Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Favorite Era: Swamp Thing (1982)

When it comes to favorites from my childhood, Swamp Thing is right up there.  I'm pretty sure from 1985 to about the early 90's, I must have seen this at least twenty times...Mainly because KTLA tended to throw it out there on Saturday around 6 in the evening at least once a month.  Wes Craven directs this adaptation of the DC Comics character and I have to say, it's the best darn horror/action/sci-fi superhero monster movie you will ever see.

We've got monsters, a modest amount of mayhem, Louis Jourdan and Adrienne Barbeau.  Let's take a closer look.
  •  One thing I really enjoy about Craven's direction is how he subtly frames things like comic book panels using wipe cuts.  Contrast that with the hugely disappointing 2003 Hulk movie where Ang Lee went overboard with the idea, making something that just looked goofy.  I know which of the two films I'd throw on in a heartbeat!
  • I also dig how Craven immerses the viewer in the swamp from the very start.  It's a very atmospheric way to start a comic book movie.
  • A philosophical thought: the world would be a much better place if all government agents looked like Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau).  Not sure why the hell she got dressed up in a nice (for the early 80's) business suit and high heels to go off into the swamp but there you go.
  • The score by Friday the 13th composer Harry Manfredini is also pretty enjoyable.
  • There have been lots of intimidating names for villainous henchmen:  Darth Vader, Darth Maul, I'm sure there's at least one film out there where the bad guy has a henchman named Goodkiller.  This one?  We get David Hess from Craven's The Last House on the Left as a guy named Ferret.  Well, can't win em' all.
  • Actually to be fair, he's not that bad a henchman and Nicholas Clay is also fun as his sidekick Bruno but when you're putting them up against a really huge plant guy...it loses a little something.
  • Ray Wise is quite likable as Alec Holland, our soon to be looking a little green around the gills hero.
  • This is one of the few times in a comic book movie where I don't mind the origin story taking up a good portion of the film (about the first twenty five minutes or so here).  While heroes like Batman and Superman are well known to the point where a five minute sequence at the start is fine, Swamp Thing is a little more obscure so you do sort of need to get the full tour.
  • Louis Jourdan as Dr. Arcane is one of my favorite 80's villains.  Jourdan is a really good, classy French actor who found himself, as so many European actors tend to, playing villain parts in American action movies.  He'd team up the next year with Steven Berkoff (another guy I enjoy) for the James Bond thriller Octopussy and here, he's just wonderfully slimy.
  • In addition to being stunningly beautiful, Barbeau also gets to kick a decent amount of butt in the first third of this film.  Granted, not as much in the rest of the film but still!
  • Love the fire gag that ensues when Alec gets doused with his growth formula and explodes in flames.  I hope the stunt guy who did that was paid really, really, really, really well.
  • The Swamp Thing suit Bill Munns designed is pretty damn good, though it was quite difficult to maintain during shooting and I can't imagine stuntman Dick Durock had a good time in it.  Still, it works pretty well and is a very good depiction of the character.  It's obviously a guy in a suit but that just adds to the charm.
  • Another thing Durock does well is acting the part of Holland, now transformed.  He's actually quite good in the more quiet dramatic scenes with Cable and later when confronted by Arcane.
  • Reggie Batts pulls off a miracle and delivers a comic relief kid sidekick who is not only not obnoxious, but actually pretty damn funny.  He just has a deadpan delivery that works way better than it has any right to.  Damn shame the sequel didn't have that.
  • Craven  does pretty well with the action scenes.  Nothing overly spectacular but they're decent enough.
  • Ah, the days before PG-13, when you could have a henchman, like Ferret for instance, get his head gruesomely crushed after hacking Swamp Thing's arm off with a machete and still score a PG rating!.
  • You could also get away with seeing Adrienne Barbeau's breasts and still score that rating.  God, I love the 80's!
  • Being that this is an early 80's monster movie, there are some really good transformation effects.  Bruno goes through a rather painful one and at the end, Arcane is impressively turned into...something. I don't know what it's supposed to be but since the serum Holland was doused with makes a person more of what they already are (in the first third he tells Cable he feels like a tree sometimes), I'm going with what would happen if a wild boar screwed an alligator.
Swamp Thing is a fast paced, enjoyable romp that may not achieve greatness but it does manage the noble feat of providing an entertaining 90 minutes that doesn't overstay its welcome.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.