Tag Archives: costumes

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 3.17: People Make Choices

“The film couldn’t and doesn’t rely on its special effects,” said director Wes Craven, erroneously. “As the producers went for the person who did the effects on the basis of who gave the lowest quote, you can understand why I had to make the film more of a human experience.”

Which is all very well — I like a human experience as much as the next guy — but the fact is that Swamp Thing absolutely does rely on its special effects, because the non-human is the lead character. This is a superhero movie about a big green monster who saves a beautiful woman from a mean wizard, which means you’re going to need, at minimum, a credible monster, woman and wizard. A story like that can’t just skate by on insights into the human condition, especially since I don’t think Swamp Thing has any of those, either.

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Swamp Thing 3.16: Suiting Up

I suppose that now is as good a time as any to start assigning blame.

We’re currently thirty minutes into a ninety-minute Swamp Thing movie, which means it’s time for them to stop dicking around with opossums and go ahead and show us Swamp Thing. So here he is in long shot, emerging from the mire to bang on a boat, and save the day.

You don’t see a lot of him, right away. A muscular green arm grabs the bad guy’s head, and throws him off the boat. Then there’s a shot of the monster hitting the boat and turning it over, and then we see him from behind, carrying an unconscious Cable out of the danger zone.

So you know how sometimes in monster movies you only get to see little pieces of the monster — a fang, a claw, a tentacle or two — because they want to save the thrilling reveal for later in the film? Yeah, that’s not what’s happening right now.

This isn’t whetting our appetite. It’s managing our expectations.

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Swamp Thing 3.3: It Wasn’t Wes’ Fault

“So what were your feelings about the film, once it was finished?” the friendly voice on the DVD asks director Wes Craven. “Did you have any, you know… expectations?”

“No,” Wes sighs. “And, you know, I didn’t work for two years after that. I felt like I’d had my chance and kind of blown it, and would probably never work again.”

Now, this is my third time approaching a movie like this, and what I’ve learned so far is that the DVD commentary helps me to define what the genre of this story is going to be. When I was talking about the making of Superman and Superman II, the story was a true crime podcast. For Swamp Thing, it’s a comedy of errors.

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Superman 1.89: Bad Girl Goes Good

Forget Catwoman. Forget the Black Cat. Forget all of the scheming anti-heroines who commit crimes and then make out with the superhero, whether they have a feline-based persona or not.

Because we have a champion, right here. As a temporarily-reformed supercrime vixen, Eve Teschmacher — known to her friends as MISS TESCHMACHER!! — has got to be one of the all-time greats. She reforms for a grand total of one hundred and twenty-five seconds, and during that period, she commits sexual assault. And she still doesn’t get any jail time! This woman is unbelievably good at her job.

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Superman 1.54: The Stupid Question

I got sidetracked yesterday talking about the special effects in the helicopter rescue sequence, which means I’ve left dangling reporter Lois Lane up there hanging on for dear life, approximately two feet south of safety.

I hate to leave her up there with nothing but a seatbelt, a camera crew and some front projection for company, but there are pressing matters that I need to attend to here on the ground, so she’s going to have to hang tight for today. I’m pretty sure she’ll be okay. The location filming for these Metropolis street scenes was completed in July ’77, and they didn’t start shooting the hanging-off-the-roof scenes until October, so technically we have three months before it even becomes an issue.

The thing that we need to discuss today is Clark Kent finally tearing off the guise and garb, revealing the supersuit and taking charge of the situation. It’s the moment that we’ve been waiting for — some city-stunning from the caped wonder, at last — and the only thing between us and it is a button-down shirt.

Now, at this point some people might ask where he puts the Clark Kent clothes when he changes into Superman. They say there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but then a question like that comes along, and you start to wonder if there might be a couple exceptions.

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Superman 1.49: The Look of Luthor

For the last week, we’ve been looking at the new version of Lex Luthor that was invented for Superman: The Movie — a down-at-the-heels art thief, inventor and real estate magnate, lurking underneath Metropolis’ Grand Central Terminal in a lair made out of other people’s property. The movie Luthor doesn’t need death rays; he’s got sarcasm, and National Geographic, and the ability to reprogram ballistic missiles. He’s sophisticated and urbane, and he plays the piano. He wouldn’t dream of putting on a silly costume, and trying to punch Superman in the face.

So that puts him at odds with the trend of modern thought at DC Comics in the mid-to-late 70s, where they’d spent the last several years turning Luthor into a cartoon character.

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Superman 1.46: Criminal Minds

Now, where was I? Oh, right, Lex Luthor. Last week, I talked about how striking Luthor’s entrance into the movie is — and it needs to be striking, because we’re already an hour into the movie and he’s competing for our attention with a lot of other stuff.

This first visit to the lair lasts about three minutes, and then there’s another fifteen minutes of Superman material — the whole helicopter sequence, and Superman doing his first batch of heroic deeds. Then Lex gets a second scene which lasts less than two minutes, and then there’s another fifteen minutes, full of Superman and Lois’ first date. Luthor’s scheme doesn’t actually begin until more than an hour and a half into the movie.

The fact that he makes an impression at all says a lot about the level of energy that Gene Hackman brings to the role. His Luthor is a bundle of contradictions, especially in his relationship with his subordinates. He says that he longs to be idolized and congratulated, but Miss Teschmacher insults him most of the time, and the sidekick who idolizes him also irritates the hell out of him. Personally, I think he does this to himself on purpose, just for the pleasure of having someone to sneer at.

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Superman 1.45: Hair Today

Rick didn’t say “Play it again, Sam,” and Kirk never said “Beam me up, Scotty.” Darth Vader said “No, I am your father,” and Brody said “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”

Do you feel lucky, punk? Houston, we have a problem. I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille. Top of the world, Ma! Why don’t you come up and see me sometime?

A lot of the phrases that we pick up from pop culture as famous movie quotes are actually slight misquotes, often making them a little shorter and simpler, because on the whole people are not that good at remembering dialogue. Exact wording fades quickly, and so do plot points and character relationships.

But we’re great at remembering a striking visual, and most of the things that we consider “iconic” are compelling images, like Claudette Colbert showing her legs in It Happened One Night, or Sharon Stone uncrossing her legs in Basic Instinct, or a steam vent blowing up Marilyn Monroe’s skirt to reveal her legs in The Seven Year Itch. A lot of them involve women’s legs, for some reason.

So when Superman: The Movie introduces the new version of Lex Luthor that we talked about yesterday, there are a lot of alterations to the comic book character that for the most part audiences don’t notice. The movie version of Luthor has sidekicks and a sense of humor, which has never really happened before, and he presents himself as an eccentric businessman, rather than a mad scientist — but for movie audiences, those are details that they don’t know about.

The one thing that people do notice is that Lex Luthor is supposed to be bald, because we remember interesting visuals. The details of his characterization don’t really stick in the mind, but even people who’ve never read a Superman comic in their life know that Luthor doesn’t have any hair.

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