Category Archives: Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing 3.45: Six Million Dollars

This is my final post for Swamp Thing, which is the traditional time for me to talk about how the movie earned the highest opening-weekend returns in history, and was the #1 box office draw for months and months. At least, that’s how it worked for Superman and Superman II. There’s a bit of a different situation with Swamp Thing.

In fact, I’m not certain how much Swamp Thing made. I typically use Box Office Mojo as my source, and Swamp Thing doesn’t appear on their 1982 domestic box office listing. Their data only goes back to 1977, and for the first six or seven years, they don’t have information on every movie. Part of the problem is that Swamp Thing wasn’t in wide release: it opened in different parts of the country any time between February and August. The other part of the problem is that nobody cares except me.

I found a site called Ultimate Movie Rankings that says Swamp Thing made $6.4 million domestic, and where they got that number I haven’t a notion. But let’s go with that.

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Swamp Thing 3.43: Wes’ Lament

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! 

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Swamp Thing 3.42: The Monster at the End of This Movie


says Wes Craven’s script for Swamp Thing,

when we’re in very close, something bright pokes through. We see it’s a talon, perhaps three inches long. Then another, and then a whole hand of some sort — half eagle, half reptile — thrusts out.

Without warning, the transformed Arcane bursts out of his egg — a horrendous, lion-maned, hyena-faced monster ten times more horrendous than Swamp Thing. It lets out a terrifying SCREECH that shakes the very walls of the place!

Well, I don’t know about terrifying, but horrendous? Nailed it. I couldn’t agree more.

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Swamp Thing 3.41: A Disaster on Every Count

“Unable to consummate his love for the beauty,” writes Vincent Canby in the New York Times, “the beast must satisfy himself by camping it up in the swamp.”

“How refreshing,” agrees John Engstrom in the Boston Globe, “to find a bad movie that knows it’s bad, and wears its badness proudly.”

Newsday says “It has an astonishing verisimilitude to the low-budget ’50s horror movie,” and Variety says that Wes Craven “tries in vain, through old-fashioned music, characters and dialog, to re-create the ’50s B-monster movie.”

This brings up a question that I’d never even considered: Is Swamp Thing supposed to be camp?

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Swamp Thing 3.40: The Unconcluded Caramel Kane

Snuggled up to a half-caff carafe of magic Jekyll juice, the mad wizard Arcane has found his petard and is busily hoisting himself. And then who should saunter by, but the incomparable Caramel Kane?

This bright young thing is listed in the credits as Arcane’s Secretary, but you and I and the other avid readers of the Swamp Thing novelization know her true identity. It’s Caramel Kane, the missing daughter of Senator Michael Kane, which is an intriguing bit of backstory that the novel mentions once, and then forgets about it completely.

Of course, it’s the prerogative of the author of a movie novelization to add some splashes of local color, giving the minor players a name and, if we’re lucky, something of an interior life. They generally do this pretty haphazardly, because they have to write fifteen pages a day, and going back to edit a previous passage cuts into their drinking time.

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Swamp Thing 3.39: Who Henches the Henchman?

To recap, here’s what we know about Dr. Alec Holland’s bio-restorative formula: It’s the result of experiments in merging animal cells with plant cells. Dr. Holland was hoping to develop plants that have an animal’s aggressive power for survival; he wanted tomatoes that can grow in the desert. Personally, I don’t think world hunger is the tomatoes’ fault, but Alec thought we ought to have some, just in case.

So far, we’ve seen the formula work three times:

#1) Some drops that fell on the pine floor made the floorboards sprout new branches.

#2) A little bit of formula mixed into a beaker made an orchid grow into a full tree in less than a day.

#3) A human who was soaked in the formula, set on fire and thrown into the swamp turned into an unholy mud zombie made of moss and fury and Latin names for things.

You’ll notice that all three of those were topical uses, and all of them involved the formula interacting with plant matter. But now Arcane, the presumed-dead megalomaniac cult leader, thinks that he should gulp down a big glass of it and it’ll do something exciting to him, and I honestly can not imagine where he got that idea.

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Swamp Thing 3.38: Party at Arcane’s Place

The well-known and presumed-dead international criminal Arcane is throwing a dinner party for both his well-heeled investors and his smelly contagious henchmen, although everyone seems to be getting along fine, as long as they don’t ask too many questions about the contents of their cocktails. Swamp Thing and Cable have been captured, and now the monster’s being held downstairs in the castle dungeon, with the federal agent trussed up and on display at the party. The only way out is through, Alec said, and this is a particularly unsettling through.

But this is exactly the right point in the movie to land the lead characters in a terrible jam, according to the classic three-act movie structure. Say what you like about Wes Craven’s script — and I have, and will continue to — the man knew his Syd Field.

I’ll do a quick review, if you’re not familiar. According to Field’s 1979 book Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, which I have decided to use on this blog like it’s the Ten Commandments, a movie should have three distinct acts.

Act 1 should take up the first 25% of the screenplay, introducing the premise and the main character, and it should end with the first plot point — an inciting incident that changes the character’s situation, and drives the film. For Swamp Thing, the first plot point is obviously the flaming Alec Holland jumping into the mire, and it shows up at minute 25, which is only about a minute late.

Act 2 takes up the middle two quarters of the movie, and features the rising action, as the main character deals with the fallout from the first plot point, usually by making boats explode. The second act often ends with the main character at their lowest point, with the second plot point putting them in a situation where they need to experience character growth.

For Swamp Thing, that second plot point was Arcane capturing Swamp Thing and Cable, and getting his hands on the notebook, which makes this party the beginning of Act 3 — and it’s happening 24 minutes before the end of the film, exactly on time.

I mean, the rest of the movie frankly sucks; from here on, there’s practically nothing in the film that is of any value to the audience. But at least the structure of the movie is sound; it’s got that going for it.

Continue reading Swamp Thing 3.38: Party at Arcane’s Place

Swamp Thing 3.37: Because You Demanded It

Back in early ’82, the producers of Swamp Thing published a trade ad in Variety that listed all the tie-in merchandise that Warner Bros was planning to release for Swamp Thing, before they realized that it wasn’t a good movie and they shouldn’t bother.

Warners had a full slate of products lined up, as per the Superman movie, which set the standard for superhero movie tie-in merch. The Swamp Thing plans included a line of toys by Mego, Halloween costumes and masks by Ben Cooper, and T-shirts and sleepwear by Strata. Grandreams was going to produce a poster book, Eclipse Enterprises planned to make a souvenir program and an art portfolio, and Crown Books was supposed to publish a hardcover book about the movie’s special effects. Just imagine! It probably would have cost more to produce the book than they spent on the actual effects.

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Swamp Thing 3.36: The Anatomy Lesson

After a tough day of being chased and caught and kidnapped and assaulted and chased again, around and around in a trackless swamp with no exit signs or toilet facilities, it makes sense that Agent Alice Cable would want to take a moment to relax, and refresh herself.

Still, I don’t get why she’s choosing to relax in the gross tannic-acid parasite-ridden swamp water. This is the same water that she just swam in; it doesn’t get cleaner because you’re standing still. This is the thing you’re trying to wash off.

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