Plot: What’s it about?
An interesting thing about Swamp Thing is that when it debuted on DVD, a mother came into the room and her son was watching the film. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? Well, it was WHAT she saw that did it. Turns out that the international cut of the film had accidentally made its way onto the disc when it was incorrectly labeled as the PG cut that was widely released. So, the DVD copies containing the unrated cut, which included a couple of nude scenes, were recalled and the problem was rectified. For a long while, the DVD with that uncensored cut was a highly sought after item. I, in the summer of 2003 came across a copy at a video store at my local mall. I thought nothing of it, but shortly after, I learned about the incident. So, I hurried back to the store, only to find that the DVD was nowhere to be found. Thankfully, this set includes both cuts of the film.
If you don’t already know the plot of this film, this is the part where I explain it. We have Doctor Alec Holland (Ray Wise) who, along with his sister Dr. Linda Holland (Nannette Brown) and government agent, Alice Cable (Adreinne Barbeau) work on a top-secret bioengineering project. The trouble, however, is that Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan) wants to steal their work for his own selfish gain. There is a raid, which ultimately affects Alec and turns him into a beast called Swamp Thing. The plotline isn’t unlike that of The Incredible Hulk, save for a few changes. But it works. Arcane is a worthy villain who has a team of mercenaries working for him. Arcane believes he can obtain superhuman strength by stealing Holland’s work. Also giving strong work here is David Hess as Ferret, one of the film’s villains. There has always been something about Hess that makes him interesting to watch. However, cliché a character might be, Hess just has that imposing demeanor that makes for a great villain. The film can have something of a campy feel to it, but the threat to our title character also feels real. There’s a chemistry there as well, as weird as it may be since he is a large plant creature. There’s fun to be had here, and fans should love having this great set.
What surprised me most is how well the film holds up today. With a strong use of practical effects, and a story that moves along nicely, they just don’t make them like this anymore. It has comedic, horror and science fiction elements, with good direction by Wes Craven. He may have played his hand more in the horror genre later, but this one still entertains. While the unrated cut adds about 2 minutes or so of nudity, that is good enough for me, and I am thankful this cut has been restored and officially released.
Video: How’s it look?
With a new 4K HEVC transfer, I couldn’t wait to dive into this set. This is certainly a colorful film with a lot of details, and it has been restored wonderfully. I can’t comment on previous editions as my only reference was the DVD, but the film looks great with natural colors and details, all while maintaining the film’s original look. Only occasional grain appears, but otherwise, this is a top-notch transfer. The aspect ratio here is 1.85:1.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Here, we find a 2.0 track. This is fine, but as stated by others, a 5.1 track would’ve been welcome. Maybe there’s more reasons than I know as to why it wasn’t remixed that way, but this one more than satisfies. There’s the clarity and all that I have come to expect. I still was engaged with this track despite the somewhat limited range.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Theatrical & Unrated Cuts – Having the option to view both is most welcome, but it’s the latter I will always opt for.
- Audio Commentaries – There are two separate ones here. One with Craven and moderator Sean Clark that provides plenty of good notes. The other track features makeup effects Artist William Munn and moderator Michael Felsher. This is a more technical track, and less enjoyable to me, but your mileage will vary.
- Tales From the Swamp – Adrienne Barbeau discusses the film and what it was like working on it.
- Hey Jude – Actor Reggie Bates discusses starring in the film. It is worth a watch.
- That Swamp Thing, a Look Back with Len Wein, Creator of Swamp Thing – This is from one of the creators, and a lot of good details are recalled here. This becomes another worthy feature.
- Swamp Screen: Designing CD’s Main Monster – We hear from the production designer about creating the look of our title character.
- From Krug to Comics – here, we find a fun chat with film critic Kim Newman as he offers his thoughts on the horror genre and comics.
- Theatrical Trailer
- Photo Galleries
- Mini Poster – While I don’t love the newly created artwork as much as the older one, this inclusion is still nice.
The Bottom Line
Swamp Thing has always been a film I have enjoyed. The critic in me can nitpick it, but the casual audience member just wants to sit back and enjoy it and I did. It was great revisiting it, and this set makes for an easy recommendation. You have both cuts of the film, tons of features and a great new transfer.