Daniel Griffith has been in the cult movie documentary business for a while now, staying consistently busy since the second half of the ‘00s doing supplements for a variety of companies through his own production shingle, Ballyhoo Motion Pictures. Along the way, he’s taken his work into the feature-length realm more and more, including memorable documentaries on Dark Star, Twins Of Evil, From A Whisper To A Scream and more.
They Came From The Swamp represents the next step in the evolution of Griffith’s feature-length work because it is the first feature-length documentary that he has released through his Ballyhoo label. The results show that he can not only produce quality content for home video but also package it as professionally as the home video companies he supplies that content to.
They Came From The Swamp mixes digital interview footage with a variety of video and film elements. The anamorphic transfer blends them well, with the interview segments having a professional sheen to them and the file footage looking as good as the source elements will allow. It is bolstered by a 2.0 stereo mix that keeps all the dialogue and music blended smoothly.
Griffith has made Ballyhoo’s maiden voyage a 2-disc set that is loaded with supplements a-plenty…
Deleted Scenes: There are four of these, all in the one to three minute range. Unlike a lot of a deleted scenes, these are all keepers. Highlights include Randy Grinter giving a quick look back at the career of his father Brad Grinter, the Florida exploitation pioneer who gave us the amazing Blood Freak, and Gary Crutcher talking about his cameo in Stanley.
Crown Jewels (17:29): This is a new featurette about Crown International Pictures, a legendary indie/exploitation distribution outfit that director William Grefe worked with a few times. Grefe talks about his work with them and the company’s history is further sketched out by Ross Hagen, Chris Poggiali and Frank Henenlotter. It reveals how they transitioned from strictly distribution to being a competitive producer of drive-in fare, with plenty of fun clips from their releases supporting the facts.
Whiskey Mountain (01:29:00): the heart of They Came From The Swamp’s second disc is this feature film, the last directorial venture to date for Grefe. It’s a combination of dirt-bike travelogue and survival thriller in which a pair of couple on vacation in rural Georgia run afoul of a gang of hillbillies with a secret while hunting for an old family treasure. It goes for PG-rated thrills like Grefe’s other films but has a surprisingly grim second half with some down-and-dirty action and a few surprise twists. There’s even a score by the Charlie Daniels Band! The transfer was taken from the only available materials, namely an old theatrical print, so it looks a bit worn and sounds a little muffled early on. That said, this is the first-ever presentation of this long unavailable film in its full ‘scope-format ratio so drive-in movie historians will be happy it was included.
Archival Featurettes: This section of disc two digs into Grefe’s archives for some interesting material. This includes a quick video intro done by Bruce Campbell for Grefe for an awards show and a pair of short promotional films that Grefe made for the Bacardi company. One the Bacardi films is a cute riff on the Urban Cowboy fad but b-movie fans will love the other, a piece involving William Shatner that opens with a swashbuckling fantasy sequence. That said, the most fun inclusion here is a promo reel for Mako: The Jaws Of Death that includes several clips from the film set to instrumental material by Yes and Emerson, Lake And Palmer.
Animated Image Gallery (12:38): This comprehensive image gallery is set to soundtrack cues from Grefe films and covers all phases of his career, with a mixture of promotional material, stills and candid shots telling the tale.
Trailer Gallery: This includes eight trailers and t.v. spots for various Grefe films, including killer spots for Wild Rebels and Mako: Jaws Of Death. There are also an additional six trailers related to personalities briefly mentioned in the film or its deleted scenes, the most unique being a trailer for King Of The Jungle, a Tarzan movie starring Steve Hawkes, who was also the lead in Blood Freak!
To read Schlockmania’s film review of They Came From The Swamp, click here.