Swamp Thing came out in 1980. I was a year old. By the time I was old enough to pay attention, it played frequently on syndicated sci-fi programs, and I loved it. My whole family did.
It showed up on NetFlix Streaming when I was looking for something to watch recently, so I decided to give it the old Passage of Time Test. It…made me laugh. Loudly and immediately.
This certainly wasn’t a movie created for high-def. I don’t think the film was even high quality for its day, and on my TV, it was downright blurry.
But, the opening swampland scenes are gorgeous, with cypress knees and Spanish moss everywhere. It turns out it was almost entirely filmed in and around Charleston, South Carolina, which has been my home for almost ten years. No wonder I liked it.
Once again, though, I was distracted by the casting choices of the early 80s. Were these people meant to be attractive? To be fair, some quick Wikipedia research reveals Adrienne Barbeau, who played Alice Cable, was a sex symbol of her time, but really? With that bad-perm-helmet-hair? Really?
The male actors weren’t much better. Ray Wise as the brilliant Dr. Alec Holland is vaguely handsome, I guess, but I’m starting to develop a new theory about people being more physically attractive these days. I’ll keep you posted on how it develops.
So, what’s the plot? Oh, it’s simple: a brainiac doctor creates a strange formula that blends plant and animal DNA, hoping to allow plants to flourish in harsher climes and to save the world from starvation. The evil, immortality-obsessed Anton Arcane directs a slightly-crazy paramilitary group to steal the formula. When their attack goes awry, the formula spills all over Dr. Holland, and Swamp Thing is born. He kicks ass, protecting his newfound dearest love, Alice Cable. Then Anton Arcane also mutates himself using a bastardized version of the formula, and a final battle ensues.
Sounds fun, right?
My favorite part of the movie has to be the main bad guy. He has, hands down, the Best Name Ever. Anton Arcane. Its fabulosity stems from the fact that Swamp Thing came out when the Russians were still our mortal enemies. This was years before Mr. Reagan told Mr. Gorbachev to tear down that wall. So we have Anton, clearly a Russian first name, and then a last name that means “mysterious” or “obscure.” So he’s a mysterious, obscure Russian bad guy. Perfect.
I also loved the battle sequences. They’re classic. Soldiers practically throwing bullets from their guns, whipping around the swamp in airboats, the Swamp Thing appearing from nowhere to Kill All The Bad Guys. Awesome.
But then we come to the pertinent question: Does Swamp Thing pass the Passage of Time test?
No. It really doesn’t. Blurry cinematography, bad sound, archaic pop-culture references, strange-looking sex symbols. None of it’s good.
But let me just tell you: I still love it. And I probably always will.