Swamp Thing (1982)

PG | 92 mins | Science fiction, Horror | February 1982

Director:

Wes Craven

Writer:

Wes Craven

Cinematographer:

Robin Goodwin

Editor:

Richard Bracken

Production Designers:

David Nichols, Robb Wilson King

Production Company:

Swampfilms, Inc.
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HISTORY

The film begins with the following prologue: “Not long ago, in the unexplored reaches of an unmapped swamp, the creative genius of one man collided with another’s evil dream, and a monster was born. Too powerful to be destroyed, too intelligent to be captured, this being still pursues its savage dream.”
       End credits note: “The producers gratefully acknowledge the assistance and support of: Radio Shack, A Tandy Company, for providing computers and equipment; Ferneau Buick Co. of Charleston, S.C., for providing picture vehicles; South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control; the City of Charleston, South Carolina—Cypress Gardens; Magnolia Plantations and Gardens, Charleston, S.C.; The American Red Cross, Charleston, S.C.; and the South Carolina Film Commission.” Credits also indicate the picture was “filmed on location in Charleston, South Carolina,” and that “all characters are trademarks owned by and ©MCMLXXXI DC Comics, Inc.”
       The character “Ronnie” is not credited onscreen and the identity of the actor remains undetermined.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, producer Benjamin Melniker left his job as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Executive Vice President to partner with former DC Comics writer and United Artists attorney, Michael E. Uslan, to develop a motion picture adaptation of DC’s Swamp Thing comic, which marked Uslan’s first feature film as producer. A 22 Oct 1980 Var article announced that Wes Craven would write and direct the film under its original title, The Swamp Thing. The 5 Nov 1980 Var indicated that, following the completion of his film, Deadly Blessing (1981, see entry), Craven would begin preproduction in Jan 1981, for a Mar 1981 shoot. A 28 Nov 1980 HR ... More Less

