Heather Locklear’s Award-Winning Performance

The Return of Swamp Thing is unrepentant comic book schlock firmly planted in its cinematic decade. Hampered by budget problems, the sequel is a campy superhero take on beauty and the beast with Heather Locklear lighting the screen up as Swamp Thing’s sexy love interest. Both silly and serious in spurts, it’s not a well-made movie despite an excellent practical costume made for Swamp Thing.

Lame comedy gags and b-movie action uneasily mix, replete with corny humor. Cheesy battles between the titular hero and rubber-suited monsters would make Roger Corman blush. The Return of Swamp Thing is junk cinema extraordinaire, one of those films you’ll magically find playing on cable and suddenly waste two hours watching as you fall for its goofy charms. Okay, maybe not.

Jim Wynorski’s The Return of Swamp Thing owes more to Adam West’s Batman as an influence than the original Swamp Thing movie

The original Swamp Thing by Wes Craven wasn’t his best work but competently introduced movie audiences to the sad tale of Alec Holland, a scientist who tragically became a walking plant creature and made the swamps his home. Pulled from the DC Comics bearing his name, Swamp Thing’s roots lie closer to horror than superhero fare. Possibly due to actress Adrienne Barbeau’s involvement, many fondly look back on Craven’s Swamp Thing as one of the earliest comic book movies from the 1980s.

This 1989 sequel drops Wes Craven in favor of director Jim Wynorski, best known for such ilk as Chopping Mall and more recently inane DTV fodder like Bigfoot or Bust. What can never be taken away from The Return of Swamp Thing is star Heather Locklear, a complete babe in the movie. If Heather’s presence doesn’t interest you, the haphazard movie will prove long and painful.

Released during the height of her television fame in the late 1980s after finding success on Dynasty and T.J. Hooker, Heather Locklear provides undeniable appeal as Swamp Thing’s love interest Abby Arcane. The actress embraces the role’s camp silliness, playing a vegetarian who enjoys talking to plants and the estranged step-daughter of the villainous Dr. Arcane. It’s a ditzy role which earned her the 1990 Worst Actress award from the Razzies. The Razzies always targeted big Hollywood stars, angling for extra publicity. You haven’t made it in Hollywood unless you’ve earned a Razzie or two in your career.

Louis Jourdan reprises his role as the nefarious Dr. Arcane from the first film, which introduces tonal inconsistencies in the uneven screenplay. Jourdan operates as if he’s in a serious drama or maybe as a major Bond villain battling Roger Moore. Everyone else got the memo this film was designed as a goofy superhero movie played with a slight wink. The great Sarah Douglas, known for being Ursa in Christopher Reeve’s Superman flicks, plays Dr. Arcane’s confidante and lover.

Unbeknownst to his stepdaughter Abigail, Dr. Anton Arcane and his team of scientists have created an army of monsters known as Un-Men by genetically splicing swamp animals and humans together. The movie opens with Swamp Thing battling one of these fearsome-looking creatures. When Abby visits Dr. Arcane, she becomes a target of his mad schemes in his quest for immortality. It’s love at first sight when Swamp Thing and Abby meet. Together they’ll battle her stepfather at his palatial estate deep in the bayou.

Jim Wynorski’s The Return of Swamp Thing owes more to Adam West’s Batman as an influence than the original Swamp Thing movie, transforming the human-turned-swamp-creature into an action superhero who’s loved by kids, defeats the bad guy and gets the girl. I won’t even mention the film’s outlandish peak when Abby and Swamp Thing consummate their love in a dream sequence. This is about as far from gritty as you can get in the 1980s, despite a PG-13 rating with mutated monsters wreaking mayhem and bullets flying everywhere.

Sans Heather Locklear and most of the cast, Swamp Thing would get rebooted only one year later for television with a more serious tone. Recognizing the comedic tone in The Return of Swamp Thing wasn’t a good fit for the disturbing character, the show went in a darker direction. The series ran on USA Network for three seasons.


