Saturday, June 30, 2018

THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING (1989) (MVD Rewind Blu-ray Review)


Label: MVD Rewind 

Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 88 Minuutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, English PCM Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Jim Wynorski
Cast: Heather Locklear, Louis Jourdan, Dick Durock, Sarah Douglas

Synopsis: After her mother's mysterious death, Abigail Arcane (Heather Locklear) travels to the Florida swamps to confront her resurrected evil stepfather Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan). In an attempt to stave off the effects of aging, Dr. Arcane, assisted by Dr. Lana Zurrell (Sarah Douglas), combines genes from various swamp animals and human beings, creating an army of monsters known as Un-Men. When Abby arrives, Dr. Arcane is hell-bent on taking his own stepdaughter's life in the name of science... that is until she is rescued by SWAMP THING in this must-see sequel to the original cult classic and based on the award-winning DC Comics series!

Believe it or not The Return of Swamp Thing is produced by the same guys whom have produced all the Batman movies since Tim Burton's 1989 film, even stranger these guys chose b-movie schlockmeister Jim Wynorski (Chopping Mall) to direct this DC comic property, a seven-years-later sequel to Wes Craven film. The film resurrects the evildoer Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan, Octopussy) from the frist film - which if you saw the first film is quite a feat - he's once again is in the swamps of Georgia doing evil stuff, this time creating a race of half-man, half-animal "un-men" - to what end I am not quite sure, it's all very Island of Lost Souls in a way. Arcane's stepdaughter Abigail(Heather Locklear, TV's Melrose Place) comes to visit her estranged stepfather in the swamps hoping to reconcile what happened to her late mother, she having mysteriously died recently at Arcane's plantation mansion. 

Arcane still has an army of mercenaries working for him, in addition to chief science types, we have the albuterol-sucking Dr. Rochelle (Ace Mask) and  Lana Zurrell (Sarah Douglas, Superman II) who oversee the creation of his genetically spliced un-men, offering an  array of mutant monstrosities to watch, we get animal/human hybrids of an elephant, a leech, a cockroach, what looks to be an armadillo, and a guy who looks like the cannibalistic madman from Anthropophagus (1980), I am almost certain that it's an homage to that character. When the film opens we catch-up with a group of DEA agents looking for illicit moonshine stills in the swamps, but the only thing they find, unfortunately for them, is leech-man, and this is where we're re-introduced to Swamp Thing (Dick Durock, Raw Deal) who shows up just in time to save at least one of the agents, and right away I was blown away by the design of the new suit, looking very close to the Bernie Wrightson design from the comics, a vast improvement over the man in glorified garbage bag from Wes Craven's first film, The suit this time out is nicely detail molded with roots and vegetation deeply detailed, the face is really what sells it though, the character can emote like we've never seen before - but despite this awesome design I couldn't help but snigger a bit when the character spoke - gone is the original voice of Dick Durock, and what we get in it's place is sort of funny sounding charmer of a voice, it's a strange choice. 

Not that strange choices are rare in this film, it's a stumper in a lot of ways, but I like the direction of it, Wynorski is going for a camped-up comic film with plenty of over-the-top strangeness and a bucket-load of cool - though only briefly seen - practical make-up appliances for the un-men, the only one to get any real screentime is the leech-man, who battles the green much hero twice, both time are awesomely fun and the action is on-point.

Some other fun cheesiness include the completely unnecessary inclusion of two adolescent kid characters hellbent on getting a picture of Swamp Thing to sell to the tabloids, they seem like they're rejects from Hal Roach's Our Gang (The Little Rascals) shorts, the freckled ginger kid particularly. While they're not necessary characters I never once regretted seeing them onscreen. Then we have two of the mercenaries working for Arcane by way of Miss Poinsettia (Monique Gabrielle, Penthouse Pet December '82) and Gunn (Joey Sagal, (Barb Wire) brother of the more famous Katie Sagal (Married With Children)) who two of the more significant of the baddies, they have a scene where they compare scars, you know, like in Jaws, with wounds ranging from wounds in Nicarauga to a bite mark from a Motley Crue concert), just silly stuff like that.

Back to the main characters I have to say I think Louis Jourdan is really awful here, he gives the strangest performance, a mix of odd expressions and what looks to be boredom, the guy doesn't seem to want to be there, and who can blame him, he probably loathed that this is where he was at in this point and time in his career, this being his second to last film appearance. To that point there's a humorous anecdote on the extras wherein Wynorsky points out that Jourdan refused to say a characters nickname as it referenced breasts, and the director retorted with "weren't you just in a film called Octopussy?", causing the aging star to storm off the set, so that could not have helped I guess. Then there's Heather Locklear, a blond cutey for sure but she is playing this for laughs with some quippy/pun-laden dialogie that seems like a different film altogether, but it made me laugh and groan in equal measure, such as her character being is a dyed-in-the-wool vegetarian and somehow this should make us believe she would fall in love with ol' swampy, gotta love it. Anyway, this subplot allows for a weird oral-sex joke and some hallucinogenic dream-sex, I shit you not. 