The film begins with the following prologue: “Not long ago, in the unexplored reaches of an unmapped swamp, the creative genius of one man collided with another’s evil dream, and a monster was born. Too powerful to be destroyed, too intelligent to be captured, this being still pursues its savage dream.”
       End credits note: “The producers gratefully acknowledge the assistance and support of: Radio Shack, A Tandy Company, for providing computers and equipment; Ferneau Buick Co. of Charleston, S.C., for providing picture vehicles; South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control; the City of Charleston, South Carolina—Cypress Gardens; Magnolia Plantations and Gardens, Charleston, S.C.; The American Red Cross, Charleston, S.C.; and the South Carolina Film Commission.” Credits also indicate the picture was “filmed on location in Charleston, South Carolina,” and that “all characters are trademarks owned by and ©MCMLXXXI DC Comics, Inc.”
       The character “Ronnie” is not credited onscreen and the identity of the actor remains undetermined.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, producer Benjamin Melniker left his job as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Executive Vice President to partner with former DC Comics writer and United Artists attorney, Michael E. Uslan, to develop a motion picture adaptation of DC’s Swamp Thing comic, which marked Uslan’s first feature film as producer. A 22 Oct 1980 Var article announced that Wes Craven would write and direct the film under its original title, The Swamp Thing. The 5 Nov 1980 Var indicated that, following the completion of his film, Deadly Blessing (1981, see entry), Craven would begin preproduction in Jan 1981, for a Mar 1981 shoot. A 28 Nov 1980 HR article estimated the budget at $2.5 million.
       A 6 Mar 1981 HR news item reported that the beginning of principal photography had been rescheduled for 27 Apr 1981. Production notes indicated that the producers scouted possible locations in FL, LA, and GA, but ultimately chose to film in Charleston, SC. Interior shots of “Anton Arcane’s” mansion and laboratories took place in some of the city’s old restored buildings, including Hibernian Hall and the Exchange Building jail, which doubled as a dungeon set. Spartanburg, SC’s 17 Jan 1982 Spartanburg Herald-Journal also included Charleston’s Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and the Cypress Garden in Moncks Corner, SC, among the locations. A Jul-Aug 2005 edition of Budget Travel added the historical Aiken-Rhett House to the list of locations.
       Embassy Pictures publicity materials claimed that during production, the local SC construction crew built a laboratory set that was unable to be deconstructed for transport; as a result, the set had to be sawed apart and rebuilt at its eventual location. Additional complications occurred when Cypress trees surrounding the swamps released a tannic acid, which allegedly disintegrated the actors’ costumes and required antacid to be sprayed onto clothing prior to filming. Despite the 28 Nov 1980 HR's claim that Melniker hoped to avoid dangerous freshwater wildlife by filming in saltwater swamps, cast and crew were overwhelmed by insects and snakes throughout production. Actress Adrienne Barbeau reportedly performed most of her own stunts.
       AMPAS production notes stated that, in creating the character of “Swamp Thing,” special makeup effects designer William Munns attempted to faithfully recreate the look of the original comic book character. However, “Arcane’s Monster” and “‘Little Bruno’” were styled after an amalgam of multiple characters from the comic.
       A 1 Aug 1981 HR brief reported that Craven cast Delta Airlines hostess Mimi Meyer in the role of "Arcane's secretary" after meeting her on a flight to Charleston.
       Although the 28 Nov 1980 HR originally claimed that United Artists would serve as the film’s domestic distributor, the 6 Mar 1981 HR announced that Avco Embassy, also known as Embassy Pictures, planned to release the picture in the U.S. A 17 Jan 1982 LAHExam news item reported that the premiere was scheduled to take place in SC on 12 Feb 1982.
       The 13 Aug 1981 DV announced that Avco Embassy arranged for DC Comics to reissue Swamp Thing comics beginning Feb 1982, to coincide with the theatrical release, which was scheduled for Mar 1982. A 5 Mar 1982 HR story stated that the film opened in 250 Southeastern U.S. theaters the week of 15 Feb 1982. At the same time, several New York City preview screenings encouraged filmmakers to launch a $5 million merchandising campaign with various sponsoring companies. In addition to several children’s products, notable tie-ins included: two reissued special edition Swamp Thing comic books, a hardcover collection of photographs from production, an illustrated edition of Craven’s script, a Tor Books novelization of the film by David Houston and original Swamp Thing comic writer Len Wein, and an animated television series from Hanna-Barbera Productions.
       Within two weeks of the film’s 19 Mar 1982 opening in Southern CA, the 30 Mar 1982 HR indicated that it would likely earn back its $2 million budget.
       The Swamp Thing franchise continued when principal cast members Louis Jourdan and Dick Durock reprised their roles in Return of Swamp Thing (1989, see entry), with Melniker and Uslan returning as producers. Although production of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon did not move ahead, Durock appeared as the character in a television series entitled Swamp Thing (USA Network, 1990—1993). More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Budget Travel
Jul-Aug 2005.
---
Daily Variety
13 Aug 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 1980
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Aug 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Mar 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Mar 1982
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 1982.
---
LAHExam
17 Jan 1982.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Mar 1982
p. 5.
New York Times
30 Jul 1982
p. 10.
Spartanburg Herald-Journal
17 Jan 1982
Section A, p. 7.
Variety
22 Oct 1980
p. 7, 40.
Variety
5 Nov 1980.
---
Variety
24 Mar 1982
p. 41.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An Avco Embassy Film
A Melniker-Uslan Production
A Wes Craven Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set coord
Prop master
Const coord
COSTUMES
Cost des for principal cast
Ms. Barbeau's evening gown des by
Ward des in Charleston
MUSIC
SOUND
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd eff created by
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Spec makeup eff des and created by
Makeup eff crew in Charleston
Makeup eff crew in Charleston
Makeup eff crew in Charleston
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec in charge of prod
Prod office coord
Loc mgr
Prod auditor
Scr supv
Prod aide
Casting
Casting
Casting in Charleston by
Post prod supv
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Airboat stunt coord
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Fire gag stuntman
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based upon characters appearing in magazines published by DC Comics, Inc.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Swamp Thing
Release Date:
February 1982
Premiere Information:
SC premiere: 12 February 1982
Southern U.S. opening: week of 15 February 1982
Los Angeles opening: 19 March 1982
New York opening: 30 July 1982
Production Date:
began 27 April 1981 in Charleston, SC, and Moncks Corner, SC
Copyright Claimant:
Swampfilms, Inc.
Copyright Date:
17 March 1982
Copyright Number:
PA130851
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
92
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