It’s a little weird getting an inferior sequel on UHD before the original Swamp Thing but their rights are held by different companies. Lightyear Entertainment puts out their first UHD release with a new “4K restoration from the original interpositive with Dolby Vision mastering” for The Return of Swamp Thing. What 4K reveals in the video are bouts of optical softness and inadequately lit exteriors at night, hampering overall picture quality results. Yes, the movie looks better than ever. But this is less of an upgrade than the 4K tag would indicate.

The Dolby Vision grading isn’t overwhelming in flushing out color highlights, maintaining a warm contrast and mostly even tone. Deeper greens and brighter reds pop with vivid clarity as flesh-tones remain in the realistic range. I’ve seen more expressive 12-bit color rendition, nothing especially sticks out from the earlier BD. More problematic is the occasionally crushed shadow delineation, especially in the swamp scene which opens the movie. The situation improves as the film proceeds. Swamp Thing’s marvelous practical costume is seen in much greater resolution and clarity.

The main feature runs an uncut 87 minutes on a dual-layer UHD, shown at the movie’s intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The HEVC encode adequately grasps the film element’s chunkier stretches with fair nuance and replication. It avoids blatant encoding gaffs though it’s underwhelming compared to major studio efforts.

The new 4K scan of the original interpositive provides good but not spectacular definition, one generation removed from the negative in the best case scenario. While sharp, better 4K transfers contain tighter fine detail. I’m thinking some digital stabilization was applied, there’s a feeling of minimal judder/jitter to the entire frame in a few erratic shots.

Elements are in serviceable condition but darker exterior shots exhibit crushed detail and almost opaque black levels. The film transfer has a bit of mild ringing with serviceable grain reproduction. I would say it looks better than ordinary 1080p but a tick shy of your average UHD. I’m not exactly sure The Return of the Swamp Thing’s uneven cinematography warranted a 4K release.


Originally shown in theaters with Ultra-Stereo and its four channels of audio information, an engaging surround track has been fashioned into discrete 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Featuring a score by composer Chuck Cirino and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s classic “Born On The Bayou” as the film’s signature tune, the soundstage expands during musical passages with better dynamics. Dialogue reproduction is flawless and completely intelligible.

The convincing sound design fits in well with other b-movies from the 1980s, packed with gunfire and concussive force when the action heats up. While the mix isn’t outrageously present and active, it backs what’s happening on screen with real zest.

No subtitles are included. Secondary 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio gives a similar stereo mix, though it’s a touch duller and flatter than its surround sibling.


Lightyear Entertainment releases their first UHD in a combo set packaged with the film’s special edition Blu-ray first released back in 2018. This is the first UHD edition anywhere in the world for the sequel.

The major new addition to the special features is an expansive interview with producer Michael Uslan, who details the history of comic book films and delves even further into the zeitgeist behind The Return of Swamp Thing. A slipcover is available. The older commentaries are a hoot and occasionally informative, especially the more recent group commentary.

The following special features are found on the UHD:

Audio Commentary with director Jim Wynorski, composer Chuck Cirino, and editor Leslie Rosenthal (2018)

Original Audio Commentary with director Jim Wynorski (2003)

“Reflections on Swamp Thing 35 Years Later” interview with producer Michael E. Uslan (32:07 in HD)

RiffTrax music video “Your Ever-Lovin’ Swamp Thing” by The RiffTones (02:39 in HD) – A silly 2022 song celebrating the swampy movie.

The following special features are found exclusively on the included BD:

Interview with Jim Wynorski (17:40 in HD)

Interview with Arnie Holland (05:20 in HD)

Interview with Chuck Cirino (06:47 in HD) – The composer

Interview with Leslie Rosenthal (09:25 in HD) – The editor of the film.

Behind the Scenes Slideshow (02:22 in HD)

Greenpeace Public Service Announcements (2 in SD)

2 TV Spots (01:32 in SD)

6 Promotional TV Clips (6 in SD)

Promotional Reel (05:18 in SD)

Theatrical Trailer (01:27 in SD)

MVD Trailers (SD & HD) – Black Eagle, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Savannah Smiles, D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page.

The Return of Swamp Thing
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  • Extras


The cheesy sequel turns the tragic plant monster from DC Comics into a campy superhero battling Dr. Arcane’s twisted mutant freaks while also romancing Heather Locklear

User Review
4 (2 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 69 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:

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