Release Date(s)1989 (May 15, 2018)
Studio(s)Lightyear Entertainment/Millimeter Films (MVD Rewind Collection)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
After the mild success of Wes Craven’s version of Swamp Thing several years prior, no one would have guessed that a sequel would be made. Yet, in 1989, The Return of Swamp Thing was willed into existence. We find the big green guy (Dick Durock) still dealing out justice in the swamplands while Dr. Arcane (Louis Jourdan) and his assistant (Sarah Douglas) continue their monstrous experiments nearby, creating various hybrids of humans, animals, and insects. Visiting the good doctor is his green-thumbed niece Abby (Heather Locklear), who finds herself the target of one of his experiments, but not if Swamp Thing has anything to say about it.
It’s no secret that The Return of Swamp Thing is laughably bad. Even as a kid when I first saw it, I knew I was watching something silly. Jim Wynorski and company basically tried to make an intentionally funny comic book movie that isn’t all that funny. It also doesn’t make much sense that Dr. Arcane’s character is somehow alive, despite his metamorphosis and (rather obvious) demise at the end of the first film. Then there’s the dialogue, or rather anything that escapes Heather Locklear’s lips. It’s no wonder that she disregards the film. It’s like she thinks she’s in a Marx Brothers movie, constantly throwing out quips at everybody she meets. Just slap on a pair of glasses, a mustache, and a cigar and the ensemble would be complete. Then there’s the two zealous young boys who are trying to snap pictures of Swamp Thing while looking at dirty magazines and arguing with each other over practically everything. Don’t even get me started on the random campfire rednecks or the useless town sheriff.
On the other hand, the film does have occasional strong points. Swamp Thing himself actually looks pretty terrific, even better than he did in the first film. The same goes for the rest of the make-up and monster effects. Just check out the monster that attacks the weekend warrior types in the swamp at the beginning and you’ll see what I mean. There’s also the wacky character of Gunn, played by Joey Sagal. While he’s a smarmy, sleazy, and sadistic person, he seems to be having a blast and is one of the most memorable things about the movie, intentionally or not. Throw in a mostly silent performance by Penthouse pet Monique Gabrielle, a telepathic sexual encounter with Swamp Thing, and an endless stream of explosions, monsters, and atrocious dialogue exchanges and you have a movie that’s... well, not good, but entertaining despite itself.
The Return of Swamp Thing debuts on Blu-ray in the U.S. from the MVD Rewind Collection with a new 2K transfer from an unknown element (likely an interpositive). It’s an excellent transfer that actually boosts the low grade elements of the film and enhances the better ones. Grain resolves fairly well while detail is high in most shots. A light softness is present and some shots appear more crisp than others, but it’s definitely a step up from its DVD counterpart. The color palette is nicely saturated, with (unsurprisingly) bold greens and deep blacks. Contrast and brightness levels aren’t thoroughly even from scene to scene, but not to an obvious degree. The image is also stable and leftover damage is minimal. The audio is presented on two tracks: English 5.1 DTS-HD and English 2.0 LPCM. Unfortunately, there are no subtitle options. While having the original stereo soundtrack is appreciated, I find it to be the lesser of the two experiences. It isn’t balanced very well, meaning that the dialogue stutters almost unnaturally. The 5.1 track is an improvement with dialogue dead center and even throughout. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Born on the Bayou” has the most heft of any of the music in the film, but the score is no slouch either. The 5.1 also offers ambient activity in the surrounding channels as well. The only problem I noticed was during the end credits when “Born on the Bayou” stammers a tad for a moment and gets a little muffled during another. Otherwise, a nice presentation overall.
For the extras, there’s a nice assortment of material to dig through, some of it culled from the previous DVD release. There’s an audio commentary with director Jim Wynorski, editor Leslie Rosenthal, composer Chuck Cirino, and executive in charge of production and distribution Arnie Holland; another, older audio commentary with just Jim Wynorski; an 18-minute interview with Wynorski; a 5-minute interview with Holland; a 7-minute interview with Cirino; a 9-minute interview with Rosenthal; an animated behind the scenes slideshow featuring 35 on-set and promotional stills; 2 public service announcements, which feature Swamp Thing protesting littering (with Dick Durock’s real voice, by the way); 2 TV spots; 6 promotional TV clips; a 5-minute promo reel from 1989 featuring unfinished picture and sound (also including Dick Durock’s original voice); the original theatrical trailer in HD; other trailers for Black Eagle, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Savannah Smiles, and D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage; a DVD copy; and a fold-out poster of the cover artwork.
Even though Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan are attached to this, the results are not quite the same as Batman, to say the least. The Return of Swamp Thing is one of those movies that’s difficult to classify. It’s bad, but it’s fun, and that’s all you can ask for. MVD Rewind’s release of the film is excellent and definitely worth picking up if you’re a fan. The next time around, I would encourage them to spend a little cash on getting some subtitles for their future releases, but other than that, this is a fine package.
- Tim Salmons