For a deeper look into The Return of Swamp Thing, check out Joe Shearer’s excellent essay from our recent No Sleep October series.
Wes Craven’s take on Swamp Thing in the eponymous 1983 film is a cult classic these days but not necessarily one fans recommend based on its quality alone. Sure, it has a fair bit going for it — incredible set design, a boffo Louis Jourdain performance and, depending on the cut, some truly superfluous nudity from Adrienne Barbeau. It’s also rather slow, stilted and, ultimately, silly in a bad way. Why watch the original, anyway, when its 1989 sequel, The Return of Swamp Thing has all that (well, besides the nudity) and more? There’s not question in my mind: Return is in every way the superior take on ol’ Swampy, and this is probably the best way to watch the true cinematic version of the character.
When we last left Swamp Thing, he had defeated the evil Anton Arcane (Jourdain) in martial combat after Arcane had mutated himself into a bizarre pig-monster. This time around, Arcane’s stepdaughter, Abby (Heatlher Locklear), arrives in the swamp to visit her stepfather after the death of her mother. It’s never really explained why Arcane is alive again, but it doesn’t matter because resurrection has given Jourdain even greater charisma and even fewer fucks in front of the camera. He’s now joined by a coterie of colorful bodyguards, all of whom have memorably funny lines of dialogue and moments to shine.
Abby uncovers the evil of Arcane’s lab and ends up befriending Swamp Thing. The two quickly fall in love and consummate their connection with a psychedelic ritual inspired directly from Alan Moore’s seminal run on the character. I went more into detail about my feelings on Moore’s run when I reviewed the first film; in short, I have mixed feelings, so it really doesn’t bother me how Return borrows liberally while maintaining a campy tone that Moore worked hard to avoid. It’s all the same character, just different versions.
There’s a ton to enjoy in Return, and it’s a great movie to watch with a crowd. Even the low-budget sets look great for what they are; the cheapness even ads to the charm. MVD’s new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray makes it abundantly clear the film was designed with a shoestring budget philosophy. You can see the tape on implements in Arcane’s science lab. That’s not to say it all looks terrible: This is the best Swamp Thing himself has looked on screen because they realized he needed actual texture on his body to avoid looking like a rubber suit. The result is a mossy, wet and quite clearly very smelly hero.
It’s a total riot and probably the cinematic pinnacle of what the character will ever be.
- 1989 promo reel
- Photo Gallery (accompanied by composer Chuck Cirino’s film’s score)
- Greenpeace public service announcements
- TV spots
- Promotional TV clips
- Original theatrical trailer (HD transfer from original 35mm materials)
- Interview with Lightyear Entertainment executive Arnie Holland
- Interview with editor Leslie Rosenthal
- Interview with Cirino
- Interview with director Jim Wynorski
- Audio commentary from Wynorski, Cirino and Rosenthal
- Audio commentary from Wynorski
- Brand-new 4K restoration from the original interpositive with Dolby Vision / HDR mastering
- Original 2.0 and 5.1 audio
- Reflections on Swamp Thing 35 years later by Michael Uslan, producer of both Swamp Thing films and executive producer of the Batman films
- “Your Ever-Lovin’ Swamp Thing” music video by the RiffTones