It has been a good year for cult classic movie fans. Killer Klowns from Outer Space just got a new transfer and special edition Blu-Ray release and now The Return of Swamp Thing has released from The Mvd Rewind Collection. I was too young to have seen this film back in 1989, but I remember the toys fondly. Surely the film stands up over time and is well worth the ardor of Swamp Thing fans.
And for the most part, it does if you like campy over the top humor. Surprisingly this film is much more comedy than it is action or even sci-fi. Once you understand it’s more about campy fun and over the top (and sometimes bad) acting you’ll enjoy yourself. This is prime 80s schlock and has plenty to enjoy if you’re into “so bad it’s good” cinema.
This is, of course, a sequel to Wes Craven’s original Swamp Thing but it doesn’t carry over much from the original. Louis Jourdan continues his dastardly ways by playing Anton Arcane and Dick Durock plays Swamp Thing. Aside from that the entire premise is more about superhero versus villain with a strange romantic subplot and plenty of dumbass henchmen to say and do stupid things. Since it’s so campy it’s hard to take it too seriously and it’s difficult to be annoyed when Abigail Arcane (Heather Locklear) falls in love with Swamp Thing seemingly because he’s strong and saves her. It’s worth a look however because it leads to a somewhat erotic and strange sex scene between the two and an interesting happy ending. It’s almost too bad a third film wasn’t made just so we could see Locklear go through the Swamp Thing transformation.
This is much more a superhero movie than a monster film and is evident the minute Swamp Thing shows up. With heroic orchestra, he swoops in to stop a monster from killing some redneck hunters. This same music is played every time he shows up as if he’s Captain America or a G.I. Joe. This is 1989 though so the special effects are all practical and the budget was clearly not so high. Aside from punching and throwing his enemies, for instance, Swamp Thing doesn’t have powers beyond regeneration. There’s a great moment where he does grow back, but from then on he seems to have learned his lesson in regards to grenades. If they got anything right with this film it’s the costume which looks fabulous. You’ll never doubt that’s Swamp Thing on the screen.
The comedy in the movie ranges from bad to so bad it’s good. The delivery of lines can be iffy at best and there are scenes that run on to serve a bit rather than do anything for the story. Take for instance a scene where the two main henchmen show off their scars. The ridiculousness of where they got them (like on Spring break) is pretty funny and though the scene was cribbed from Loaded Weapon it sticks out as a pointless spectacle for laughs. The two children added to the film are way too silly and seem to be in the film so kids have something to watch, but given the adult themes, I don’t know how that could be the case.
As for extra features, this Blu-Ray comes with a commentary from director Jim Wynorski originally recorded in 2003, new interviews with the director, the editor, composer, and an executive who worked on the film. These interviews are a nice companion to the film and come with factoids about troubles on set, choices made, and other interesting tidbits. Fun facts include how Harvey Weinstein demanded they use a comic style cover art for distribution that enlarged Locklear’s breasts (which the executive reflected isn’t surprising now that we know more about Harvey), and how one of the biggest rewrites to the original script was the addition of the children. There are also trailers, PSAs recorded at the time and promo reels which are nice reminders of how far we’ve come in marketing movies.
This was the first watch for me and will probably be purchased by cult fans and longtime lovers of the film, but I ended up enjoying it for what it was. This was superhero movie making before anyone got it right (this came out a month before Tim Burton’s Batman) and it’s fascinating to see how much of a mishmash the film was. There’s comedy, straight action, and classic sci-fi elements that don’t quite align and that’s evidence they were still trying to figure things out. It’s the birth of superhero filmmaking and without it, I doubt we’d be where we are today.
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