Swamp Thing (1982)

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

MVD;
Horror;
$39.95 Blu-ray, $49.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Dick Durock, Ray Wise, Adrienne Barbeau, Louis Jourdan, David Hess, Nicholas Worth.

While it has achieved a certain cult status over time, Wes Craven’s 1982 adaptation of the Swamp Thing comic book wasn’t an immediate contender for inclusion on his list of accomplishments.

Though Craven delivered the film on schedule and under budget, it didn’t make much of an impact on audiences upon its release, with critics calling it more campy than his usual forays into horror. In the Blu-ray commentary, Craven remarks that the film set his career back a bit, and it took a few years for him to rebound with 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (based on a premise he came up with during the production of Swamp Thing).

Len Wein, co-creator of Swamp Thing, notes the early parts of the film are relatively faithful to the character’s origin story in DC Comics, before the rest of the film’s plot veers off the rails a bit.

In the comics, Swamp Thing is a human/plant hybrid who defends the swamps of the Southern United States, created when a scientist named Dr. Alec Holland, who is working on a formula to strengthen the world’s food supply, is accidentally doused in his bioengineered chemical formula when his lab is destroyed by criminals.

The film’s focus is really split between three main characters. Ray Wise appears in early scenes as Holland, shown conducting experiments in a highly guarded lab in the middle of a swamp. Adrienne Barbeau plays Alice, a government agent sent in as a replacement when another worker is killed. Louis Jourdan plays Arcane, leader of a cabal that wants to steal Holland’s formulas and the primary reason for the security detail.

Jourdan has a howler of an introduction, peeling off a disguise to reveal he’s been embedded among the security detail the entire time and wants Holland’s new formula for creating highly adaptable plants by combining them with animal DNA. Holland’s attempts to destroy the formula set him on fire, and he disappears into the murky depths of the swamp.

Arcane then collects Holland’s journals and sets off to re-create the formula for himself. But Alice has the final journal with the key to making the formula work, and escapes into the swamp, where she is pursued by Arcane’s goons.

However, Holland emerges to protect her, transformed into a brutish humanoid plant creature now played by Dick Durock. (Several observers in the bonus materials liken him to a plant version of The Incredible Hulk.)

In a classic trope, the heroes attempt to hide the book rather than destroy it, which all but assures Arcane will eventually get a hold of it in his attempts to create his own elemental super soldier, which turns out to be a sword-wielding man-boar thing. From there the film descends from the cheesy to the ridiculous, culminating in a fight between two guys in rubber suits.

In the years following its release, Swamp Thing’s ‘B’-movie sensibilities led it to become a modest success on home video, eventually spawning the 1989 sequel The Return of Swamp Thing, which Craven said he was never told about and only learned of after it was released.

Swamp Thing has its own rather sordid home video history as well, with an old DVD once discovered to have contained the nudity-laden international cut of the film rather than the American ‘PG’ theatrical cut. Later DVD and Blu-ray releases contained just the ‘PG’ version.

MVD Entertainment’s new edition of the film represents a definitive release, containing both the ‘PG’ and unrated cuts in newly remastered versions on both Blu-ray and 4K. The image quality is exceptional, with bright, vivid shades of green from the swamp contrasted nicely with Barbeau’s colorful wardrobe. The unrated cut runs two minutes more but adds nothing to the story. The primary difference is the international cut includes a minute of Barbeau bathing topless in a lake an hour into the movie. There’s also some nudity involving strippers at a party thrown by Arcane.

Aside from the bonus footage of Barbeau, the highlight of the film is the performance of Jourdan, a French actor coming off a BBC adaptation of Count Dracula. He makes for a captivating on-screen villain, and his Arcane is essentially the template for his performance as the scheming James Bond baddie Kamal Khan in 1983’s Octopussy.

MVD’s new Blu-ray and 4K editions carry over pretty much all the previous bonus materials from earlier releases, most of which come from Shout! Factory’s 2013 Blu-ray. A couple of featurettes, one about the design of the creatures and one about the film’s influence on cult cinema, are from a 2019 U.K. release by 88 Films.

The theatrical cut of the film on both 4K and Blu-ray includes two commentaries, one with Craven moderated by Sean Clark, the other by makeup effects artist William Munns moderated by Michael Felsher.

The regular Blu-ray edition, offered as a standalone or with the 4K combo pack, includes all the extras. The 4K disc offers just the commentaries as extras.

