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Jim Wynorski
Louis Jourdan, Heather Locklear, Sarah Douglas
Writing Credits:
Derek Spencer, Grant Morris

The Swamp Thing returns to battle the evil Dr. Arcane, who has a new science lab full of creatures transformed by genetic mutation.

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English LPCM Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 5/15/2018

• Audio Commentary with Director Jim Wynorski
• Audio Commentary with Director Jim Wynorski, Composer Chuck Cirino and Editor Leslie Rosenthal
• Interview with Director Jim Wynorski
• Interview with Arnie Holland
• Interview with Composer Chuck Cirino
• Interview with Editor Leslie Rosenthal
• Behind the Scenes Slideshow
• Public Service Announcements
• 1989 Promo Reel
• TV Clips & Spots
• Trailers
• Mini-Poster
• DVD Copy


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The Return of Swamp Thing [Blu-Ray] (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 24, 2018)

Back in 1982, Swamp Thing brought the DC Comics character to the movie screen in surprising style. Though superhero movies were somewhat out of vogue at the time, this one featured the talented Wes Craven behind the camera as well as a decent cast, and it enjoyed a fairly good reception both critically and financially.

Strangely, it took seven years for a sequel to hit, which finally occurred with 1989’s Return of Swamp Thing. This one got bad reviews and bombed at the box office, a factor that effectively neutered any shot at a revived movie franchise, though a TV Swamp Thing aired in 1990 and lasted a few seasons.

With Return, we head back to the Southern swamps of the first film, and this time, Abby Arcane (Heather Locklear) visits to confront her stepfather Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan). Along with assistance from Dr. Lana Zurrell (Sarah Douglas), Dr. Arcane uses genetic manipulation to fight the effects of aging, and he also creates his own army of freaky monsters.

In this setting, Abby finds herself at Anton’s mercy, as intends to sacrifice her to satisfy his experiments and extend his own life. Swamp Thing (Dick Durock) – the transformed creature that used to be Dr. Alec Holland – steps in to intervene.

I saw Swamp Thing back in 1982 and I think I liked it well enough. A big comic book fan at the time, the character didn’t reside among my faves, but in that climate, I’d take any superhero movies I could find, as other than the Superman films, there wasn’t much out there.

I don’t think I’ve seen the 1982 movie since then, so I can’t do much to compare it to Return. I imagine Swamp Thing had to work better than its sequel, though.

That says little, as it wouldn’t take much to offer a superior film than Return. A campy, silly affair that feels extremely “Eighties”, I can’t find much about this film to praise.

Really, only one segment of Return impresses: a sequence in which we see some of Dr. Arcane’s genetic failures. For a brief moment, Return feels more like 1986’s The Fly than a kiddie movie, as we get some genuinely unsettling glimpses of the tormented creatures.

Otherwise, this becomes a goofy effort that fails to find a workable tone. Sure, the movie opts for comedy and camp, but it doesn’t engage these in a successful manner.

That’s mainly because Return feels more like an actual bad movie than a parody of a bad movie. Director Jim Wynorski – the creator of “classics” like Chopping Mall and Sorority House Massacre II - offers a massive step down from Craven, and everything about the production declines as well.

Again, I fully accept that Wynorski at least partly intended to create a self-aware “B”-movie, but he does so too convincingly. Return seems so cheap, tacky and amateurish that it’s much easier to buy as a true “bad movie” than a spoof of one.

Jourdan and Douglas add some class to the proceedings, but Locklear fares much less well. While undeniably gorgeous, Locklear couldn’t act her way out of the proverbial paper bag, and her loud, grating performance becomes a distraction.

Though she’s far from the worst performer in the bunch, as that “honor” goes to young Daniel Emery Taylor. I don’t like to pick on child actors, but rotund little Taylor was so terrible that I can’t resist.

Essentially a more abrasive, more annoying redneck version of Chunk, Taylor stinks up an already poor production. Somehow Taylor managed a decent career in movies when he got older, but based on his awful performance here, that stuns me.

Rather than present the tortured man-beast of the first film, Return makes Swamp Thing a vegetative Rambo. The movie treats him as a true hero, one who always saves the day and who even gets a big musical fanfare when we first meet him.

Not only does this veer awkwardly from the character as designed, but also it just seems odd, especially because hardly anyone ever seems freaked out by Swampy. Most people accept this monster with barely a blink of an eye – shouldn’t he create more of a stir?

The presence of a nearly random plot doesn’t help. Return comes with an overarching theme, but the tale flits about so broadly that it never comes together in a compelling way.

Not that a tight narrative would’ve redeemed this mess. Maybe fans of campy “so bad it’s good” cinema will enjoy Return of Swamp Thing, but I think it simply winds up in “so bad it’s bad” territory.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

The Return of Swamp Thing appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not a bad presentation, the transfer showed its limitations.

Definition was acceptable, as the film showed reasonable accuracy. I’d never call it razor-sharp, but it usually offered fair delineation. Sporadic soft shots popped up, though, especially during interiors.