The Return of Swamp Thing is just a fun film, it's super-corny and comic book-y, but not in the Alan Moore sort of way, which I would love to see actually filmed, the Alan Moore run on Swamp Thing is epic and would make for a fucked-up and gorgeous film, maybe someday, but definitely not with the this sequel or the Wes Craven original. This sin;t one I've seen before so I didn't have any nostalgic love for it, so I was kinda surprised I loved it so much first time around. 

Audio/Video: The Return of Swam Things (1989) arrives on 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD from MVD Rewind with a new 2K transfer from unspecified elements. Whatever the source the grain is nicely managed, and the source is near flawless, there's no print damage I can see aside from some minor white speckling. Colors are nicely saturated and sharp looking without looking to bright and vivid, the greens of the swamp and the mucky hero really shine. Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 and a stereo LPCM track, there are no subtitle options. The stereo track is well-balanced and is my preferred viewing option but the surround track sounds great, especially during the opening credits scene with Creedence Clearwater Revivals "Born on the Bayou" blasting along, as I had never watched this before I was really surprised when that popped-up on the soundtrack! 

Onto the extras we get the original Jim Wynorski audio commentary from old Image DVD, plus a brand new commentary from Director Jim Wynorski, Composer Chuck Cirino and Editor Leslie Rosenthal, a great revisit that touches on the shooting locations, gimmicks used to the film, the score and production anecdotes about the cast and crew.  Exclusive to this release are about 40-min worth of new interviews with Director Jim Wynorski (17 min), Editor Leslie Rosenthal (9 min), Composer Chuck Cirino (7 min), and Lightyear Entertainment Executive Arnie Holland 5 mn) which are loose and fun. Additionally we have a series of TV spots, two littering PSA featuring Swamp Thing and the two kids, which notably features Dick Durock's real voice. There's also a 5-min promo real, 8-min of TV promotional clips, an HD trailer, an image gallery,   

The 2-disc release comes housed in a clear dual-tray Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, the two options are similar and I preferred the MVD Rewind framing of the a-side, the b-side is the same key art with a tan border and some small differences, like the annoying "Blu-ray + DVD" blue banner at the top, the b-side also noting that this is the  30th Anniversary Special Collector's Edition of the film. The discs themselves are simple white backgrounds with black logo-ed lettering. Also included is a one-sided mini-foldout poster of the MVD Rewind a-side artwork. This release also includes a limited edition slipcover with the usual MVD Rewind Collection patina of worn=packaging and rental store video stickers, it has some nice shelf appeal, and in spine-numbered - this being number five. 

Special Features: 

- Brand-New 2K High-Definition Transfer
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition (480p) DVD presentations of the main feature
- Original 2.0 and 5.1 Stereo Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- NEW Audio commentary from Director Jim Wynorski, Composer Chuck Cirino and Editor Leslie Rosenthal
- Original Audio commentary from Director Jim Wynorski
- NEW Interview with Director Jim Wynorski (17 min) HD 
- NEW Interview with Editor Leslie Rosenthal (9 min) HD 
- NEW Interview with Composer Chuck Cirino (7 min) HD 
- NEW Interview with Lightyear Entertainment Executive Arnie Holland 5 mn) HD 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (New HD Transfer from original 35mm materials) (1 min) 
- 6 Promotional TV Clips (8 min) SD
- 2 TV Spots (2 min) SD
- 2 Greenpeace Public Service Announcements (1 min) SD
- 1989 Promo Reel (5 min) SD 
- Photo Gallery (accompanied by Chuck Cirino's film's score) (2 min) HD 
- Collectible Mini-Poster
- MVD Rewind Trailers: Black Eagle (2 min) HD, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (2 min), Savannah Smiles (3 min), D.O.A: A Rite of Passage (4 min) 

The Return of Swamp Thing (1989) is a fun, trashy super-hero film, b-movie superman Jim Wynorski knows his cheese and this one is ripe with the best kind of cinema fromage, and that they nailed the design of the creature is pretty damn sweet. The film is a far cry from the Alan Moore run from the comics that I would love to see but when I think about it, I'll revisit this long before I revisit the over-serious original film, MVD Rewind knocked it out of the park with this one with a surpsingly nice A/V presentation and oodles of new extras and nice packaging. If you're a fan there's a lot here to love, and if you're not fan, well  I don't think we can be friends, I know it ain't good, it's awesome!