After a scientist is mysteriously killed while assisting a top-secret bioengineering project in the swamps of the American South, government worker Alice Cable arrives at the bogs to serve as his replacement. Alice immediately notices that one of the team’s swamp sensors has malfunctioned, but her guide, Charlie, introduces her to Harry Ritter, the project supervisor. Charlie tells Ritter a rumor about an evil paramilitary leader named Anton Arcane, who intends to hijack their operation. While Charlie briefs Ritter on the situation, Alice introduces herself to Dr. Linda Holland and her brother, lead scientist Dr. Alec Holland, who takes her on a tour and encourages her to admire the beauty of the swamps. Upon returning to the site, however, Ritter and Charlie scold Alice for distracting Alec. When Alice mentions the broken sensor, Ritter reveals that her predecessor was attempting to repair it when he was killed. After noting the disappearance of one of their workers, the group hears a loud bang and returns to the laboratory, where Linda shows off her recent breakthrough: a glowing, plant-based concoction with explosive properties. Alec then shows Alice a hybrid plant and animal cell, his prized discovery. Sometime later, Alec notices that droplets of Linda’s formula spawned rapid plant growth on the surfaces they touched. Overcome with excitement, Alec kisses Alice before sending her to retrieve Ritter in the control room. Although the room is empty, she sees security camera footage of Charlie being shot. Suddenly, a group of paramilitary agents attack her and raid Alec’s laboratory. A man resembling Ritter steps forward, but pulls off his mask and reveals himself as Arcane. When Arcane shoots Linda for attempting to escape with ... +


