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  • 16:9 Enhanced
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  • Theatrical trailer

Swamp Thing

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 89 mins . M15+ . PAL


The 80’s bred a lot of average productions based on comic books heroes or cartoons. Dolph Lundgren’s powerful performance as He-Man is a great example, as is Dolph Lundgren’s shattering portrayal of The Punisher. So, seeing as how this was made in 1981, I was surprised and disappointed to find Dolph Lundgren nowhere in sight.

Swamp Thing is basically a film cut straight from the comic book. Apart from the gratuitous nude shots and obligatory cussing that makes it a film, of course. Wes Craven, famous for re-inventing the horror genre with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise both wrote and directed this one, but unlike Nightmare, didn’t have a potential superstar like Johnny Depp in it. Unfortunately for the film that is (but fortunate for some young up-and-coming actor).

Our story begins with the introduction of Alice Cable as she meanders up the gentle stench and putrescent decay of the swamp. She’s heading for a research laboratory where they’re experimenting with recombinant DNA technology that will finally merge animal and vegetable (thank God someone’s working on that!) Anyway, just as she arrives, the handsome and lethario-gic (or lethargic, either way) Dr Alec Holland puts the moves on her and there’s an instant attraction. Then the baddies show up, kill Holland’s sister and pour the formula all over Dr Holland. Cable escapes and hides behind a fern, while Dr Holland, on fire, falls into the rancid rot of the swamp, never to be seen again.

The baddies, believing him dead, take his notebooks, but quick-thinking Cable steals one. The final piece not in place, the baddies come after Cable - as soon as they know she’s alive, that is - and with the help of a slow-witted Urkel impersonator she hides behind a bubbling, fart-smelling quagmire. Then, something is moving out there in the swamp... it’s a, a, Swamp Thing! And it used to be Dr Alec Holland.

"This thing is considerably intelligent. He’s like a brilliant chess player – he anticipates every move."

Now the baddies take chase again, but the Swampy Thing is picking them off one by one like so much moss off a rolling stone (Keef, probably). Then, the baddies just make their own formula and soon there are all sorts of Swampish Things running around and fighting each other to the foul-smelling death.

Oh, and the baddies have a hideout in the stinking funk with nude girls dancing around in it, of course.

Craven just may have had the idea to spawn a TV series out of this, because it looks a lot like The Hulk, with Swampy smashing things with both fists, howling in rage and anger and adding his malodorous reek to the foul air we all breathe. It’s a pretty weak movie, with some blatant cheap shots and a swampillion clichés we can’t miss: ‘Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore’, ‘Here comes trouble’ and the ever-popular ‘You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps!’ among others. And titty shots.

At some points the Swampy-suit’s rubber-decay around the high traffic areas like the armpits and the crotch/arse, is highly visible in the broad daylight, and you too will laugh. The story is average, the acting sub-par and the special effects are weak, but there’s always that air of ‘this was made when I was a kid’ about it that harkens back to a simpler time in filmmaking. These days all the best comic book options are long since sold off, and cheap shit films have to use romance or ‘fish out of water’ scenarios in their gristmill films, which leaves movies like this hanging out to dry on the cult shelf of the local video store.

Where they belong.


Presented in 1.85:1 with 16:9 enhancement, this film looks as good as it ever could have, which is sadly still not that good. There are very few artefacts at least and those that are present aren’t disruptive, however there’s a goodie at 1:20:40 and another right on the wound at 1:22:41. There are plenty of camera shakes and jitters about, though nothing extreme, while mullets abound, as do headbands and army fatigues, with even a little product placement thrown in.

The scene wipes are so reminiscent of Star Wars and Willow I was left thinking our man Wes may have had a little crush on a certain someone at the time. Shadow detail isn't too bad, though, and blacks are true to life.


Ball-tearing Dolby Digital stereo blows us away like so much marsh gas as the film makes use of all the layered effects stereo can deliver. Which is none, really. The dialogue is fairly clear with not much being misunderstood, although the Urkel guy I mentioned earlier mumbles a bit as does Dr Holland before he becomes Swampy Thing. There are tons of stock sound effects in gunshots, explosions, that scream George Lucas always uses in Star Wars films (you know when that dude falls into the Pit of Sarlac in Return of the Jedi? That one. Crush indeed) plus tyre screech on dirt, my all time second favourite. And swooshing machete sounds. Yippee!

Music is naturally of that A-Team era and is suitably tinny and ineffective.


Just the trailer, which looks a bit like a Swamp Thing in its own right. There’s shit all over it artefact wise, and it runs for a brief 1:30, which is about how long a swamp fart that smells this bad would take to blow.


I would doubt this even manages to claw its way up to ‘cult’ status. It’s a very inept plot, with just one too many chases through the offensive honk of the swamps in every conceivable method of chase hardware considered by man. Except the ones the budget wouldn’t allow.

If you’re building a collection of comic book films that have made the leap to film, this one should be placed firmly where the others can hide it. Probably released to coincide with the current wave of comic book hysteria, perhaps MGM were hoping slow-witted hillbillies and swamp dwellers would say ‘well, hyuck! Spider-Man and Hulk were good, so this must be too’. Unfortunately beside these modern super-films, poor old Swamp Thing stinks.

When Marvel® release a new comic book they like to have ‘Special guest: Spider-Man®!’ so at least completists buy it, maybe get hooked and the book is on its way. It would have been far more interesting to see this, because it’s a DC Comics character. Keep an eye out though, if they decide to make Steeltown Rockers® into a movie. Spidey® may just turn up. Until then, perhaps that lesser-known dude ‘Superman’ might turn up in a film.

I’m Jules Faber® for DVDnet®.

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      And I quote...
    "Has some saucy adult content unrelated to the story, but still stinks like a fetid marsh of rotting death..."
    - Jules Faber
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