In 1982, Wes Craven wrote and directed a Swamp Thing feature film. The film is a retelling of the Swamp Thing origin story from Swamp Thing Vol. 1, #1, with some changes. For example: Arcane, rather than Mr. E, is behind the explosion that transforms Alec Holland; the biorestorative formula has some strange new effects on humans; in the film Linda is Alec’s sister, not wife; and Alice Cable is an amalgam of Matt Cable and Abby Arcane. The film was also adapted into a comic book in 1982, which led into the second volume of Swamp Thing.
Cast & Crew
Director, Screenplay: Wes Craven
Dick Durock as Swamp Thing
Ray Wise as Dr. Alec Holland
Louis Jourdan as Arcane
Adrienne Barbeau as Alice Cable
Nannette Brown as Dr. Linda Holland
Scientists and siblings Alec and Linda Holland are working on a secret formula that encourages plant growth. Anton Arcane’s henchmen attack the facility, killing Linda, while Alec is transformed into Swamp Thing. Swamp Thing is aided by agent Alice Cable in finding and confronting Arcane. Arcane drinks some of the formula and is transformed into a wolf-like creature before battling, and being killed by, Swamp Thing.
This is currently available on DVD and Blu-ray. Most US versions are rated PG and censor out a few minutes of scenes that involve nudity. These scenes do not develop the plot at all, but it’s almost worth tracking down the uncensored versions just to see how laughably gratuitous the nudity is. I think the European/Australian releases are uncensored.
All of the releases below are Widescreen, audio is mono, and they include the original theatrical trailer as bonus material.
DVD (93 min.), MGM, 2000. Region 1, NTSC (USA/CA).
Uncensored version. I believe this one was published in error, recalled due to the nudity, and is now quite rare.
DVD (89 min.), MGM, 2004. Region 4, PAL.
This has the nude scenes so I’m not sure why the running time is quite short.
DVD (91 min.), MGM, 2005. Region 1, NTSC (USA/CAN).
DVD/Blu-ray (91 min.), Shout! Factory, 2013. Region 1/A (USA/CAN)
Censored. Dual format. Includes commentary by Wes Craven and makeup artist William Munns ; interviews with Adrienne Barbeau, Len Wein and actor Reggie Batts.
DVD/Blu-ray (91 min.), 88 Films, 2019. Region 2/B.
Uncensored. Dual format. Includes commentary by Wes Craven and makeup artist William Munns ; interviews with Production Designer Robb Wilson King and critic Kim Newman.
The soundtrack was composed by Harry Manfredini and released as an LP in 1982 and reissued in 2011. No CD version has yet been released.
Vinyl LP (ca. 39 min.), Varèse Sarabande (STV81154), 1982 (reissued 2011).
Liner notes written by producer Michael Uslan, who summarises the first volume of the comic and the film, lists the merchandise that will be released in conjunction with the film, and writes about Malfredini’s score in the final paragraph. A tracklisting can be found here.
Barbeau, Adrienne. “Swamp Thing.” There Are Worse Things I Could Do, Carroll & Graf, 2006, pp. 191–98.
This brief chapter in Adrienne Barbeau’s autobiography provides an entertaining look at the production of Swamp Thing. She explains some of the problems with filming and her dissatisfaction with the finished product.
Boylan, John. “Bill Munns’ Arcane Account of the Swamp.” Holland Files, vol. 1, no. 1, winter 2017, pp. 36–41.
A short interview with Bill Munns that builds upon the reminiscences on Munns’ website. Munns talks about his career and the difficulties he faced as special makeup effects designer on the first Swamp Thing film, as well as his stint inside the Arcane monster suit. The article is accompanied by production stills and photos of Munns’ sculptures.
Daniels, Les. “Swamp Thing on Screen: Swamp Thing, I Think I Love You.” DC Comics: Sixty Years of the World’s Favorite Comic Book Heroes, Bulfinch Press, 1995, pp. 182-83.
Plot and production details and brief reviews of the 2 feature films and live-action series.
Fox, Georgette S. “Dr. Anton Arcane.” Masters of Evil: A Study of the Archvillain in Film and Television, Borgo Press, 1998, pp. 15-17.
According to the introduction, this book is an “examination of the methodology of the archvillain” on screen. The entry on Arcane briefly describes his physical appearance before going into the character’s motivations and actions, with reference to the two films. While Arcane also appears in the comics, the character and his motivations here are quite different.
Harris, Jack. “Swamp Thing: From the Comics to the Silver Screen.” Fantastic Films, vol. 4, no. 3, Jan. 1982, pp. 8+.
Includes biographical information about some of the cast and crew. The article summarises the early comic issues and there is not a lot of new insights here, but there are various quotes from producer Michael Uslan explaining how they tried to make a faithful adaptation of the comic, and he provides a few anecdotes about filming.
Houston, David, and Len Wein. Swamp Thing: A Novel. T. Doherty, 1982.
The novelisation of the film.
Kaplan, Michael. “Swamp Thing: The Trials and Tribulations of Bill Munns. Working Fast, Working Cheap, and Dying in a South Carolina Swamp.” Cinefantastique, vol. 12, no. 2/3, Apr. 1982, pp. 74–81.
An interview with costume designer William Munns about the many challenges he faced during the production of Swamp Thing. Munns explains how he got the job and details his early ideas for the Swamp Thing and Arcane Monster suits. There is a lot of detail about the suits and many photos of the production. The article also includes shorter sections on: Bill Munns’ early career; Bernie Wrightson, including quotes from Wrightson on the newest comic series and film; and Dick Durock talking about his experience on set and his approach to acting.
Mangels, Andy. “It’s Not Easy Being Green: Swamp Thing.” Back Issue, no. 92, Oct. 2016, pp. 3–11.
