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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Wes Craven|
|Produced by||Benjamin Melniker
Michael E. Uslan
|Written by||Wes Craven|
|Music by||Harry Manfredini|
|Edited by||Richard Bracken|
|Distributed by||Embassy Pictures|
Swamp Thing is a 1982 American science fiction horror film written and directed by Wes Craven, based on the DC Comics character of the same name created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. It tells the story of scientist Alec Holland (Ray Wise) who becomes transformed into the monster Swamp Thing (Dick Durock) through laboratory sabotage orchestrated by the evil Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan). Later, he helps a woman named Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) and battles the man responsible for it all, the ruthless Arcane. It was followed by a sequel, The Return of Swamp Thing, in 1989.
After a scientist is mysteriously killed while assisting a top-secret bioengineering project in the swamps of the American South, government worker Alice Cable arrives at the bogs to serve as his replacement. Alice immediately notices that one of the team’s swamp sensors has malfunctioned, but her guide, Charlie, introduces her to Harry Ritter, the project supervisor. Charlie tells Ritter a rumor about an evil paramilitary leader named Anton Arcane, who intends to hijack their operation. While Charlie briefs Ritter on the situation, Alice introduces herself to Dr. Linda Holland and her brother, lead scientist Dr. Alec Holland, who takes her on a tour and encourages her to admire the beauty of the swamps.
Upon returning to the site, however, Ritter and Charlie scold Alice for distracting Alec. When Alice mentions the broken sensor, Ritter reveals that her predecessor was attempting to repair it when he was killed. After noting the disappearance of one of their workers, the group hears a loud bang and returns to the laboratory, where Linda shows off her recent breakthrough: a glowing, plant-based concoction with explosive properties. Alec then shows Alice a hybrid plant and animal cell, his prized discovery. Sometime later, Alec notices that droplets of Linda’s formula spawned rapid plant growth on the surfaces they touched. Overcome with excitement, Alec kisses Alice before sending her to retrieve Ritter in the control room. Although the room is empty, she sees security camera footage of Charlie being shot. Suddenly, a group of paramilitary agents attack her and raid Alec’s laboratory. A man resembling Ritter steps forward, but pulls off his mask and reveals himself as Arcane. When Arcane shoots Linda for attempting to escape with the formula, Alec grabs the beaker, but trips, causing the spilled chemicals to set him on fire. He runs outside and dives into the swamp to extinguish the flames as a series of explosions burst from the water.
Overnight, Arcane’s henchmen destroy the premises and remove all evidence of the team’s work. At dawn, a henchman captures Alice and attempts to drown her in the swamp, but a green, humanlike creature drags her ashore and chases two of Arcane’s men. Meanwhile, in his mansion, Arcane and his secretary realize that Alec’s most recent notebook is missing from the plunder. Alice runs to a nearby gas station to telephone her employers for help; the operator connects to Ritter, who claims to have been called away from the site before the attack. After revealing she stole Alec’s last notebook, Alice waits for Ritter's return alongside the young gas station attendant, Jude, but Arcane’s men arrive and chase her through the forest. Suddenly, the Swamp Thing appears and again scares the pursuers away, immune to their gunfire. Once alone, Alice attempts to escape the monster, and it reluctantly trudges back into the trees. Jude finds Alice and leads her to a nearby cabin to change clothes. Later, Arcane instructs his men to find Alice, hoping she will lead them to the creature.
Alice and Jude boat around the swamp until they reach the dock near the laboratory wreckage. She spies Swamp Thing crouched among the ruins, holding Linda’s locket, and quickly returns to the boat, vowing to bring Alec’s final notebook to Washington, D.C. Minutes later, multiple boats of Arcane’s men close in on Alice and Jude, luring the creature from its hiding place among the reeds. Despite their bullets and grenades, Swamp Thing engineers an elaborate boat crash. Although concerned by its intelligence, Arcane orders his lead henchman, Bruno, to continue the search. Moments after instructing Jude to escape with Alec’s notebook, Alice hears the boy cry out in distress, but she is kidnapped before she can reply. Swamp Thing finds Jude’s lifeless body and presses a hand against his head, creating a greenish glow which instantly revives him. Regaining consciousness, Jude realizes the creature is a friend of Alice’s and gives it the notebook for safekeeping. On Arcane’s boat, Alice throws her kidnapper, Ferret, overboard, then dives into the water and swims ashore. Once on land, Alice bumps into Swamp Thing, which calls out her name. Ferret chops off Swamp Thing’s arm with a knife, but the creature easily snaps Ferret’s neck, causing Alice to faint. She awakens in the monster’s embrace as it presents her with an orchid plant. Swamp Thing speaks to her, and she recognizes it as Alec. Later, she bathes in the water as the monster paces along the banks. After Alice dresses, Arcane’s men follow her, capture Swamp Thing in a net, and retrieve the final notebook.
