Swamp Thing (1982)PG


This opus is a total throwback to the cheap stupid monster movies of the sixties. There are constant little touches that remind you of those Good Old Days... the electronic equipment with sparse giant-sized controls and boodle-bleedle-dee-yoop sound effects, the muddy audio, the murky picture, the laughable “science”, and of course most of all, the bad monster fights in bad monster suits. Even the bad guy could have stepped out of an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or something. The one thing that brings the movie up to date (besides a completely gratuitous peek-a-boob) is that the heroine, played by Adrienne Barbeau, puts up a very decent fight before needing to be rescued. She’s quick on the trigger when a gun comes her way, and in the clinches she’s elbowing people in the face like a UFC octagon fighter. The monster-suit fighters are nowhere near as adroit.

This feminine capacity for self-defense is a bit of modernism that some more recent filmmakers seem to be trying to forget again. Even that change doesn’t reach too far; in this movie, it’s still cool and okay for the male protagonist to plant his lips on her nonconsensually.

Barbeau does throw herself into her action scenes with surprising vigor. That was a pleasant surprise for me, since I’d been expecting something more like her near-motionless performance in Cannibal Women In The Avocado Jungle Of Death (which, for those who haven’t seen it, is a comic spoof that forgot to put in any laughs).

The worst thing about the movie, to me, is how badly it’s photographed. Two scenes out of three seem to have a few corners of bright glare or sky in the shot, while all the rest is so dark and murky you may end up turning up your TV’s brightness until everything is gray, to be able to see what’s going on. That third well-lit scene shows how the rest of the movie could have looked if they’d done their jobs right. Hard to believe that the director of this bit of bungling cinematography would go on to be a Big Hollywood Name. Well, sort of big. He made his mark two years later directing A Nightmare On Elm Street. Wes Craven.

Not that proper lighting would have revealed anything good about the movie. But it can be considered a reasonable success on its own extremely limited terms: if you’re looking for no more than a cheap monster-suit adventure, that’s what you get.

There was a small amount of controversy associated with the video release of this film: when they pressed a DVD version, they accidentally used an “international release” edit which included more nudity than the American version. Parents objected that it was mislabeled as a PG movie, and the DVD got recalled from stores, which of course made the remaining copies valuable collectors’ items. A value that the film doesn’t remotely deserve. The current release is less nude than the VHS version I first saw years ago...

Somebody went and made a Man-Thing movie. That’s Marvel’s version of a Swamp Thing-like character. They should do the original EC Comics Heap instead. As done by Bill O. Elder. Picture an ambulatory mound of garbage, emitting a stench that knocks people flat. Now picture it wearing a zoot suit.