WIDE: The shaft of sunlight now falls full on Swamp Thing, rimming him with incandescent gold — and the most extraordinary thing is happening.
CLOSE SHOT reveals his feet are altering — his toes elongate until they’re no longer toes but roots, piercing between the great stones of the dungeon into the black earth beneath.
INSERT. IN CROSS SECTION, we see the roots plunge down between the stones, through the earth and into water.
FULL SHOT — The monster’s body swells, powerful, unstoppable. And suddenly, something on his right side waves up — where his arm had been severed there now is a thin, vine-like extension of wirey green flesh and sinew — split at the ends into tendrils — expanding and growing!
Now, the special effects, when the arm starts to grow back… Was it what you wanted it to be, or did it end up changing because of budget?
Yeah, I think you could say that about almost everything involving the special effects. His costume is, you know, not what you’d hoped, but… it’s what they could do based on the budget they had, and the time to do it.
How often during the filming process did you have to revise your script, due to budgetary reasons?
There was a lot of that, and it was very bitter. I learned a lot of things on this film; one is you never talk to the actors or actresses about your problems as a director, cause they just don’t want to hear that. They want to feel like you’re totally in control.
If somebody’s standing in your way, you just trample right over them, and I don’t know, at that point in my career, I wasn’t prepared to do that. I think I would’ve had to get myself fired, and hope that they called me back. Subsequently, I have done things like that.
And also, early in your career, you haven’t learned all the tricks for moving on without losing important stuff.
I remember I was on some television movie where I was shooting a master, and kept doing repeated takes of a master, until the entire master was perfect. And finally, my DP came up to me, and said, “Sir, you can cut in closer. You probably just use the first couple seconds of the master.” I was like, Duh, oh, you’re right.
Spending a lot of time editing during the making of movies, you learn what shots you really need and what shots you don’t. But at this point I wasn’t that sophisticated, I guess is a fair way to put it.
INT. AQUIFER. SPFX.
Clinging together in near darknesss, swimming against the swift current, Swamp Thing and Cable roll and tumble and fight their way towards a distant glow.
At last, when their lungs are about to burst, they’re swallowed by the light.
EXT. THE SWAMPS. DAY.
They burst out into sunlight and oxygen — in the middle of a deep pool. All around are wild, pristine swamp — as if they had emerged at the birth of time.
Was there anything that you had to cut that just really bummed you out?
Well, it was an underwater, swimming — kind of escaping through underground water systems. And anybody will tell you in film, as soon as you go on the water, your time doubles or triples, because everything just becomes enormously more difficult.
So it probably was an impossible thing to have pulled off with anywhere near our budget. But to me, I felt like I’d failed. I felt you needed some big set piece for the ending, to really make people go wow.
And the suit was starting to really show its age. It was increasingly clear that close-ups of it were… It was a pretty rudimentary suit. And after a while, you felt, I’m just looking at old latex falling apart. I’m doomed.
This day was, you know, very much like: the costumes are on their last legs, and the stunt men are fainting, and we just… We’d better get out of here, before we’re all dead.
What effect would you say that Swamp Thing had on your career?
I think it almost sank it. I love the poster.
It is a great poster.
But it sincerely did not work. I didn’t get another film to direct for quite a while. Thank God, during the filming of this, I had the idea in my head for Nightmare on Elm Street, so doing this film and Deadly Blessing back to back, I had enough money in the bank to take a couple years off.
I think it was going on three years when I finally got the money to do it. I went through all the money that I’d saved, and lost my house, and was literally selling my goods. So it was not the high point of my career, that’s for sure.
What do you think of the film now, having revisited it?
I’m fond of it. But it’s certainly not my strongest directing, and technically the special effects parts of it are… lacking. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they like the film.
But because of the various shortcomings in it, I feel like I’ve done a lot better than this. That said, I’m glad I made it. It was an adventure, you know. And it had a great poster. What more can I say?
It was a great poster.
The final battle
3.44: En Garde
— Danny Horn
8 thoughts on “Swamp Thing 3.43: Wes’ Lament”
“We’d better get out of here, before we’re all dead.”
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Not a bad philosophy in general.
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We all have things on our resume that we regret or at least hoped would have turned out better. At least in my profession I’ve never had to worry about killing people in a swamp. And unfortunately movie-set deaths do sometimes occur, as we’ve seen recently. I’m glad all of Craven’s people made it out okay.
I do hope that the people he learned to trample over were the bigwigs and bondsmen rather than the actual cast and crew of his films.
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Yeah; I’d say one of the most important “soft skills” (that is, not technical) a director can learn is who to push back on, where, and when.
Bigwigs, most people in this industry eventually learn, are the most terrified, insecure people in the business. You think performers are replaceable? Execs come and go like the tide, but faster and nobody prints charts in the paper about it. So they throw their weight around and make insane, project-destroying decisions just to prove that they’re important and matter and aren’t as disposable as a used Kleenex.
Pushing back actually does them a favor–it gives them something to fight for (their job) and makes them seem useful. So push back against the executive who just told you your costume budget was cut by two thirds! That your shooting schedule is three days! They’ll thank you.
Or, you know, they’ll fire you in a panic. One of those two.
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I like to think that, in some parallel universe, Kraven and his krew had the time and the money and the expertise to make the movie they wanted to make, to realize the story in their heads.
And in some other universe, the studio executives who forced them to compromise so wretchedly are living hand to mouth in a swamp somewhere eating roots and slugs.
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How many other people saw the screenshot of the shoot and thought “I am Groot?”
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Boy, he was selling off his stuff? That’s pretty damn hard up in Hollywood.
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I remember once, being over at someone’s house, flipping through the cable options, and I think “Swamp Thing” was showing on HBO or some cable movie channel. I was amazed to see Adrienne Barbeau, whom I only knew as Maude’s daughter, in it. I only watched maybe a few minutes of it, and I got that there were moments of intensity. But I was thinking that this could also be super-scary and/or super-gross-out-scary, as some low budget films are. I experienced “NIght of the Living Dead,” especially the first time I saw it, as being both of these things, super-scary AND super-gross-out-scary. I was relieved, even to find in just watching this for a few minutes, that it was not either of these things, and only much later learned that it was based on a comic book. Somehow, because it was based on a comic book, it just made the romp somehow more fun and less concerned about it being literally terrifying.
Certainly, maybe with a different budget, different script, even a different director, the film could have edged toward the absolute terror that can come from a good horror classic, it also would have lost its atmosphere. Even though it may not have been what Wes wanted it to be, I think “Swamp Thing” still stands on its own, having just recently watched the whole thing on YouTube. I’m sorry Wes Craven had such a tough time of it, during and after “Swamp Thing,” but eventually he did more than all right. And while certainly not Shakespeare or even “Night of the Living Dead,” “Swamp Thing” really does have its own ultimate charm in an almost “so-bad-it’s-good” kind of way.
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