That evening, Arcane invites Alice to a formal dinner party celebrating his duplication of the Hollands’ formula. Moments after giving a toast to prospective immortality, Arcane reveals that he secretly slipped the first dose to Bruno, who begins to convulse. The hulking man’s body shrinks to half its size as he grows pointed ears and a misshapen skull. Arcane locks him in a dungeon alongside Swamp Thing, asking the latter creature why the experiment failed. Swamp Thing reveals that the formula does not produce strength, but instead amplifies a person’s natural qualities, explaining that Bruno’s timidity caused his diminished stature.
After locking Alice in the dungeon with them, Arcane returns to his study and drinks a glass of the formula. A beam of light emitted through the door re-grows Swamp Thing’s missing arm, allowing the creature to free itself, Alice, and Bruno. Upstairs, Arcane transforms into a hairy, wolfish beast, and descends to the dungeons. There, he discovers that his captives have escaped through an underwater tunnel leading back to the swamp. Sometime later, Alice and Swamp Thing emerge from the water, followed closely by Arcane’s monster, which stabs Alice in the breast with a sword. Swamp Thing grabs the weapon and kills Arcane before touching Alice’s breast and healing the wound on contact. The creature turns to leave, but Alice pleads for him to stay so that she can help him rebuild his work. He refuses, but promises to return to her soon. Moments later, Jude emerges from the trees and embraces her as they watch Swamp Thing lumber away through the marsh.
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Swamp Thing received mixed to positive reviews from critics. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 65% based on 34 reviews, with an average rating of 5.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Unabashedly campy -- often to its detriment -- Swamp Thing is not without its charms, among them Adrienne Barbeau as the damsel in distress." Roger Ebert gave the film three out of a possible four stars.
Author John Kenneth Muir notes that Swamp Thing differs in many respects from Craven's usual work, in that Craven's intent was to show the major Hollywood studios that he could handle action, stunts and major stars. Craven substituted his usual focus on the problems of family and society for pure entertainment. Nevertheless, Muir points out, some of Craven's usual themes and images do appear in Swamp Thing. For example, as in The Last House on the Left (1972), and The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Craven shows a close connection between the landscape and his characters. The film was adapted in comic form as Swamp Thing Annual #1.
PopMatters journalist J.C. Maçek III wrote, "As much fun as this film can be (and it often is), it's equally often difficult to ignore that Swamp Thing ultimately is, at core, a rubber-suit monster movie."
In August 2000, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released the film on DVD in the United States. Though the DVD was labeled as being the PG-rated, 91-minute cut of the film, MGM had inadvertently used the 93-minute international cut of the film which contained more nudity and sexual content than the US theatrical cut. In May 2002, a Dallas woman rented the disc from a Blockbuster Video store for her children and reported this discrepancy. MGM recalled the disc and reissued it in August 2005, with the US theatrical cut as originally intended.
Swamp Thing was released in a Blu-ray Disc/DVD combo pack by Shout! Factory on August 6, 2013. The set features the 91-minute cut of the film presented in high definition anamorphic widescreen format, along with bonus content including interviews with Adrienne Barbeau, Len Wein, and Reggie Batts, as well as commentary tracks with Wes Craven and makeup artist Bill Munn.
In 2009, Joel Silver announced plans to produce a reboot of the Swamp Thing film franchise from a story written by Akiva Goldsman. In April 2010, Vincenzo Natali was confirmed to direct, but on May 12, 2010, Vincenzo Natali decided to delay the Swamp Thing reboot to pursue other projects.
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