The Underrated: Swamp Thing

Alan Moore, being the complaining hippy weirdo that he is, always moans that Hollywood has never managed to make a good film based on one of his funny books. He’s wrong. While Watchmen and LXG may suck something fierce, and From Hell and V for Vendetta manage to scale the dizzy heights of mediocre, one adaptation stands head and shoulders above the rest- that adaptation? Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing.

Technically, Moore is right, as he worked on Swamp Thing after the 1982 release of the film, but I’m not interested in such pedantry. I’m interested in this stomping little film.

This is an interesting little film- it’s sharp environmental satire, a rip-roaring Superhero movie, and a zany freakish comedy. It contains moments of genius, a first-rate cast, and a convincing villain. It is also, by the standards of Craven’s output a surprisingly tame film. There’s violence aplenty, and a good amount of gore thrown around, but there’s nothing in it that you’d call excessive. It certainly isn’t on the same level as some of his other films (notably Last House on the Left). It’s playful rather than outright nasty.

The plot of Swamp Thing is extremely straightforward. Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) is sent to the swamp to assist Dr Alec Holland, who is experimenting by trying to fuse plant and animal DNA- which he eventually manages creating a violently green serum. Movie scientists are such idiots, they should know by now that any time you make something luminous green then only bad things will happen. Predictably, Arcane (Louis Jourdan) turns up, slaughters everyone, douses Alec in the serum, sets him on fire and makes an all round mess. The rest of the film has the Swamp Thing coming repeatedly to Alice’s rescue before a superbly satirical climax after Arcane takes the serum.

So why, do I rate this so highly? Well, as I said above, it’s laced with moments of sheer genius, and most of them are supplied by the script. There’s a hilarious exchange between Alice and the Swamp Thing after he’s had his arm chopped off, where she asks if he hurts and he replies “only when I laugh.” By the time this came up, I was captivated by this film, but that in itself would have been more than enough for me. The climax itself follows a fair wedge of exposition- but basically, Alec’s serum doesn’t transform people, rather it unlocks the potential that was already present. Arcane, believing himself to be  a genius takes the serum expecting his prowess to be amplified and himself to be transformed into a god. In reality, of course, Arcane is a pompous ass, and the serum unlocks the potential turning him into a blundering monster.

The character work in this film is superb. Alec is a happy playboy type, his genius going hand in hand with sheer exuberance. He’s brilliantly performed by Ray Wise, never coming across as annoying. Barbeau is also excellent as Alice, who can kick a fair amount of ass- she’s the only comic book heroine I can think of that isn’t a damsel in distress, and Jourdan is simply awesome as Arcane. Oily, pompous, sleazy, but ruthless without exception. The man’s a complete bastard.

Swamp Thing is also a highly referential film. There’s visual quotations to Bride of Frankenstein (compare the covers), and a host of other films as well. Craven, who also wrote the script, also has his characters quoting from both literature and cinema,most memorably with “It’s every man for himself, and god against all” which my 3 minutes of research tells me is from Herzog. Craven would return to referential horror films with the seminal Scream, but this is much more subtly done. It’s a master class in postmodernism.

There are downsides to this film- the special effects aren’t aging well (the Swamp Thing costume in particular looks like plastic nowadays), and a lot of the supporting cast (playing comic henchmen roles) are borderline dreadful. Barbeau also has many terminally dull exchanges with a token black kid that drag me painfully out of the film, but really, these are minor flaws that irritate rather than scar. It is very easy to look past them, when there’s so much greatness on offer. Really, who cares about such trivia when you’ve got scathingly ironic lines such as “There’s plenty of beauty in the swamp if you know what to look at”.

I thoroughly recommend this film. It’s schlock with a brain, a throwback to films that just aren’t made any more, and at the end of the day, damned good fun. I haven’t seen any of the sequels, but will probably check out the one with Jourdan in it, just out of curiousity as I don’t think it will get anywhere near to the heights of this film. Looking at Craven’s resume, especially some of the utter garbage that gets celebrated and remade (Last House on the Left), I am left to wonder that this film is so overlooked. It’s not as good as either Scream or Nightmare on Elm Street but it’s a hell of a lot better than almost everything else he has made (Red Eye).

