No respect, I tell ya. No respect at all. For those who don’t already know that famous line, it was spoke by the late great comedian Rodney Dangerfield. It is a line that has been spoofed so many times in so many avenues, too. It is a line that applies so well to the lesser-known DC superhero Swamp Thing. DC’s own big green giant (who is also so much cooler than Marvel’s Incredible Hulk – yes, this critic went there), he has received far from the respect that he deserves when it comes to cinematic adaptations of his comic book. The only big screen takes on Swamp Thing that have ever been released came out in 1982 in the form of Swamp Thing in 1982 through the independent studio, Swampfilms and its 1989 sequel, The Return of Swamp Thing, which was released through another indie studio, Lightyear Entertainment. Yes, there were a couple of TV adaptations in 1990 through a live action series that ran for three seasons on USA and a kid friendly version that lasted one season on Fox, and even a rebooted series in 2019 that ran for one season on CW, but again, that is about the extent of the respect that Swamp Thing has ever received. Now thanks to MVD Distribution and Lightyear Entertainment, Swamp Thing is getting a little bit of renewed attention and respect through a recent re-issue on a Blu-ray 4K UHD combo pack. Released Feb. 7 through Lightyear Entertainment and MVD Visual, the re-issue is a surprisingly run watch for anyone who grew up with this rendition of “Swampy.” That is due in part to the movie’s central story, which will be discussed shortly. The collective acting and special effects that went into the presentation make for their own engagement and entertainment. They will be discussed a little later. The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its new re-issue rounds out the movie’s most important elements and will also be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation. All things considered they make this new re-issue of The Return of Swamp Thing a presentation that finally gives Swamp Thing at least a little of the respect he deserves.
Lightyear Entertainment and MVD Visual’s recent re-issue of The Return of Swamp Thing is a presentation that the most devoted comic book (and especially Swamp Thing) fans will find enjoyable. That is due in part to its featured story. The story here is pretty simple. Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jordan – who Swamp Thing – wants to find a way to stay young forever. So in his twisted mind, he decides to kidnap his stepdaughter, Abby Arcane (Heather Locklear) and plug her into a machine that sucks her life force out of her and transfers it into his own body. It’s up to Swamp Thing (played once again by Dick Durock) to stop the evil doctor and save Abby. Along the way, Swamp Thing makes some new fans when he saves a hunter and a pair of kids from a giant half leech/half human creature that was created by Dr. Arcane in a pair of separate incidents. Obviously the whole thing has a happy ending, but not before there is plenty of action, such as high speed chases, explosions, and other standard comic book fare, as well as some really dumb henchmen that our big bad employs to hunt down the not so jolly green giant. It all unfolds over the course of just under 2 hours in relatively solid pacing. The story and its execution form a solid foundation for the overall presentation that is certain to engage and entertain the noted audiences.
The story and its execution are just part of what makes the new re-issue of The Return of Swamp Thing so surprisingly enjoyable. The collective special effects and acting make for their own appeal. From start to finish the cast’s work on screen is so campy. As a matter of fact, the acting is so campy that in reality it is cringeworthy. Yet even with that in mind, that campiness is actually surreally enjoyable. Maybe that is because audiences have been so overwhelmed in recent years by all of director Zach Snyder’s gloomy, gritty superhero fare. It takes audiences back literally and figuratively to a better era of comic book movies and movie making. In the same breath, the dialogue that the cast had to deliver is just as campy, and that plays right into the acting. Listening to the lines and the delivery, audiences won’t be able to help but laugh at how bad the writing is. Again though, it is so bad that it is actually fun, which again is welcome in some bizarre fashion.
The special effects that are used throughout the movie are a stark contrast to the CG-based effects that are so overly prominent in so many of today’s superhero flicks. Case in point is a moment late in the movie when Swamp Thing works to heal Abby. The moment won’t be given away, for the sake of those who have yet to watch this flick, but instead of anything over the top, like in today’s movies, a little video effect is used to make it look like some kind of lights are flowing through her body as Swamp Thing touches her. There is just something that even here is campy, but also just as fun because of its simplicity. On a similar note, the special effects that went into the creation of Dr. Arcane’s monsters is just as worthy of applause. The prosthetics and general designs of the mutants is so outrageous. It obviously took a creative mind to come up with the monsters featured in this movie. By comparison, a creative mind seems hard to come by today, considering how so many superhero movies look so much alike in this aspect of costuming, what with the spandex and leather form fitting outfits on the men and women alike. That includes the bad guys, too. Keeping that in mind, the special effects in general are just as important to this movie’s presentation as the acting, obviously. All things considering, they make for all the more entertainment and in turn, reason to watch this movie at least once. It is, collectively just one more reason to check out this re-issue, too. The bonus content that accompanies the re-issue rounds out its most important elements.