No issues with shimmering or jaggies occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws were absent.

Colors seemed acceptable. Return provided a natural palette that never favored any particular tones. The hues lacked much pop but they appeared passable overall.

Blacks were moderately inky, and low-light shots tended to appear somewhat dense. The transfer seemed dated but decent.

Similar thoughts greeted the lackluster DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Return. The soundscape offered good stereo presence for the score, but effects failed to add much breadth. Some material occasionally pooped up from the side and rear channels, but these failed to add a lot of pop to the proceedings.

Speech appeared a little reedy and thin, but the lines showed good intelligibility and lacked overt flaws. Music demonstrated limited range as well, but the score was clear enough and showed moderate pep.

Effects fell into the same range. They could be somewhat flat but they showed no distortion and represented the material well enough. All of this left us with a “C+” soundtrack.

The package includes a nice selection of extras, and it includes two separate audio commentaries. From 2003, the first features director Jim Wynorski, as he presents a running, screen-specific look at story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, stunts, music, editing, various effects and related domains.

Though he sags a bit as the movie progresses, Wynorski offers a pretty good chat overall. He touches on a nice array of topics and does so with a frank attitude. All of this adds up to a largely enjoyable piece.

For the second commentary, we get a circa 2018 track with director Jim Wynorski, editor Leslie Rosenthal, executive in charge of production Arnie Holland and composer Chuck Cirino. All three sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion of the same topics as the 2003 commentary - often literally.

Wynorski dominates the track and repeats many of the same stories from the prior piece. Indeed, the first two tales he tells duplicate material from the 2003 recording.

The presence of the other three participants allows for some extra details to emerge - particularly in terms of score - and Louis Jourdan's death seems to free Wynorski to offer more blunt remarks about the actor. 2003 Wynorski lets us know they didn't get along, but 2018 Wynorski tells us he hated Jourdan!

All that said, I can't claim that the 2018 chat gives us much new material. It might be the first movie commentary to allude to Harvey Weinstein's downfall, but if you only want to play one track, go with the more satisfying 2003 piece.

Footnote: in the 2003 commentary, Wynorski claims that Lethal Weapon 3 ripped off Return because it used a scene in which characters compare literal battle scars. In the 2018 track, Wynorski continues to make this claim - but Holland corrects the director to point out that Jaws did it first.

That made me happy since I nearly blew a gasket as Wynorski griped and moaned about how Lethal Weapon stole from his movie - with no recognition that he'd stolen the concept from the Spielberg classic. I'm fairly astonished that in the 15 years between commentaries, apparently no one else told Wynorski about his mistake - and I'm also surprised that a filmmaker shows so little awareness of a famous scene from one of the most successful movies ever made!

Ironically, Wynorski uses the same quote about artistic theft in both commentaries. However, in 2003, he dispensed it as a mea culpa on the part of the Lethal Weapon crew, where in 2018, he did so to defend himself.

A mix of interviews follow, the first of which comes from director Jim Wynorski. In this 17-minute, 40-second piece, Wynorski covers aspects of his career and the Return production. Some of this repeats from the commentaries, but we get enough new material to make the piece worth a look.

For the next interview, we hear from Executive In Charge of Production Arnie Holland. During his five-minute, 20-second reel, Wynorski chats with Holland about the movie’s Blu-ray and some aspects of his work on the film. Holland brings out a few good thoughts.

An interview with composer Chuck Cirino fills six minutes, 47 seconds with another conversation led by Wynorski. Cirino tells us about his score. He delivers some decent insights.

For the final interview, we hear more from editor Leslie Rosenthal. This nine-minute, 25-second piece again involves Wynorski as he gets Rosenthal to yak about her experiences. We get more repetition from the commentary mixed with unique info.

A Behind the Scenes Slideshow fills two minutes, 22 seconds, as it provides a montage of stills. We get 32 shots that mix promo images with movie elements and some glimpses of the set. It becomes a mediocre compilation.

A mix of promotional materials rounds out the set. Two Public Service Announcements show interactions between Swampy and the movie’s annoying kids as they promote Greenpeace. They’re poorly produced but act as a fun bonus.

A 1989 Promo Reel spans five minutes, 18 seconds and just shows a compilation of movie snippets. It seems pointless.

We locate two TV spots and six TV promotional clips. Presumably the latter were used during talk shows and the like. They lack much merit on their own.

We also find trailers for Return, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Black Eagle, Savannah Smiles and DOA: A Rite of Passage.

The set includes a DVD copy that provides the same extras as the Blu-ray. It also gives us a mini-poster in the package’s case.

A cheap sequel to the 1982 semi-hit, 1989’s The Return of Swamp Thing offers the tacky, silly experience most expected from the original film. Dumb, meandering and generally brainless, the movie offers virtually no cinematic pleasures. The Blu-ray brings us decent picture and audio along with good supplements. Return flops in most possible ways.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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