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With the exceedingly bogus Scream movies being ridiculously popular, it's hard to believe ANYONE wouldn't know who Wes Craven is. But I won't get into why the flicks make me crazy. I'd rather wax nostalgic about his earlier work -- classics like Last House on the Left, The Serpent and the Rainbow and my personal favorite The Hills Have Eyes. Back in those early days, Wes also signed on to write and direct the screen version of a comic-book hit, Swamp Thing (1982, 93 minutes).
The movie: A scientist who is trying to end world hunger hunkers down deep in a swamp to conduct his research. Can-tastic government agent Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) is sent to aid Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise) in his work. He whips up some green goo that makes stuff grow REAL fast. But before Alice and Alec can celebrate horizontally, a mess of rent-a-goons show up to steal the good doctor's research. In the struggle, Dr. Holland is accidently blow'd up when he drops a big beaker of that green goo. He runs around the lab in a ball of fire, out the front door, down to the dock, where he leaps, face first, into the swamp. What looks like a few Roman Candles go off, and we're supposed to figure the doc's a water-logged Pop Tart. Only the flick IS called Swamp Thing, so it only stands to reason that maybe that goo might change Alec a bit. Yep, he's a 6-foot vegetable superhero now. He starts whuppin up on the goons and does all he can to make Alice sweet on him again. Except the goons keep kidnapping her, and when Swampy saves her, she passes out at the sight of him. The fella that hired the goons is Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan) who's supposed to be evil, but all he really does is make bad speeches. There's some of the worst creature costumes in a modern horror flick in this one. Swamp Thing looks like a dude (Dick Durock) in a green jumpsuit with pipe cleaners glued to it -- and it turns out IT IS a green jumpsuit with pipe cleaners glued to it. The flick was followed by The Return of Swamp Thing directed by the great Jim Wynorski (aka. Mr. Ladies -You-May -Remove-Your -Tops-Now.) And a mildly successful TV series, which had Durock stalking the swamps in a much better getup.
Notables: Six breasts. 13 corpses. Three beasts. Death by snake bite. Gratuitous Nietzsche quotation. Arm biting. Friendly fire. Gratuitous slow-mo. Grenade attack. Fan boat collision with fireball. Arm tumbles. Exotic dancing. Slobbering. Head crushing. Exploding day-glow goo. One midget with funny ears.
Quotables: Not-so-subtle foreshadowing in this line from Dr. Holland, "Sometimes I feel like a tree." Cable isn't impressed with the doctor's plan to end world hunger, "What do you want? Watermellons the size of waterballons, or tomatoes that'll fetch a stick?" Arcane slips into one of his dramatic monologues, "Talent does only what it can. Genius does what it must. It is master of man. Power absolute." And in his one and only role, the fabulous Reggie Batts as Jude ... on Cable's claim the baddies car hit a tree, "Must be one of them hit and run kinda trees. Don't seem to be there now." And when he encounters Swamp Thing, "Oh [email protected]#*! There goes the neighborhood."
Time codes: Snake in the pants (5:18). Just a little smoochie (20:00). The big transformation -- with fantastic fire-suit stunt work (24:48). Revenge of Swamp Thing (29:40). Gratuitous skinny dipping by Ms. Barbeau (1:04:12).
Audio/Video: Crisp, clean widescreen (1.85:1) and fullframe prints. Utilitarian Dolby Digital mono track.
Extras: Various cuts of the flick contain different amounts of nudity. Kudos to MGM for giving we CineSchlockers the goods: Extended frolicking by a topless Adrienne Barbeau and some dancin gals at Arcane's celebration. No more than 2-or-3 minutes of sometimes-trimmed footage, but bless their little hearts for doing it the drive-in way. The disc includes a fullframe theatrical trailer. Insert card features brief, but interesting production notes.
Final thought: One of the better swamp-superhero flicks filmed in South Carolina. Recommended.
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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.