Wednesday, June 6, 2018

THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING (MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: Jim Wynorski
Written By: Neil Cuthbert, Grant Morris
Starring: Louis Jourdan, Heather Locklear, Dick Durock
Color/88 Minutes/PG-13
Region Free
Release Date: May 15, 2018

The Film
In 1982 director Wes Craven brought us the first screen adaptation of the comic book from writer Len Wein and legendary artist Bernie Wrightson. Their tale of a scientist who mutated with the swamp vegetation after a mishap and now protects people and the environment from various threats has become a classic for DC Comics and has regularly been voted as one of the best comic book characters of all time. Craven's film was a mostly serious sci-fi film with horror and action elements. Some of it was campy but it served as a solid screen debut for the character. Seven years later the reigns were turned over to Jim Wynorski, a genre film director not known for his subtlety and we were blessed with a special gift simply called THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING.

Before the X-Men franchise ushered in the modern wave of comic book films with huge budgets, big name actors and more CGI effects than you can shake a stick at and before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was seemingly breaking records with each new movie this is what comic book movies looked like and were relegated to be. These were low budget affairs with stars that were either passed their prime or hadn't hit it yet. THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING was reportedly made on a budget of four million dollars, a far cry from the hundreds of millions pumped into the newest Avengers film but the explosion was still over a decade away and comic book culture and mainstream pop culture were rarely spoken in the same breath. There was no such thing as the big budget blockbuster comic book film in 1989 but frankly I think what Jim Wynorski gave us was even better.

Heather Locklear stars as Abby Arcane who is going to meet her stepfather, the evil scientist Dr. Anton Arcance, after the death of her mother. She finds that Dr. Arcane is trying to find the source of immortality by splicing human genes with those of swamp creatures and has created a mini army of monstrous beasts who suffer endlessly from being human guinea pigs to Dr. Arcane's experiments. Abby is in trouble when Dr. Arcane plans to use her for one his newest experiments but Abby is protected by her new friend Swamp Thing who has a history with Anton Arcane and will fight to protect Abby with his life.

I have a lot of nostalgia for Swamp Thing. The big green plant man might be the first comic book character I was a fan of. I can remember playing with the action figures as a young kid growing up in the very early 90s and vividly remember moving across several states in 1991 and getting to ride in the U-Haul truck with my grandad and having a couple of toys to play with, one being a Swamp Thing that had a fist that shot out from his arm and was attached by a string. The string wound up with a knot in it so it wouldn't retract properly but that was okay by me as it just meant Swamp Thing had something to choke out the other toys with. Yeah, I was probably messed up as a kid but I've always loved the character of Swamp Thing and this is the way I remember him. We get classic Jim Wynorski here with a campy, over the top action movie chock full of all of the standard tropes; endless hordes of henchment, explosions (including a domino effect car explosion), kiddie sidekicks who are actually endearing and funny and don't make you want to smash your face into a wall, a diabolical villain and the most ludicrous love story this side of Tom Hanks and the volleyball.

The film doesn't rely on that nostalgia however and doesn't need it to be a wildly entertaining film. And to my surprise the movie is actually pretty well made. Aside from the obvious ham and cheese factor of being a loud comic book action movie that embodies everything a loud action movie from 1989 has to offer it has some really great sets, decent performances (and some not so decent performances) and really fantastic special effects makeup. Each and every creature, from our titular hero himself to the cockroach man and the weird squid face enemy that fights Swamp Thing a few times, all have been created with great skill. THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING is action packed, filled with laughs and holds up almost thirty years later and I can definitely say that I'd gladly take more movies like THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING over the current comic book movies nine times out of ten.

The Audio & Video
With spine #5 in the MVD Rewind Collection MVD Visual has given THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING its high definition debut and the transfer blew me away. Colors are vivid and rich and skin tones are fleshy and natural with no signs of DNR. There is a natural film look to the transfer and the detail level is exceptional. The creatures in the film absolutely shine in this transfer especially the main man himself. His dripping, gooey, body made of bits of everything you'd find in a bog looks incredible. I don't think I can oversell how impressed I am with this transfer. The audio features two options, a DTS-HD 5.1 surround mix and a LPCM 2.0 mix. They both have the highest quality with the surround mix giving more punch and pop to the action scenes and use of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Born On The Bayou" but the lossless 2.0 mix is a fine straight forward mix as well with no issues at all.

Plesae Note: Screenshots have been taken from the DVD version of the film.

The Extras
Do you want interviews? 'Cuz we got interviews! The special features include individual interview with director Jim Wynorski, editor Leslie Rosenthal, composer Chuck Cirino, and executive Arnie Holland.

Also included:
-Brand new audio commentary track with Jim Wynorski, Chuck Cirino and Leslie Rosenthal
-Audio commentary track with Jim Wynorski from 2003
-Original theatrical trailer
-TV spots
-Promo Reel
-Public Service Announcements
-Photo Gallery
-Mini Poster

The Bottom Line
I hadn't seen this movie in over twenty years but this is the Swamp Thing I remember loving as a kid growing up in the early 90s. THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING is tasty slice of 80s cheese and now finds itself as one of my favorite comic book movies. Now excuse me while I go hunt down that action figure on eBay.


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