The Return of Swamp Thing Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by MVD Rewind
Directed by Jim Wynorski
Written by Derek Spencer and Grant Morris
1989, 87 minutes, Rated PG-13
Blu-ray released on May 15th, 2018
Louis Jourdan as Dr. Arkane
Heather Locklear as Abbie Arkane
Dick Durock as Swamp Thing
Sarah Douglas as Dr. Lana Zurell
Ace Mask as Dr. Rochelle
Joey Sagal as Gunn
Monique Gabrielle as Ms. Poinsettia
The Louisiana swamps are a dangerous place to visit, as snakes, alligators and other critters call the place home. A recent string of disappearances have been blamed on a monster, but nobody listens to such nonsense. Locals would be wise to take heed however, as there is indeed something evil in the vicinity. Luckily for all of us, the land is patrolled by a different kind of hero, a man-plant hybrid known only as Swamp Thing. Swamp Thing’s sworn enemy is the evil Dr. Arkane, whose genetic experiments are responsible for the creatures in the bog. When Arkane’s step-daughter Abby arrives at his mansion looking for answers into her mother’s recent passing, the mad scientist suspects her bloodline contains just what he needs to complete his quest for immortality. Swamp Thing is ready to rescue the girl and help her live happily ever after if only they can escape an army of trigger-happy henchmen.
Director Jim Wynorski (Chopping Mall) brings a lively spin to the material in this follow-up to Wes Craven’s cult classic Swamp Thing (1982). Taking things a lot less seriously and focusing more on laughs than scares, Wynorski delivers a campy old-fashioned monster movie filled with enough explosions, mutants, cleavage and broad comedy to satisfy most viewers. The Return of Swamp Thing (1989) knows exactly what kind of comic book movie it is and doesn’t try to be anything more. If you want a fast-paced and fun little action flick, Wynorski is your man. He stretches every dollar of this modestly-budgeted picture and delivers all he’s got onto the screen. Beautiful women, fun monsters and sinister villains populate the movie and it really delivers to its teenaged target audience.
Louis Jourdan (Octopussy) stars as Dr. Anton Arkane, reprising his role from the earlier picture despite the character’s demise in mutated form. Arkane is handsome and healthy with barely a mention of his previous condition. Jourdan is missing a villainous moustache he can twirl, but otherwise delivers a first-rate performance. His character is more Dr. Moreau this time around and the majority of his creations are squandered, but Arkane is still quite the adversary. Filling the role of beautiful heroine is Heather Locklear (Firestarter) as Arkane’s innocent step-daughter Abby. She plays the material straight even as her character falls in love with a giant plant-man and is frequently in danger from an evil scientist and his army of thugs. Locklear won a Razzie Award for this performance, but I don’t think that’s entirely fair. The real star of the picture is Dick Durock, who portrays Swamp Thing in both movies and returned to the role for three seasons of the television series (1990 – 1993). He is every bit the hero this movie needs and plays it like nobody’s business. Unfortunately, someone along the line decided it best to bring in an unnamed actor to dub all his dialogue, giving his voice an artificially canned tone.
Supporting cast members include the wonderful Sarah Douglas (Superman II) as Dr. Lena Zurrell, Arkane’s loyal sidekick and love interest. She is both gorgeous and menacing when facing off against Locklear. Ace Mask (Not of This Earth) plays the asthmatic Dr. Rochelle, a morally corrupt scientist willing to do whatever Arkane asks. The military team is headed by Joey Sagal (Lost Treasure) and Penthouse pet Monique Gabrielle (Deathstalker II) as Gunn and Ms. Poinsettia respectively. These two provide the muscle of the operation and make good comic book villains.
Jim Wynorski proves that he can handle comedy and action in this cheesy flick that is not your everyday super hero movie. More Toxic Avenger II than Superman II, The Return of Swamp Thing really is just a goofy fun ride. The film has a terrific opening credits sequence consisting of several Swamp Thing comic book cover art selections that are accompanied by the sounds of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Born on the Bayou”. Producers Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan went onto great success with the Batman franchise, starting in 1989 and continuing through today. Wynorski continues working as a successful director/ writer/ producer of countless features (roughly 170 by IMDB estimates) into 2018 and shows no signs of slowing down. To be honest, there’s a bunch of stupidity on display here, but if you have or were a teenage boy you could do a lot worse than checking out this silly flick.
Video and Audio:
MVD Rewind has given this movie a full 2K restoration of the original film elements and the results are quite pleasing. Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this picture has never looked better. Colors are bright and natural while black levels are bottomless. There is a lot of small-object detail in Swamp Thing’s suit and it really is terrific.
Audio options include both a DTS-HD MA 5.1 and DTS-HD MA 2.0 tracks, either of which gets the job done. The expanded mix has a bit more life to it and the music cues are a little fuller. Dialogue levels are well-balanced and never distorted.
There are a lot of really nice bonus features on this disc, starting with a pair of audio commentaries. The first is a newly recorded track with Wynorski, editor Leslie Rosenthal, composer Chuck Cirino and producer Arnie Holland. The group has a lot to say without talking over each other and everyone has great production stories.
The second commentary comes from the 2003 DVD release and features Wynorski flying solo. His tales are welcome and non-stop. He has no problem filling the time and does not slip into extended gaps of silence or on-screen narration.
Up next is a quartet of new interviews recorded in 2018 specifically for this release. Jim Wynorski (18 minutes) shares a lot of similar information from his commentaries but has even more incredible stories. The piece covers a lot of ground and I could listen to him talk for hours. Arnie Holland (5 minutes) discusses how this new Blu-ray disc came to be. Composer Chuck Cirino (7 minutes) talks about the process of writing the music for the film and editor Leslie Rosenthal (9 minutes) reveals what it’s like working with Wynorski and shares some of her experiences on location.
A behind-the-scenes slideshow (2 minutes) displays numerous promotional photographs with music from the film as accompaniment.
A pair of Greenpeace Public Service Announcement spots (1 minute) featuring the kids from the film learning about littering from Swamp Thing are also included.
Two 30-second TV spots are joined by six (6 minutes) promotional TV clips.
A 1989 promo reel (5 minutes) features highlights from the film set to “Born on the Bayou”.
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