Creepshow: Season 1

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

RLJ/Shudder;
Horror;
$34.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Tobin Bell, Adrienne Barbeau, Giancarlo Esposito, Cailey Fleming, Jeffrey Combs, DJ Qualls, Bruce Davison, David Arquette, Dana Gould, Tricia Helfer, Scott Mescudi.

This original series of the Shudder streaming service continues the tradition of anthology horror established in the 1982 movie Creepshow directed by George A. Romero and written by Stephen King, as well as the 1987 sequel written by Romero.

The new series, executive produced by Greg Nicotero of “The Walking Dead,” offers two short stories per hourlong episode, with six episodes in the first season. The series expands on the visual style of the films, which were heavily influenced by horror comic books of the 1950s and 1960s. Episodes frequently use comic book-style artwork for story introductions and scene transitions, as well as a vibrant color palette for the title designs and linking materials.

The shorts are a mixture of adaptations of existing stories and original material. They range from the downright disgusting to the generally creepy, typically offering a helpful metaphor to a real-life problem. For example, the first story in the first episode, “Grey Matter,” presents an allegory for the dangerous effects of alcoholism on friends and family, in transforming a drunk father into a monster who eats local pets and absorbs anyone he comes into contact with, causing him to duplicate and spread his numbers to the rest of society.

The back half of the episode is the charming “The House of the Head,” about a little girl (Cailey Fleming of “The Walking Dead”) whose dollhouse seems to be haunted by a strange miniature rotting head that causes the figures of the family to move while she isn’t looking (shades of the Weeping Angels from “Doctor Who”) leading to her discovering them in new poses of varying degrees of terror as she tries to figure out what is happening to them.

Those looking for a more comedic mix in their horror should like “The Finger,” which stars DJ Qualls as a loner who stumbles upon a weird demon-like creature that ends up doing his bidding in ridding the world of the people who plague his life.

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The Blu-ray is absolutely loaded with bonus materials, including several episode commentaries, featurettes for each episode and myriad behind-the-scenes galleries. There’s also a special featurette about the Easter Eggs in the episodes that reference the movies — and as a fun touch it’s set up like an unlabled old-school DVD Easter Egg you actually have to search for in the menus. It’s a nice touch that lends to the throwback nature of the series.

Romero-Argento Horror Compilation ‘Two Evil Eyes’ Due on Blu-ray Oct. 29 From MVD and Blue Underground

Two Evil Eyes, featuring a pair of shockers inspired by the tales of Edgar Allan Poe from directors George Romero and Dario Argento, will come out in a three-disc, limited-edition Blu-ray plus CD set from MVD Entertainment Group and Blue Underground.

In Romero’s The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar, a conniving wife (Adrienne Barbeau) and her lover use a hypnotic trance to embezzle a fortune from her dying husband, only to receive some chilling surprises from beyond the grave. In Argento’s The Black Cat, a deranged crime scene photographer (Harvey Keitel) is driven to brutal acts of madness and murder by his girlfriend’s new pet.

Martin Balsam, E.G. Marshall, John Amos and Tom Atkins co-star.

In celebration of its 30th Anniversary, Blue Underground presents Two Evil Eyes in a new 4K restoration from its original camera negative.

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Bonus features include new audio commentary with Troy Howarth, author of Murder By Design: The Unsane Cinema of Dario Argento; the theatrical trailer; a poster and still gallery; “Two Masters’ Eyes,” featuring interviews with Argento and Romero, special make-up effects supervisor Tom Savini, executive producer Claudio Argento and Asia Argento; “Savini’s EFX,” a behind-the-scenes look at the film’s special make-up effects; “At Home With Tom Savini,” a personal tour of Savini’s home; “Adrienne Barbeau on George Romero”; “Before I Wake,” a new interview with star Ramy Zada; “Behind the Wall,” a new interview with star Madeleine Potter; “One Maestro and Two Masters,” a new interview with composer Pino Donaggio; “Rewriting Poe,” a new interview with co-writer Franco Ferrini; “The Cat Who Wouldn’t Die,” a new interview with assistant director Luigi Cozzi; “Two Evil Brothers,” a new interview with special make-up assistant Everett Burrell; and “Working With George,” a new interview with costume designer Barbara Anderson.

The set also includes a CD with the original motion picture soundtrack by Donaggio and a collectable booklet with a new essay by Michael Gingold.