This is a film that I would class as a lost treasure. It’s dropped from public consciousness for some reason. Sure it’s a bit cheesy, but at the end of the day, it’s a fun, clever romp and deserving of rehabilitation.

Until next time,

Jarv.

Before I go, I don’t think Xi would forgive me if I didn’t link to this (NSFW)- which are 2 excellent reasons to watch the film.

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

41 responses to “The Underrated: Swamp Thing”

  1. Jarv says :

    I’m not joking about that- that link is NSFW

  2. Bartleby says :

    Good review Jarv. I used to love this one as a kid. I actually sort of like Return of Swamp Thing more because it’s so ludicrous. This one is hands-down the better movie, but the sequel is outrageous in it’s idiocy. When Locklear cautiously and poignantly asks Swamp Thing “Are you a plant?” I was caught in the movie’s spell.

    O.k. I’ve got Split Second and they are calling for terrifying weather here. When you want to do the movie chat?

    • Jarv says :

      The PC is completely fucked. I’ve got to either redownload it on this laptop (which means I’ll also have to watch it on this fucking laptop- which is wired into the fucking monitor for the PC), or wait for our IT tech to fix it. It’s a bastard virus that renames your disk drives in the directory so fucking windows and your OS can’t find them.

      Our tech thinks he may be able to fix it by tomorrow, but it isn’t his main job,

      If he doesn’t manage it by tomorrow PM- I’ll redownload it Friday night, and do you fancy doing it Saturday PM while Mrs. Jarv is at a hideous sounding hen night? I’d better have some way of watching it on this.

    • kloipy says :

      Us too Bartlby, 7-10
      although this is more frightning

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Ha ha Leakey Boom-Boom! The Other Vanilla Ice. Thing was funny-this idiot got SOOOO mad whenever he was called Vanilla Ice. Ummm, yeah.

        Me Leakey Boom Boom. You suck suck.

  3. lordbronco says :

    Perhaps a cogent comment about the inherent quality of said motion pictures, methinks.

  4. kloipy says :

    great review Jarv. I actually rewatched this a few months ago and I enjoyed it as well. It’s strange the way we were once captivated by Swamp Thing enough for him to get his own TV series and I think cartoon.
    Ok while you did give two good reasons in the NSFW it is still hard for me to pass that face and 80’s perm. I just always think of her from Creepshow and that it like bates-quality flacidness

  5. Continentalop says :

    Why don’t more superhero movies have nudity?

    • xiphos0311 says :

      EXCELLENT QUESTION!

    • Jarv says :

      Because they’re meant for kiddiwinks and not 30-something arrested development adults like us

      • xiphos0311 says :

        There’s a problem with arrested development?

      • Jarv says :

        Not that I’m aware of. The only problem I can see is that Hollywood cunts don’t take us into account when making superhero films.

      • Continentalop says :

        I disagree. Hollywood knows about us arrested developed adults. That is why they make super hero movies – to get kid’s money and arrested developed adults.

        I say through out one fucking super retardo super hero for the mongoloid child inside of me. I want a super-hero who gets the girl with big knockers and sees them, and fights a villain who is kinky and perverted as hell. I want a hero who uses X-Ray vision like we would.

        Stop making “serious” super hero movies like The Dark Knight, and make an “adult” super hero movie. Tony Stark should be getting laid, and Black Widow should go shirtless.

  6. herrmilflover says :

    I remember enjoying the hell out of it when I saw it back then, it’s definitely underrated. never seen the rest of the series.
    Was there really a Swamp Thing cartoon, or are you maybe thinking of the Toxic Avenger one?

    Maybe next you should review the Man-Thing movie, who is basically Marvel’s ripoff of Swamp Thing but with a more innuendoish name. The jokes will write themselves. I havent seen it myself but it’s supposed to be pretty bad.

    • Continentalop says :

      It is horrible Milf. God awful. Man-Thing is one of those comic book characters, like Werewolf by Night, Zombie, Deadman or I, Vampire that I used to think would be slam dunk movies because they are not really super-heroes but horror characters. Man-Thing proved me wrong.

      The best was in the 70s they put out issues of Giant-Sized Man-Thing.

