Who knows what I was doing when The Return of Swamp Thing originally made its way to cinemas and video stores at the tail end of the eighties, but whatever it was, it prevented from watching this gloriously schlocky celebration of camp horror and dashing, square jawed vegetable heroics. The fact that I don’t remember what it was would tend to suggest that it was a lot of fun and barely legal and so all things considered, it was almost certainly worth missing Jim Wynorski’s swamp based superhero sequel for. Time though has a way of righting its wrongs and so three decades after it should have become part of my staple video diet, I finally managed to enjoy The Return of Swamp Thing in the manner that its creator meant it to be enjoyed; late at night with a couple of beers and a whole load of pizza. And was it worth waiting thirty years for? Well, that depends on your approach to film and how you think it should be enjoyed. If you’re an overly intellectual type who enjoys arthouse cinema and experimental celluloid form and storytelling, then The Return of Swamp Thing probably isn’t for you. If, however, you’re into B-Movies, explosions, monsters, evil cackling scientists, well-built dudes, who obviously ate all of their greens, in rubber costumes beating the holy hell out of each other, cheesy endlessly quotable dialogue and clichéd one liners, stereotypical characters and mindlessly enjoyable plots, then you’re going to absolutely adore it. So was it worth waiting thirty years for? Of course it was.
The Return of Swamp Thing wasn’t authored by rockets scientists, nor did the writers have them in mind when they put the story together. It’s a basic switch your brain off tale of a mad doctor, and arch nemesis of the films hero, who having been resurrected and returned from the dead, is desperately searching for a way to prevent aging and thus gain eternal youth, a quest that leads to him splicing human and swamp denizen genetic material together in an attempt to find his Holy Grail. Because that’s the type of thing villainous scientific types do. Anyway, his widely unethical experiments are going precisely nowhere, apart from creating an army of weird super-mutants all of whom, apart from the Cthulhu looking squid-human hybrid who does battle with Swamp Thing on a number of occasions, are locked safely away in his mad science dungeon, until his step-daughter, who is in turn attempting to find out what happened to her step-mother, arrives. She of course, or rather her DNA, holds the key to the successful implementation of everything that the evil genius, who incidentally did away with her mother when she got in his way, is seeking and also happens to be Swamp Thing’s love interest. Because she’s a vegetarian and owns a flower shop, which in the eighties obviously means that she was attracted to shambling, plant based heroes who live in the deepest, darkest depths of the Bayou.
Oh, and there’s a sub-plot about a couple of kids, the obligatory comic relief, who Swampy rescues from a monster and bad guys pursuing their saviour in order to get photographic proof of his existence and claim a ten thousand dollar reward. And there’s mercenaries, monsters, one of the strangest love scenes in the history of cinema that’d probably make a lot more sense if you dropped a tab or two of acid, the death and rebirth of its hero and a blazing gunfight and battle from which Swamp Thing and his lady friend escape in a jeep that’ll pop into your minds-eye whenever you hear the words “monster truck”. Featuring an incredible high definition restoration and a ton of extra’s (interviews, TV spots, a couple of odd Greenpeace public information type films and trailers), The Return of Swamp Thing is a high spirited romp with an ecological bent that owes as much to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde as it does the character’s comic origins and the late sixties and early seventies Toho Godzilla films. Pure eighties video nirvana, this bells and whistle re-release of The Return of Swamp Thing is proof positive that you just can’t keep a good plant down and that every vegetable based hero will have eventually have his day. Some things are worth waiting a lifetime for. This is one of them… Tim Cundle