Return of Swamp Thing, The (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Feb 23, 2023
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Return of Swamp Thing, The (4K UHD Review)


Jim Wynorski

Release Date(s)

1989 (February 7, 2023)


J&M Entertainment (Lightyear Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: C+
  • Video Grade: B+
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: A-

The Return of the Swamp Thing (4K UHD)



After the mild success of Wes Craven’s version of Swamp Thing several years prior, no one would have guessed that a sequel would be made. Yet, in 1989, The Return of Swamp Thing was willed into existence. We find the big green guy (Dick Durock) still dealing out justice in the Southern swamplands while Dr. Arcane (Louis Jourdan) and his assistant (Sarah Douglas) continue their monstrous experiments nearby, creating various hybrids of humans, animals, and insects. Visiting the good doctor is his green-thumbed niece Abby (Heather Locklear), who finds herself the target of one of his experiments, but not if Swamp Thing has anything to say about it.

It’s no secret that The Return of Swamp Thing is laughably bad. Even as a kid when I first saw it, I knew I was watching something silly. Jim Wynorski and company basically tried to make an intentionally funny comic book movie that isn’t all that funny. It also doesn’t make much sense that Dr. Arcane’s character is somehow alive, despite his metamorphosis and (rather obvious) demise at the end of the first film. Then there’s the dialogue, or rather anything that escapes Heather Locklear’s lips. It’s no wonder that she disregards the film. It’s like she thinks she’s in a Marx Brothers movie, constantly throwing out quips at everybody she meets. Just slap on a pair of glasses, a mustache, and a cigar and the character would be complete. Then there’s the two zealous young boys who are trying to snap pictures of Swamp Thing while looking at dirty magazines and arguing with each other over practically everything. Don’t even get me started on the random campfire rednecks or the useless town sheriff.

On the other hand, the film does have occasional strong points. Swamp Thing himself actually looks pretty terrific, even better than he did in the first film. The same goes for the rest of the make-up and monster effects. Just check out the monster that attacks the weekend warrior types in the swamp at the beginning of the film and you’ll see what I mean. There’s also the wacky character of Gunn, played by Joey Sagal. While he’s a smarmy, sleazy, and sadistic person, he seems to be having a blast and is one of the most memorable things about the film, intentionally or not. Throw in a mostly silent performance by Penthouse pet Monique Gabrielle, a telepathic sexual encounter with Swamp Thing, and an endless stream of explosions, monsters, and atrocious dialogue exchanges and you have a film that’s,,, well, not good, but entertaining despite itself.

The Return of Swamp Thing was shot by director of photography Zoran Hochstätter on 35 mm film, and finished photochemically at the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. MVD Visual and Lightyear Entertainment return to the title, having previous released it in a 30th Anniversary Special Collector’s Edition Blu-ray in 2018. Their Ultra HD release comes with a new 4K restoration from the interpositive, graded for High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available). Though one generation away from the camera negative, this new 4K restoration manages to offer a very fine presentation with a mostly high bitrate and a much higher level of detail and clarity than previous releases. There’s still a mild softness with occasional speckling, but nothing too intrusive. This film is filled with opticals for transitions, so it’s never going to look all that sharp to begin with. It’s just the nature of how it was completed. The HDR grade isn’t all that aggressive, but it certainly offers a richer palette, especially as it pertains to the green of the swamplands, and of course, Swamp Thing himself. Other hues such as blues, reds, and oranges look good as well. Blacks are deeper with more detail in the shadows and decent contrast. The overall presentation is mostly stable with a solid yield of mild grain throughout. However imperfect the film may be, it’s never looked better.

The audio is presented on two tracks: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. Unfortunately, there are no subtitle options. The previous MVD Blu-ray release featured a 2.0 LPCM track that had stuttering issues when it came to dialogue, which has been remedied with the new stereo experience presented here. The 5.1 option spreads the various elements out well enough with good ambient activity, while dialogue is tied tightly to the front and center of each mix. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Born on the Bayou has the most heft of any of the music in the film, but the score is no slouch either.

