn't. You've got maybe two scenes that you could quantify as horror, those being Louis Jourdan's transformation scene (which has special effects so bad Ed Wood would've scoffed at them), and the scene where Dick Durock crushes David Hess's head like a cantaloupe. Durock is pretty good as the Swamp Thing though, which is interesting considering he was originally only brought in as a stuntman. The crew discovered that he and Ray Wise were simply too different in terms of physical appearance and size, and opted to relegate Wise strictly to the pre-mutation role. Which is not only the right call, but also a real boon for the director, because now Durock can do his own stunts. I will admit that casting stuntmen in critical monster/villain roles doesn't always work out, but when it does, it often works out far better than it would have with a traditional actor. Take the Friday the 13th series for instance, and look at the difference between how well Kane Hodder or Ted White portray Jason, versus how well say, Ken Kirzinger did. That guy stunk it up pretty bad in Freddy vs. Jason, it's just less noticeable with that god awful plot and the rotten CG effects comin' at you all at once. I'm not sure if it was Durock in the suit for the scene where Ray Wise's character runs from the burning building to the dock while on fire, but whoever did that stunt had some serious guts, because they had to be on fire for a LONG time.
But anyway, prolly about time to prune this thing and see how bad its lettuce is startin' to rot. The plot is really, really bare bones. They lay out the premise well enough, but the moment Ray Wise becomes the Swamp Thing, we've basically got David Hess and his junior varsity drop-outs chasin' Dick Durock and Adrienne Barbeau around the swamp for 75 minutes with an occasional flunkie pummeling sequence. Doesn't really bother me all that much, and it certainly keeps the plot moving, but it wouldn't be wise to go looking for some deeper meaning in this hilarity. The acting is pretty decent, and probably the high point, with Adrienne Barbeau bein' an excellent sport about gettin' chased through a whole lot of nasty water for most of the runtime. She even gets nekkid a coupla times, but most of that's only in the European cut because the MPAA made Wes cut it outta there to get a PG rating. The PG-13 rating wasn't introduced until two years later, so he was looking at an R if he wanted to leave that boobage in there, and didn't really have much of a choice. Louis Jourdan isn't bad as Dr. Arcane, and Dick Durock is also entertaining as the Swamp Thing, but my favorite performance would have to be David Hess as the sadistic, yet dorky "Ferret." Hess was always one of my favorite character actors, despite never really getting the credit he deserved as an actor. Here's who matters and why (less Adrienne Barbeau, cause duh): Louis Jourdan (The Return of Swamp Thing, Count Dracula 1977, Ritual of Evil, Fear No Evil), Ray Wise (RoboCop, Jeepers Creepers II, X-Men: First Class, The Lazarus Effect, Jurassic City, Dead Still, Digging Up the Marrow, Suburban Gothic, Tom Holland's Twisted Tales, Big Ass Spider!, Chillerama, Infestation, Pandemic, One Missed Call, Dead End 2003, The Rift, Cat People 1982), David Hess (The Last House on the Left 1972, House on the Edge of the Park, Cabin Fever, Smash Cut, The Absence of Light, Zombie Nation, Body Count), Nicholas Worth (Darkman, Starforce, Blood Dolls, Timelock, Hologram Man, Circuitry Man II, Hell Comes to Frogtown, The Hills Have Eyes Part II, Invitation to Hell, Don't Answer the Phone!, The Terminal Man, Scream Blacula Scream), Dick Durock (The Return of Swamp Thing & the 1990 Swamp Thing TV series, Remote Control), Mimi Craven (Vampire Clan, Mikey, Grand Tour: Disaster in Time, Servants of Twilight, Chiller, A Nightmare on Elm Street), Tommy Madden (The Lord of the Rings 1978, Breakfast of Aliens). And for you poor unfortunate souls hopelessly addicted to mainstream bullstuff, it might interest you to know that Louis Jourdan played Kamal in Octopussy, as well as Gaston Lachaille in Gigi. Ray Wise would likely be best remembered as LeLand Palmer in the Twin Peaks series, The Devil on Reaper, and should be particularly ashamed of himself for the recurring role of Ian Ward on The Young and the Restless.
The special effects... don't exactly hold up well over time. The Swamp Thing suit is alright, but getting a bit on the hokey side some 33 years after the fact. The pig-man costume that spawns out of Dr. Arcane's reckless chugging of the Re-Animator serum is laughable even by 1982 standards. You almost get the idea that they were just about done filming, analyzed their dailies, and decided said suit wasn't exactly going to be the element that would either make or break their movie and said "the hell with it." That's the point in the movie where everything kinda stops being deliberately corny and goes full Troma. Other than those two critical effects, you've also got the pig-man makeup on the shrunken Bruno, which is honestly the best effect in the movie, the Swamp Thing's regenerative severed arm, which is rather terrible, and a bit of blood on David Hess when he's gettin' his head squeezed by his greenness. So the effects are kinda detrimental when you get right down to it. The shooting locations are fantastic, and very well photographed by cinematographer Robbie Greenberg. Despite being set in Louisiana (or Florida if you prefer the back cover synopsis), all the swamp photography was done in South Carolina, and adds some much needed authenticity to a movie that was never going to have much of it due to the subject matter. Exceptional work, and very well scouted by the location crew. The soundtrack, I find so hilariously out of place that it actually endears itself to you on a surreal level. The scoring was done by Harry Manfredini who is, of course, best known for composing just about everything that's ever been done musically for the Friday the 13th series. The problem arises from the fact that the differences between the score for Swamp Thing and the score from any given Friday the 13th movie (two of which had been released fairly recently at the time) are barely perceptible. It's a bit less manic, but Manfredini's style is completely unmistakeable, and it's impossible not to spend the entire movie fully expecting Jason to jump out from behind a tree and start hackin' up the Swamp Thing. Additionally, because it's so similar to a Friday the 13th soundtrack, there are a lot of scenes with music that's far too tense for a movie this silly, and the hilariousness of the situation only adds that much more zaniness to a movie that wasn't exactly lacking it to begin with. Overall, the camp factor here is high, and does an exceptional job of keeping the movie entertaining and fun. But in general, it hasn't aged well and should only be viewed as the goofy flick it was intended to be.