The bonus content featured with the re-issue comes in multiple forms. There is an archived feature-length audio commentary from 2018 and a separate commentary from 2003, each of which provides its own insight into the movie. The separate interviews with director Jim Wynorski, editor Leslie Rosenthal, and composer Chuck Cirino are just as much the gems. Audiences learn through the interview with Wynorski that the movie’s campy stylistic look and feel was wholly intentional on his part. He reveals in his interview that he did not want to duplicate the darker, heavier approach taken by Wes Craven, who wrote and directed the movie’s predecessor, Swamp Thing in 1982. For those who maybe have been living under a rock for the past 30 years or so, Wes Craven is most well-known for his work on the infamous Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Of course, its first installment did not come until two years after Swamp Thing, in 1984, so one could argue that maybe Swamp Thing was sort of a training ground for what would become Craven’s much scarier horror fare to come. Wynorski also reveals that he appreciated the costumes and general effects used in The Return of Swamp Thing and that he is anything but a fan of the overuse of CG in so many superhero movies out there today. That in itself is sure to be a starting point for any cinephile and superhero movie fan’s discussion with friends and others.
For those who focus primarily on production values, audiences will appreciate Rosenthal’s discussion on what she believed was the hardest scene to create in The Return of Swamp Thing. She also talks about the amount of time and work that had to go into the movie’s action sequences. She said those sequences took a long time to assemble because of the different camera angles that had to be established. It makes for an appreciation for the work that goes into any movie’s creation behind the scenes.
Cirino offers his own brief interesting insight as he reveals in his interview that the score for this movie (which is in fact just as cheesy and campy as the acting and dialogue) was written in a spare bedroom in his apartment. There is just something entertaining about this. Rather than being composed at a piano, in a professional studio, etc. it was composed in an apartment bedroom. It makes one wonder how he came up with the score in such a run of the mill setting. That revelation alone makes Cirino seem just so personable and “real.” It’s just one more example of what makes the bonus content so important.
On yet another note, Arnie Holland, Lightyear Entertainment executive, offers his own anecdotes in his own interview. One of the most notable stories he shares is that of how the company had Heather Locklear appear on The Howard Stern show to promote the movie, and the surprising result of her experience on the show, which was quite trashy at the time. Again, the story will not be revealed here for those who have yet to watch the movie and its bonus content. It goes without saying though, that the story is surprising in the best way possible. It is yet another example of what makes the bonus content that accompanies the re-issue so important. When this and the other insights offered through the separate interviews are considered along with the insight offered through the feature-length commentaries, the whole makes so engaging and entertaining. The addition of the retrospective featured on the 4K UHD disc makes that even clearer. When this is considered along with the campy but so surprisingly story, acting and special effects, the whole leaves The Return of Swamp Thing an overall surprisingly enjoyable offering for the most devoted fans of comic book-based movies.
Lightyear Entertainment and MVD Visual’s recent 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo pack re-issue of The Return of Swamp Thing is a must watch for the most devoted fan of the comic book-based movie realm. That is because it is so much unlike so much of what is filling theaters and store shelves (and even streaming outlets) today. That is proven in part through its story. Unlike so many superhero movies out there today, the story is simple. It has a bad guy with one core familiar bad guy mission, and a good guy who has to stop the bad guy and save the girl. It’s a tried-and-true approach. The acting and special effects presented in the movie are just as simple (and campy), and that makes for its own share of surprise enjoyment, especially in comparison to so many movies out there that take the acting and special effects over the top. The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its new re-issue adds so much insight into the movie’s creation, making for even more engagement and entertainment. Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the re-issue’s presentation. All things considered they make the re-issue of The Return of Swamp Thing a welcome return for an underappreciated comic book superhero.
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