Back to the Swamp (the Return of Swamp Thing, 1989)

return_of_Swamp_ThingOne of the writers of the Return of Swamp Thing went on to write the screenplay  for the beloved Disney comedy Hokus Pocus.  On the other hand, it is directed by Jim Wynorski,  He has a spotty record and his later career includes films with “breast” or “busty” in the title.  And it is not a good sign when your hero monster appears and is asked who he is…he responds, “They call me…Swamp Thing”.

The film switches to Arcane’s mansion.  Arcane is inexplicably alive and human again (okay, in fairness, half way through, they explain it).  Arcane is played by the returning Louis Jourdan.  He is trying to master Holland’s formula with the help of scientist Dr. Lana Zurell (played by Superman II’s Sarah Douglas).  They are ending up with a series of mutations.  Borrowing from the comics, these are the un-men.  One is running loose in the swamp, called the Leechman.

Abby Arcane (played by Heather Locklear) arrives trying to make peace with her stepfather, unaware of his diabolical experiments.  She roams the swamps and gets into trouble with some moonshiners and is saved by the Swamp Thing.  Romance blossoms.

At one point, the film turns into the Little Rascals…if they spent their  time looking at porn.  The scene is there for comedic relief, and he film justifies their presence by having them go on a quest to get a picture of Swamp Thing.  The film is far more comedy action film that never takes it’s source seriously.  It rehashes Wes Craven’s film and is full of lines like “Let’s mash him into guacamole” and “Is there a Mrs. Swamp Thing?”

This time around, the Swamp Thing gets to really  use the powers afforded him in the comics.  He can regrow in new locations…and now he can drive a jeep.  The Swamp Thing drives a jeep.  The effects are a bit better this time around.  Swamp Thing and the monsters look pretty good.  The film lacks any sense of urgency, and the music that plays whenever Swamp Thing is being heroic is just amazingly out of place.  There are scenes lifted from other films (there is a scene where two characters compare scars, just like in Jaws).  Really, the film’s entire tone is off and the film is more camp than horror.   Okay…a monster taking a hit from his asthma inhaler is kind of funny.

I will say, the opening credits (which play over a montage of Swamp Thing comic book cover art) look cool.

Born on the Bayou (Swamp Thing, 1982)

swamp_thing_posterDuring 1972 and 1981, beloved horror director had made five films.  His sixth was the coic book movie “Swamp Thing”.  Based on the iconic character initially brought to life by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson.  It was more horror than super-hero and even though it had ended in 1976, producer Michael Uslan had purchased the rights to Swamp Thing and Batman (which would not see the screen for seven more years) out of love for those characters.  Craven was more of an upstart, rather than cherished genre director.

The film tells the story of Alec Holland, a scientist, working on a powerful botanical formula with the help of his sister.  Alice Cable arrives, on assignment from the government to check in on Holland.  It turns out there is a rather bad guy named Arcane who is out to secure the formula for it’s properties.  His henchmen try and steal it, which results in a fire that engulfs Alec after he is dowsed in his chemical.  Holland runs into the swamp and dies.

Or appears to.  He is resurrected as a large stuntman covered in a rubber suit meant to look like muck and plants the swamp.  Eventually Arcane pursues Alice and the Swamp Thing and they acquire a sidekick (a little kid named Jude).  eventually  there is a big rubber suit climactic battle, as Arcane has turned himself into a monster using the formula.

The film was made on a low, low budget.   Did I say low?  I think it is somewhere beneath the swamp they filmed in.  Using a real swamp is one of the best things in the film.  Rather than looking like a cheap set, you get some downright beautiful swamp shots.

But Swamp Thing looks like a  big rubber suit.  Arcane’s monster is rather goofy looking.  And the film makes the most of Adrienne Barbeau’s cleavage.  The casting in the film is actually quite good.  Barbeau’s Alice is tough and yet unsure of the world she is thrown into of monsters and henchmen.  Ray  Wise, known for his tough guy roles is thoughtful and kind here, giving a real soul to the character.  Louis Jourdan is both suave and menacing (two things the film loses when he becomes a monster).  Unfortunately the cast is not enough to save this from being a pretty bland adventure full of lifeless special effects.

It has a great poster though.

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