After a scientist is mysteriously killed while assisting a top-secret bioengineering project in the swamps of the American South, government worker Alice Cable arrives at the bogs to serve as his replacement. Alice immediately notices that one of the team’s swamp sensors has malfunctioned, but her guide, Charlie, introduces her to Harry Ritter, the project supervisor. Charlie tells Ritter a rumor about an evil paramilitary leader named Anton Arcane, who intends to hijack their operation. While Charlie briefs Ritter on the situation, Alice introduces herself to Dr. Linda Holland and her brother, lead scientist Dr. Alec Holland, who takes her on a tour and encourages her to admire the beauty of the swamps. Upon returning to the site, however, Ritter and Charlie scold Alice for distracting Alec. When Alice mentions the broken sensor, Ritter reveals that her predecessor was attempting to repair it when he was killed. After noting the disappearance of one of their workers, the group hears a loud bang and returns to the laboratory, where Linda shows off her recent breakthrough: a glowing, plant-based concoction with explosive properties. Alec then shows Alice a hybrid plant and animal cell, his prized discovery. Sometime later, Alec notices that droplets of Linda’s formula spawned rapid plant growth on the surfaces they touched. Overcome with excitement, Alec kisses Alice before sending her to retrieve Ritter in the control room. Although the room is empty, she sees security camera footage of Charlie being shot. Suddenly, a group of paramilitary agents attack her and raid Alec’s laboratory. A man resembling Ritter steps forward, but pulls off his mask and reveals himself as Arcane. When Arcane shoots Linda for attempting to escape with the formula, Alec grabs the beaker, but trips, causing the spilled chemicals to set him on fire. He runs outside and dives into the swamp to extinguish the flames as a series of explosions burst from the water. Overnight, Arcane’s henchmen destroy the premises and remove all evidence of the team’s work. At dawn, a henchman captures Alice and attempts to drown her in the swamp, but a green, humanlike creature drags her ashore and chases two of Arcane’s men. Meanwhile, in his mansion, Arcane and his secretary realize that Alec’s most recent notebook is missing from the plunder. Alice runs to a nearby gas station to telephone her employers for help; the operator connects to Ritter, who claims to have been called away from the site before the attack. After revealing she stole Alec’s last notebook, Alice waits for Ritter’s return alongside the young gas station attendant, Jude, but Arcane’s men arrive and chase her through the forest. Suddenly, the “Swamp Thing” appears and again scares the pursuers away, immune to their gunfire. Once alone, Alice attempts to escape the monster, and it reluctantly trudges back into the trees. Jude finds Alice and leads her to a nearby cabin to change clothes. Later, Arcane instructs his men to find Alice, hoping she will lead them to the creature. Alice and Jude boat around the swamp until they reach the dock near the laboratory wreckage. She spies Swamp Thing crouched among the ruins, holding Linda’s locket, and quickly returns to the boat, vowing to bring Alec’s final notebook to Washington, D.C. Minutes later, multiple boats of Arcane’s men close in on Alice and Jude, luring the creature from its hiding place among the reeds. Despite their bullets and grenades, Swamp Thing engineers an elaborate boat crash. Although concerned by its intelligence, Arcane orders his lead henchman, Bruno, to continue the search. Moments after instructing Jude to escape with Alec’s notebook, Alice hears the boy cry out in distress, but she is kidnapped before she can reply. Swamp Thing finds Jude’s lifeless body and presses a hand against his head, creating a greenish glow which instantly revives him. Regaining consciousness, Jude realizes the creature is a friend of Alice’s and gives it the notebook for safekeeping. On Arcane’s boat, Alice throws her kidnapper, Ferret, overboard, then dives into the water and swims ashore. Once on land, Alice bumps into Swamp Thing, which calls out her name. Ferret chops off Swamp Thing’s arm with a knife, but the creature easily snaps Ferret’s neck, causing Alice to faint. She awakens in the monster’s embrace as it presents her with an orchid plant. Swamp Thing speaks to her, and she recognizes it as Alec. Later, she bathes in the water as the monster paces along the banks. After Alice dresses, Arcane’s men follow her, capture Swamp Thing in a net, and retrieve the final notebook. That evening, Arcane invites Alice to a formal dinner party celebrating his duplication of the Hollands’ formula. Moments after giving a toast to prospective immortality, Arcane reveals that he secretly slipped the first dose to Bruno, who begins to convulse. The hulking man’s body shrinks to half its size as he grows pointed ears and a misshapen skull. Arcane locks him in a dungeon alongside Swamp Thing, asking the latter creature why the experiment failed. Swamp Thing reveals that the formula does not produce strength, but instead amplifies a person’s natural qualities, explaining that Bruno’s timidity caused his diminished stature. After locking Alice in the dungeon with them, Arcane returns to his study and drinks a glass of the formula. A beam of light emitted through the door re-grows Swamp Thing’s missing arm, allowing the creature to free itself, Alice, and Bruno. Upstairs, Arcane transforms into a hairy, wolfish beast, and descends to the dungeons. There, he discovers that his captives have escaped through an underwater tunnel leading back to the swamp. Sometime later, Alice and Swamp Thing emerge from the water, followed closely by Arcane’s monster, which stabs Alice in the breast with a sword. Swamp Thing grabs the weapon and kills Arcane before touching Alice’s breast and healing the wound on contact. The creature turns to leave, but Alice pleads for him to stay so that she can help him rebuild his work. He refuses, but promises to return to her soon. Moments later, Jude emerges from the trees and embraces her as they watch Swamp Thing lumber away through the marsh. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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