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