The article gives a short history of the comic before providing the plot of the film, some production details including costume design, and its release and reception. There is some information about the book and comic tie-ins, DVD and Blu-ray releases, and plans for related merchandise that was never released. Includes lots of quotes from Durock from an interview conducted for Amazing Heroes in 1991. The article also provides some information about the sequel and both television series.
Martin, Bob. “On the Set of Swamp Thing: Part 1.” Fangoria, vol. 3, no. 15, Oct. 1981, pp. 9-12.
Martin, Bob. “On the Set of Swamp Thing: Part 2.” Fangoria, vol. 3, no. 16, Dec. 1981, pp. 46-48.
Martin, Bob. “On the Set of Swamp Thing: Part 3.” Fangoria, vol. 3, no. 17, Feb. 1982, pp. 17-20.
Part 1 provides a brief history of the comic, plus a biography of and interview with Michael Uslan, who discusses his motivations behind making the film. Also includes a description of the set during filming. Part 2 includes an interview with Barbeau with some biographical details, a brief interview with Nicholas Worth (who played Bruno), and a description of Tony Cecere’s fire stunt. Part 3 includes an interview with Wes Craven, who notes the differences between the comic and his film, but it mostly focuses on biographical details. All 3 articles feature colour photos of the cast and crew on set.
Moriarty, Tim. “Swamp Thing: Grime Doesn’t Pay.” Famous Monsters of Filmland, no. 183, May 1982, pp. 14-19.
This article summarises the comic and the film. There is some biographical information for Craven and some of the stars and a short interview with Barbeau. Interestingly, Durock is never mentioned and there are some photos with Ray Wise in the suit.
Muir, John Kenneth. “Swamp Thing.” The Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television, McFarland & Co., 2004, pp. 524-32.
Provides an overview of the comics, the character, and the screen adaptations, before going into more detail about each of the films and television series. There is a synopsis, cast and crew details, and some short reviews of the 1982 film.
Muir, John Kenneth. “Swamp Thing (1982).” Wes Craven: The Art of Horror, New ed., McFarland & Co., 2004, pp. 85-95.
Provides some short reviews, a list of cast and crew, and a detailed synopsis. This is followed by an analysis of the film with a look at some stylistic techniques and references to other works by Craven.
Murray, Will. “Full Vegetable Jacket.” Starlog, no. 142, May 1989, pp. 45+.
An interview with Dick Durock about his acting career including the Swamp Thing films, the 2nd of which is being filmed at the time of the interview. It focuses primarily on the costume but there are some nice colour photographs. Also available online: https://archive.org/details/starlog_magazine-142
Starlog #43 & #52 (both 1981) are also available online and contain news articles announcing the production of the first film. #52 contains a few images from the film and a brief summary (with various errors).
Paszylk, Bartłomiej. “Swamp Thing (1982)”. The Pleasure and Pain of Cult Horror Films: An Historical Survey, McFarland & Co., 2009, pp. 170-73.
A summary and brief review of the film.
Phillips, Kendall R. “Gothic Technologies: The Serpent and the Rainbow, Deadly Friend, Swamp Thing, Red Eye, Shocker.” Dark Directions: Romero, Craven, Carpenter, and the Modern Horror Film, Southern Illinois University Press, 2012, pp. 97-108.
This chapter looks at some of the Gothic themes that reoccur in the films of Wes Craven. Phillips explains the historical context of Gothic fiction and some of its thematic elements, particularly the idea that, when science or technology intervenes with the natural order of things, horrific consequences ensue. It analyses Swamp Thing amongst others, thus positioning this film within Craven’s wider oeuvre.
Scapperotti, Dan. “Swamp Thing.” Cinefantastique, vol. 11, no. 4, Dec. 1981, pp. 16–19.
This article takes place soon after production has wrapped up and includes quotes from Wes Craven about the style he is attempting, the differences from the comic, and the difficulties the crew faced when making the film. There are quotes from Louis Jourdan and Adrienne Barbeau about the production and their characters. Bill Munn provides information about his costume designs, including the Arcane monster, and there are further descriptions of the general plot and the special effects involved in the Alec Holland transformation scene.
“Swamp Thing (1982) Retrospective”. The Master Cylinder, 26 Feb. 2018, https://0themastercylinder0.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/swamp-thing-1982-retrospective-part-one/.
Details of the production of the first film with quotes from the cast and crew. Much of this info is copied directly from its sources: Fangoria #15 & #17 (Oct. 1981, Feb. 1982); Cinefantastique Vol. 11, No. 4 (Dec. 1981) & Vol. 12, No. 2/3 (Apr. 1982); Fantastic Films #27 (Jan. 1982). Though the content isn’t original, the post neatly compiles the information from across these sources and include many great behind-the-scenes images.
Uslan, Michael E. “Infinite Crisis! The Human Endurance Contest Continues!” The Boy Who Loved Batman: A Memoir, Chronicle, 2011, pp. 203–15.
In this chapter, Michael Uslan describes his time working as producer on the first Swamp Thing film. It explains how he obtained the rights to Swamp Thing, and how cast and crew were determined. Includes several anecdotes about the filmmaking process.
Wooley, John. “Mixed Blessings.” Wes Craven: The Man and His Nightmares, John Wiley & Sons, 2011, pp. 74-91.
Pages 84-89 provide some brief information about the comic and casting for the film, before quotes from Craven about the difficulties in filming due to the location and demands of the producers. The author describes some of the differences and similarities between other Craven films, mentions some of the associated merchandising, the problems with distribution, and the film’s eventual success in the the home video market. Finally, the effect of the film on Craven’s career at the time. Page 113 goes on to compare Swamp Thing’s home video success with that of Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm St.