      • Tom_Bando says :

        Yeah if you actually tried to do a decent Man-thing or Werewolf by Night (not to mention Morbious, the Living Vampire(TM)!)-you might actually have something there.

    • Jarv says :

      There was both a Swamp Thing and a Toxic Avenger Cartoon. I didn’t actually know this was based on a comic before I saw it, as my only exposure was to the Swamp Thing cartoon in the late 80’s.

      • kloipy says :

        wow the cartoon of Swamp thing was as retarded as I remember. Toxic Crusaders on the other hand, amazing.

  7. xiphos0311 says :

    I need to add this movie to the line up it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the wonderful goofiness of Swamp thing.

    Good review Jarv.

  8. MORBIUS says :

    Ever seem Dinosaur Island? Fred Olen Ray/Jim Wynorski, with Nikki Friltz, Griffin Drew, Michelle Bauer, Antonia Dorian, Tony Naples, Becky LeBeau….

  9. MORBIUS says :

    Was that pic of Boobeau taken from the film? My fuzzy recollection is of a more demure pose (side boob, more branches obstructing the view). Definitely haven’t seen it in quite a while. Nice job on the review Jarv.

    • Jarv says :

      Nope. That’s straight from the film

      It’s astonishingly brazen.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        I loved Swamp Thing! I loved it when it came out. sadly I have not seen it in years, but this review will make me hunt down a copy. Should not be too hard to find. Good work on boobage Jarv. I really do not recall seeing that shot in the movie. I thought that was one of those legendary ‘easter egg’ thingies packed on the DVD somewhere. I hate easter egg thingies. Just put the damn thing in the movie and don’t make me hunt for it. Yes, I have not had my morning grumpy yet so i am cranky.

      • Jarv says :

        It had been years since I saw it, and purchased it for a mighty £2. There was no need to hunt for the boobage.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        I will take a look for it next week. I plan some major DVD purchases then anyway.

      • Jarv says :

        Not that I’m 14 or anything-

        I’m buried under DVD’s of varying quality due to the freelance thing. Some of them are just sheer porn- one of which has Ornelia Muti in it.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Ornella Muti porn? Tell I read that wrong!
        Ornella Muti from Flash ‘he must be gay’ Gordon?
        Ornella Muti who inspired Klytus to say ‘ bring me the bore worms’ ?
        ‘No not the Bore worms’ with every male and a few females where saying, “god I would love to be a bore worm right now” That Ornella ‘finest Italian ass on the planet ‘Muti?
        In a porn? My heart just stopped. Ok, i am sure it is softcore, but still. My heart skipped some beats.

      • Jarv says :

        It’s a sexploitation from the early 80’s and I think it’s directed by Fulci.

        but yes, that Ornelia “let me have him Father” Muti.

    • Toadkillerdog says :

      Morbius, where the ##$@$$%&%^$#@##!!!! you been?

      • MORBIUS says :

        Hey Toad, been working too much, not spent much time @ Gingerville. I posted to you when Love Actually (Jarv’s guilty pleasure) was being discussed, needed your input, the vote is level at 3 with a few abstentions. Also, I saw that Mavra posted to you in the ‘Harry reviews Avatar’ tb @ aicn. Hope all is well with you. Wassail…

  10. Bartleby says :

    Jarv, I think tomorrow might work for our chat if you can get your issues sorted.

    By the way,everyone, put a review of Frozen and From Paris With Love over here:

    http://www.atomicpopcorn.net

  11. just pillow talk says :

    Shit, I haven’t seen this in ages. This, the Fog, and Escape from NY made me love Adrienne Big Boobies. Not clicking on those pics is fucking killing me.

    • Jarv says :

      Hehehehehehehe.

      I nearly linked to a picture called Adrienne Barbeau’s tits, but I put big bars over the nipples and a big flourescent: WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR YOU FUCKING PERVERT up over her head.

      I didn’t, and she’s got them out instead.

      • just pillow talk says :

        Oh, I think you should have done that too.

        Those things are first ballot in the Boobie Hall of Fame.

      • Jarv says :

        Couldn’t be bothered. I got the censorship strips then lost interest,

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Pillow- First ballot hall of famer who would have been a unanimous choice except for the tranny who was jealous he could never get he same cleavage effect with toilet paper and a wonderbra.

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