Okay, so in the 70’s, writer Len Wein and artist Berni Wrightson created a tight little horror story for House of Secrets #92, featuring a plant-man much like previous comics characters, The Heap and Marvel’s Man-Thing. The next year, Wein and Wrightson were given a monthly series featuring the character, who was dubbed Swamp Thing. The series lasted for 23 issues before being cancelled due to low sales.
Then in 1982, filmmaker Wes Craven brought out a film adaptation of Swamp Thing, the main legacy of which would be to convince DC to revive the character in a new series, Saga of the Swamp Thing, which would be turned over to Alan Moore in due time, and eventually revolutionize the comics industry. But that was in the future. Let’s watch the movie.
The film opens as government agent Alice Cable (played by Adrienne Barbeau) arrives in the swamp to guard a mysterious scientist working on a secret project.
She does not fit in too well. She is told she will actually be guarding two scientists, the Hollands, Alec and Linda. She meets them soon after when Alec (Ray Wise) asks her help catching a runaway lab possum.
He follows this up by shamelessly hitting on her, which creeps Cable out. Still, she explores the swamp with him and celebrates with him when she learns that, not only is Linda his sister instead of his wife, but his secret formula finally works.
Well, we know this can’t last, can we? In fact, all along, we’ve been seeing a paramilitary force closing in on the Hollands’ compound, and finally they make their move, killing all the guards and capturing Holland. They are led by French villain Arcane, played by Louis Jordan in a realistic mask.
Arcane wants Holland’s secret formula, which is an attempt to merge animal and plant DNA to create aggressive plants, which, why do we want that, exactly? There’s some folderol about curing world hunger or something, but I would rather eat my vegetables than have them eat me, right? I don’t want my lawn trying to mow me, thankyouverymuch.
Arcane kills Linda in the process of demanding Holland’s formula and notebooks, and Holland goes apeshit. He smashes the vial of his formula, which not only makes plants grow like crazy, but is also explosive. He runs out into the swamp, on fire (just like his comic book origin), and plunges into the water. Arcane takes the notebooks with him (minus one that Cable managed to hide under her boobs) and orders his men to eliminate all evidence, including bodies and witnesses.
Cable manages to stay out of sight (we’ll see her hiding behind stuff a lot in this movie…)
and hides the notebook before making a break for it. However she is caught by the thugs, who try to drown her in the swamp.
That sucks, although you can see what’s coming, right? Yeah, this…
There’s a monster in the swamp. He kills a couple of the thugs as Cable makes her escape. Which leads to more hiding.
And let me pause here to make a completely obvious observation: Adrienne Barbeau has big boobs. And Wes Craven knows this. Seriously, the movie is as much about Adrienne Barbeau’s boobs as it is about Swamp Thing.
Cable finds a gas station in the swamp and runs to it. Station operator Jude and his strategically-placed Coke bottle can’t believe their luck, since she doesn’t so much run as bounces, or should I say, Barbeaunces.
Love this kid. He’s a lousy actor, but his accent is amusing and he doesn’t even try to hide it when he ogles the Barboobs.
Cable tries calling her superiors, but the call is routed by the operator to Arcane, who comes after her. There’s more hiding and some shooting, then Cable runs into the woods. The bad guys chase her in a CUCVEE, which Swamp Thing destroys, before reaching out to touch Cable, giving us our first good look at him.
Okay, it’s kind of halfway between awesome and awful. I mean, the suit echoes the basic shapes of Wrightson’s original design very closely, and at the right angle in the right lighting, it looks very close to the comic. But too often, you can see by the way the suit wrinkles that it is just a suit.
Cable shoos the monster away, and Jude shows up again, ogling her boobs and offering to take her to a trapper’s cabin where she can change clothes. He’s such a little perv.
Next day, she’s in fresh clothes that are suspiciously well-fitted. I mean, I’m just saying this trapper apparently has some lush hips. Anyway, there’s a lot of chasing around and Barbeauncing…
but eventually, Swamp Thing ends up facing off against Ferret, evil machete-wielding henchman. Ferret is killed, but not before he chops off Swamp Thing’s arm. Cable then shares a touching moment with Swamp Thing, where she learns that he is actually Alec Holland. And there’s all kinds of gross sexual subtext going on in this scene. For instance…
Meanwhile, Arcane is setting a trap for the monster, whom he now realizes contains the secrets to Holland’s formula. So he decides to set a trap. But first, a Barbath…
Seriously, this movie is so joyfully shameless about exploiting the Barboobs that I’m almost tempted to overlook its many faults. But what fun would that be?
Arcane and henchman Bruno capture Cable and Swamp Thing, and also recover the lost notebook, so now arcane can replicate Holland’s formula. Arcane celebrates at a dinner party for his henchmen and their girlfriends, along with Cable and her boobs.
He offers a toast to henchman Bruno, neglecting to mention that he has spiked Bruno’s drink with Swamp Thing juice. But lacking a fire or a swamp to put it out, Bruno just turns into a rat-like midget.
Arcane storms down to his dungeon and demands that Alec tell him why the formula didn’t work. Alec explains that it makes you more of what you already are. Bruno was small and timid inside, so he turned into a rat-man. Alec was, um, green and a vegetable, so he…
Whatever. I’d like to see them try it on Cable next.
Yeah, baby, make her more of what she is. But no. Arcane decides to try it on himself, instead, reasoning that his genius will find a pure physical expression. But of course, inside, he’s actually a wolfman crossed with the Creature From the Black Lagoon or something.
Meanwhile, a tiny ray of sunlight allows Alec to sprout a new arm (which appears curiously phallic in a couple of shots, though that just may be because they intercut it with the Barboobs).
Arcane attacks and stabs Cable with a sword before Alec can kill him. Then Alec uses the healing power of his moss (which he previously used to save Jude’s life) to bring Cable back to life, and not coincidentally, grope the shit out of her at the same time.
So Cable is totally in love with Alec Holland, but since he’s a plant guy, he decides to stay in the swamp, leading Cable to seek comfort in the arms of Jude.
Lucky kid. Seriously, no matter what your opinion of Adrienne Barbeau’s acting skills, for a 15-or-so-year-old kid it must have been the next thing to heaven to get paid to stare at Adrienne Barbeau’s tits all day. You know, except for being out in the swamp. But I guess if you’re in a movie called Swamp Thing, you can’t expect it to all take place in an air-conditioned hotel room with room service and a mini-bar.
Next week, if we’re lucky: The Return of Swamp Thing. Yeah, I know, I have a weird definition of “lucky.”