The Return of Swamp Thing on 4K Ultra HD sits in a black amaray case alongside a 1080p Blu-ray of the film (which appears to be the exact same disc from the previous release), with an insert and slipcover featuring the same artwork, which is a live action shot of Swamp Thing holding Abby, which appears to have been the basis for the hand-drawn theatrical poster. The following extras are included:


  • Audio Commentary with Jim Wynorski, Leslie Rosenthal, Chuck Cirino, and Arnie Holland
  • Audio Commentary with Jim Wynorski
  • An Interview with Michael Uslan (HD – 32:07)
  • The Rifftones with Brian Murphy – Your Ever Lovin’ Swamp Thing (HD – 2:39)


  • Audio Commentary with Jim Wynorski, Leslie Rosenthal, Chuck Cirino, and Arnie Holland
  • Audio Commentary with Jim Wynorski
  • Interview with Jim Wynorski (HD – 17:40)
  • Interview with Arnie Holland (HD – 5:20)
  • Interview with Chuck Cirino (HD – 6:47)
  • Interview with Leslie Rosenthal (HD – 9:25)
  • Behind the Scenes Slideshow (HD – 35 in all – 2:22)
  • Public Service Announcement #1 (SD – 1:03)
  • Public Service Announcement #2 (SD – :31)
  • TV Spots (SD – 2 in all – 1:32)
  • Promotional TV Clip #1 (SD – 1:17)
  • Promotional TV Clip #2 (SD – 1:19)
  • Promotional TV Clip #3 (SD – 1:12)
  • Promotional TV Clip #4 (SD – 1:03)
  • Promotional TV Clip #5 (SD – 1:16)
  • Promotional TV Clip #6 (SD – 1:02)
  • 1989 Promo Reel (SD – 5:18)
  • Trailer (HD – 1:27)
  • Black Eagle Trailer (SD – 2:13)
  • Attack of the Killer Tomatoes Trailer (SD – 2:11)
  • Savannah Smiles Trailer (SD – 2:55)
  • D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage Trailer (SD – 3:48)

The audio commentaries from 2018 features director Jim Wynorski, editor Leslie Rosenthal, composer Chuck Cirino, and executive in charge of production and distribution Arnie Holland, and the other from 2003 features Wynorski by himself. These tracks tend to overlap at times when some of the same information is repeated, but they’re nonetheless interesting and enjoyable to listen to, particularly the 2018 commentary which allows other people from the production to comment on it occasionally. New to this release is a very passionate interview with producer Michael E. Uslan about his wild experiences making the film (including dealing with Heather Locklear’s rabid Dynasty fans and taking her then-husband Tommy Lee deep into the swamps to shoot automatic weapons in order to keep him off the set), as well as a music video for the Rifftrax singing group The Rifftones and their humorous song about the film.

The interviews with Jim Wynorski, Arnie Holland, Chuck Cirino, and Leslie Rosenthal are a series of Q&As where they ask each other questions off camera. Tidbits of information that pop up include the fact that Traci Lords and Elizabeth Shue were up for the lead, Wynorski’s issues with the production manager and Louis Jordan, creating a new costume for Swamp Thing, how the previous Blu-ray release came about, Heather Locklear appearing on Howard Stern’s radio show, dealing with Harvey Weinstein, having to post-sync to Louis Jordan’s organ playing even though he couldn’t really play, and the most shocking revelation of all: the fact that they cut up and essentially destroyed copies of the first several issues of the Swamp Thing comic book to create the title sequence. Next is an animated slideshow featuring 35 stills of behind-the-scenes and promotional photos; 2 Greenpeace PSAs that feature Swamp Thing protesting against littering (with Dick Durock’s real voice, by the way); 2 TV spots; 6 promotional TV clips; a 1989 promo reel featuring unfinished picture and sound (also including Dick Durock’s original voice); the original theatrical trailer; and a set of trailers for MVD Rewind Collection releases.

Even though Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan are attached to this, the results are not quite the same as Batman, to say the least. The Return of Swamp Thing is one of those movies that’s difficult to classify. It’s bad, but definitely memorable and somewhat enjoyable. It’s fun, and that’s all you can ask for. MVD’s and Lightyear’s 4K UHD upgrade is quite good and definitely worth picking up if you’re a fan. The next time around, I would encourage them to spend a little cash on getting some subtitles, but other than that, this is a fine package.

- Tim Salmons

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