Sunday, June 20, 2010

Papa's Dei: Swamp Thing

I know what you're thinking- he forgot what the day was and is just putting this review up anyways.  Wrong, good sirs! I have a legitimate- albeit weird- reason for picking this film.  The word 'male-bonding' is thrown around a lot for silly reasons, but it is a real thing.  As a young man growing up, I got to watch really ridiculous and silly movies with my father.  For those of you who have been wondering for the last 16 months, this is where I get it from.  Movies like Empire of the Ants, Them! and today's subject were movies that we watched together.  It's odd to think that movies by people that are almost all dead had such a big influence on my life.  Because of that- and because it fits my month-long theme so well- I want to take a nice, long look at Wes Craven's 1982 film.  A lot of people overlook this film as part of his filmography, although not as much as Music of the Heart.  It's a little bittersweet to look at the film after Dick Durock's death- R.I.P.- but I'll still do it.  Put on your galoshes for my review of...
The film begins with a man wandering around the swamp, while we also see a woman flying into the area via helicopter.  The woman (Adrianne Barbeau) has been sent by the government to oversee the operation of some experiments out in the area.  She meets up with the head scientist, who instantly-like due to his name being Alec.  You're part of a rare breed, sir!  There's instant chemistry between the two and he takes her out on a tour of the swamp.  This causes some strife, however, as the man we saw earlier got killed out in the swamp.  In spite of that, our hero keeps working on his formula, a serum that is supposed to make plants grow in rough areas.  Fun fact: this stuff looks just like the Re-Animator potion.  A lady scientist discovers that the stuff is a powerful explosive.  Oh yeah, it also causes plant-life to grow there as well.  Unfortunately, the joy of this discovery is ruined by a bunch of armed men showing up to take it.  Why does this happen with all of my experiments?!?  The man behind it is revealed to be Dr. Arcane (Louis Jordan).  He has big plans for the stuff.  All that stands in the way are the scientists.  Fortunately, he shoots one & douses the other in chemicals before setting him on fire, before the swamp water puts it out.
The evil scientist has only one thing go wrong: the busty, government agent gets away.  She flees into the swamp and manages to run across a local, black kid.  Oh thank God, the day is saved!  Her escape to a gas station is short-lived, however, as her call for help is intercepted by Arcane.  One 'awkward turn of a limo in a scene that could have been cut' later and the villains are on the move.  She tries to fend off the men, but proceeds to not only trip, but also miss her shot and drop the gun.  Is she trying to be the most inept movie heroine ever or is this just a coincidence?  Fortunately for her, a giant, green man from the swamp arrives.  Wait- why is that a good thing?  As it turns out, this is our hero- Swamp Thing.  You see, the mix of toxins, fire and swamp water made him into the titular creature.  How does that work?  What do I look like- a biologist?!?  He thoroughly beats up the men, even taking a number of bullets in the chest.  The battle moves into the swamp, where things turn even more in his favor.  He's saved the gal, protected the kid and wailed on the bad guy's henchman.  I'm sure that there will be no reprisal for that.
As it turns out, I'm very wrong.  Arcane doesn't take defeat well and sends his goons back out to defeat our hero.  This time, however, there are more of them.  Their combined force, plus some grenades and powerboats, allow them to defeat the creature and capture him.  At his lair, the villain has decided to test out his new formula on one of his own men- played by a well-known character actor- and turns him into a mutated midget.  Trapped in the dungeon, our hero manages to regrow his previously-lopped off arm by exposing the stump to the sun.  It's a race against time, however, as Arcane injects himself with the formula and mutates.  The two are aided by the midget and flee into the swamp via the sewers as a mutant Arcane gives chase.  Out in the swamp, the two 'monsters' fight, but Arcane has the edge due to him picking up a sword on his way out.  He stabs the woman, but, in turn, gets stabbed by Swamp Thing and killed...until the sequel.  Using his magical, plant-like healing powers from before, he brings the woman back to life in the film's least climactic scene.  Seriously, we didn't see this coming?  The End.
This movie is great, but is certainly not without its flaws.  The plot is simple and flows at a pretty good rate.  As an original tale, there is a bit of stalling at the beginning to set up the events that have to take place.  Once that part begins, the action is fast, furious and fun.  The film is not lacking in two key things: guns and explosions.  You also get some fun monsters, plus a really cheesy transformation scene by the henchman.  Seriously, it's almost worth the rental price alone!  The battle between the two creatures is fun and has a certain level of drama to it.  I will freely admit that the original Swamp Thing suit is a bit dry (no pun intended) and could use more color.  That would be addressed in the sequels and subsequent TV series though.  Durock does a great job as the title character, Barbeau is her usual self and Jordan is a true camp delight.  As a classically-trained actor, he can pull off the serious stuff- what little there is- and the silly stuff too.  The whole experience is very fun, campy and enjoyable.  If you like '80s movies and its ilk, you owe it to yourself to see this film.  It helped make me the freaky person I am today!
Next up, Jim Wynorski brings us a sequel a mere seven years later.  Will it be made with his trademark lack of subtlety or actually be good?  Stay tuned...

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