Director: Larry Buchanan
Elite Entertainment

During the mid 1960s when broadcasting in color became the norm, American International Pictures (AIP) commissioned economical Texas-based filmmaker Larry Buchanan to make a string of no-budget monster flicks, most being remakes of some of their older titles. The results have given La Bad Cinema fans something to talk about for decades, and the odd late-night TV gazer something to stare in disbelief at when said titles were aired. Produced by Buchanan’s Azalea Pictures and released straight to the boob tube by AIP-TV, CURSE OF THE SWAMP CREATURE is one of several of these films that is not a remake, but in some ways comes very close to VOODOO WOMAN.

A sexy con woman (Shirley McLine) and her two male counterparts are involved in the murder of a businessman who was about to set out to search for oil in the swamplands (Texas, that is). Posing as the businessman’s wife, she deceives geologist Barry Rogers (the one, the only, John Agar) into taking her corrupt bunch on a trek to locate the precious oil, eventually leading them to the doorstep of Dr. Simond Trent (Jeff Alexander, TWISTED BRAIN). Obsessed with the evolution process, Trent has been conducting experiments in his lab involving turning living humans into reptilian creatures. All have failed up to the present, and with a house full of oblivious guests at his disposal, he’ll have plenty of volunteers, that is victims, to choose from.

CURSE OF THE SWAMP CREATURE is another one of those examples that simply defines schlocky cinema as an art form in every way possible -- from lousy acting, to shoddy camera set ups, to an array of unintended laughs and a disappointing monster that doesn’t show his face until the final minutes of the film. Head-scratching will be brought on as you witness a challenging expedition that sets through the seemingly calm swamp grounds of Texas as if it were the deadly jungles of Africa; a front yard alligator pit which is actually a gated underground swimming pool blended with obvious stock footage of hungry alligators tumbling in muddy water; and a ridiculous attempt at voodoo themes topped off by black actors doing a snake dance in front of a plastic Halloween skull as a guy in a paper mache headdress leads them on. When the “swamp creature” does make its appearance, we are greeted by a green hulk in ping-pong-eyed mask (later altered and utilized for Buchanan’s CREATURE OF DESTRUCTION and IT’S ALIVE) garbed in dentist’s work gear, kind of resembling a poor man’s (a very poor man’s) THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US.

Jeff Alexander should get some kind of acting award here. He is so maniacally over the top that he’s almost fascinating to watch, laughing spontaneously at nearly anything in his oversized glasses and pocket pen-aligned white lab coat. John Agar, who also appeared in Buchanan’s immortal ZONTAR: THE THING FROM VENUS, is pretty much wasted as the oil surveyor-turned-hero. He sits in an armchair, bunks on a living room floor, and lights up a lot of cigs. Part-time cult actress Francine York (SPACE MONSTER, THE DOLL SQUAD) plays Dr. Trent’s curvy wife, and as she opposes his experiments, finds herself locked up in the bedroom or even in a dingy closet for most of the duration. Followers of Buchanan films will recognize other members of his entourage, including Bill Thurman (watch his hand move as he pretends to be dead), Charles McLine and Tony Huston, who also scripted this baby. Fans of director S.F. Brownrigg (who worked on the sound for several Buchanan films, but not this one) will want to look out for DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT stars Annabelle Weenick (aka Anne MacAdams) and Bill McGhee. See the imposing and burly McGee get knocked over after a light judo chop from a feeble older man!

Elite Entertainment has released CURSE OF THE SWAMP CREATURE on DVD with a pretty awful duotone cover and “As Seen on AMC MONSTERFEST” prominently stamped on it. This is not the same remastered print seen on AMC in 2003 (at this rate, MGM’s transfer will probably make it out on DVD the day Gary Coleman becomes president), but it actually doesn’t look too bad at all. Originally shot very cheaply on 16mm, this transfer utilizes a fairly clean and sharp 16mm print (owned by the disc’s associate producer, Chip Hess), and despite some inherited grain and the curse of dark photography in many scenes, colors are pretty vivid (blues really stick out) and the image is very enjoyable. It's presented in its original full screen aspect ratio despite early reports that it was to be widescreen. Mono audio is also very clear, with no noticeable distortion. (George R. Reis)