• Return Of Swamp Thing, The



    Released by: MVD Rewind
    Released on: May 15th, 2018.
    Director: Jim Wynorski
    Cast: Heather Locklear, Louis Jourdan, Dick Durock, Sarah Douglas
    Year: 1989
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    The Movie:

    Made seven years after the success of Wes Craven’s 1982 Swamp Thing, Jim Wynorski’s 1989 sequel, aptly titled The Return Of Swamp Thing, takes the intentionally campy elements that were inherent in that first picture and turns them up to eleven.

    The story introduces us to lovely vegetarian Abigail ‘Abby’ Arcane (Heather Locklear) who, having recently lost her mother, decides to travel to the deep swamps of Florida to have a face to face confrontation with her stepfather, the evil scientist Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan, reprising his role from the original film), about her mother’s death. Anton just so happens to have been recently resurrected himself, so maybe it’s not such a stretch for her to make this assumption. In Arcane’s efforts to do away with aging, Dr. Arcane and his assistants Dr. Lana Zurrell (Sarah Douglas) and Dr. Rochelle (Ace Mask), decide to splice genes from different denizens of the swamp with those belonging to everyday humans. The results of their unholy experiments create a race of half human/half animal creatures dubbed The Un-Men!

    Shortly after Abby arrives on the scene, Anton decides she’ll make the perfect guinea pig for his experiments, but of course, he didn’t count on Swamp Thing (Dick Durock in a bad ass rubber suit, also reprising his role from the first film) getting involved. But if that weren’t enough, a group of well-meaning explorer types are cruising around in the swamp making short work for the Un-Men and giving Swamp Thing more people to rescue than just pretty, blonde Abigail… who just might be falling for the big green lug. And why not? After all, as Swamp Thing tells her when she asks if there’s a Mrs. Swamp Thing… he’s a bachelor.

    This might not be deep, but if you’re in the right mood for it, The Return Of Swamp Thing is pretty fun. Not always funny, as it tries to be, but it hits the mark often enough to work in spire of itself. A bit part of the appeal here is the creature effects. Yeah fine, they’re clearly done no a low budget but the obvious creativity on display goes a long way towards making the film look as cool as you could want a low budget, cornball monster movie to look. On top of that, the suit used to turn the late, great Dick Durock into the muck encrusted mockery of a man that is Swamp Thing is really well-made on whatever level you’d care to judge it on. Fans of the comic series will note that it’s more John Totelben than Bernie Wrightson, what with Swampy looking a little less smooth and a little more wholly organic as he did in the eighties Saga Of The Swamp Thing series than he did in the pages of the original seventies run, but it works and it works well.

    The story? It kind of meanders all over the place and it doesn’t always make a whole lot of sense – characters make some pretty questionable choices fairly consistently – but it is nicely paced and it’s got plenty of action and monster mayhem in it. The Un-Men are cool and quirky and if Heather Locklear’s work in the film is remarkably vapid, well, she’s fun to look at. Jourdan steals more than a few scenes as the main baddie, while both Sarah Douglas and Ace Mask ham it up well enough as his partners in crime. Durock is, somehow, just plain cool as the titular thing – and hey, bonus points for putting a machine gun touting Monique Gabrielle in a supporting role as Miss Poinsettia.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Return Of Swamp Thing arrives on Blu-ray from MVD Rewind in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer on a 50GB disc that is touted as being taken from a ‘brand-New 2K High-Definition transfer’ and, for the most part, it looks great. There are a few shots that are a bit softer than others but this clearly stems back to the photography and isn’t an issue with the disc. Those scenes aside, detail is generally very strong and, in some cases, downright impressive. Color reproduction looks great, especially the greens of the swamp and of Swamp Thing himself, while black levels are strong throughout. Shadow detail is pretty strong, the image shows good depth and texture and the picture looks quite clean without having been scrubbed of its natural film grain.

    Audio options are provided in the film’s original 2.0 stereo track, in LPCM format, and in a new DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio option. As you’d expect, the 5.1 mix spreads the score and the effects around nicely – when CCR’s Born On The Bayou kicks in, it sounds great coming at you from all 5.1 channels – and it also throws in some directionality in terms of effects placement. The 2.0 track is a bit more restrained, as you’d guess, but also truer to source. Both sound fine, free of hiss or distortion with properly balanced levels.

    Extras, which are ridiculously plentiful, start off with an audio commentary from director Jim Wynorski who is joined by composer Chuck Cirino and editor Leslie Rosenthal. Wynorski carries the talk, he’s definitely got more to say than the other two and tends to dominate the conversation, but that’s okay as he keeps things interesting and it’s not like the other two don’t chime in when they feel the need. There’s a lot of fun information here, from the use of actual Swamp Thing comic book art in the opening credits and how that was achieved to casting the film, working with Locklear, how Wynorski’s romances factored into who appears in the movie, the plentiful effects work featured in the picture, the locations used for the movie and lots more. There’s a bit of crossover between this track and the archival track that Wynorski recorded in 2003, also included on the disc, but it too covers a lot of ground even if much of it is the same. Still, no reason not to include the other one for posterity’s sake.

    In addition to the commentary tracks, the disc also includes a selection of interviews, the first of which is a seventeen-minute piece with amiable director Jim Wynorski. He talks about coming on board to direct the movie after the success of Craven’s first film, his thoughts on the project and more. Leslie Rosenthal is interviewed after that, for nine minutes, with Wynorski acting as the interviewer. She gives some memories of the time she spent working on the film and engages in some back and forth with Wynorski. Composer Chuck Cirino is also interviewed by Wynorski for seven minutes, speaking quite candidly about the score he came up with for the film and a bit more. We’re also treated to a five-minute interview with with Lightyear Entertainment Executive Arnie Holland who speaks quite fondly of the film and about working with Wynorski on it.

    Rounding out the extras is the film’s original theatrical trailer, a pair of TV spots, six quick vintage promotional clips, two amusing Greenpeace public service announcements featuring Swamp Thing, a five-minute 1989 promo reel (essentially a quick EPK but there is some cool footage in here), a pretty large still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    As far as the packaging goes, we get a nice slipcover with this release, some cool reversible cover sleeve artwork and a collectible mini-poster inside the case too. And as this is a combo pack release, we also get a DVD version of the movie.

    The Final Word:

    The Return Of Swamp Thing is hokey, sure, but so too is it a lot of fun. The effects work might have been done on a low budget but it’s genuinely cool and a big part of what makes the picture as entertaining as it is, but Durock, Locklear and Jordan add to the appeal. MVD Rewind’s Blu-ray release is pretty stacked with extras and it looks and sounds really good – this makes for a really solid upgrade over the past DVD release and, for fans of the picture, is easily recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!