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Swamp Water More at IMDbPro »

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24 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Old Classic

9/10
Author: artzau from Sacramento, CA
29 May 2001

I can remember seeing this movie as a kid and getting the bejesus scared out of me. The darkness and uncertainty of the swamp terrified my young imagination and the image of the skull atop a cross touched all my Roman Catholic primal fears. My impression of the swamp, i.e., crocs, gaters and snakes, topped with a dark image of the fugitive played by Walter Brennan, lasted for years. Now, I do recall there being a video (although none is listed here), because I did see it again a few years back. The shock of the darkness of the film was dulled by over 50 years of life but the Gothic quality of the story along with the fine characterization of Renoir makes this film a classic. Walter Huston is great in his curmudgeon role as the young Dana Andrews's father married to a younger woman who's getting moves laid on by ever villainous John Carridine. The presence of great character actors Guinn"Big Boy" Williams, Ward Bond and gravel-voiced Eugene Palette adds much to the texture of the film. Too, the young Anne Baxter is superb as the daughter of Brennan and the female interest of Dana Andrews. The story line seems a bit tame, by today's standards but holds up well. All in all, this is a satisfying film well done and provocative. Check it out.

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19 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

SWAMP WATER (Jean Renoir, 1941) ***

7/10
Author: MARIO GAUCI (marrod@melita.com) from Naxxar, Malta
24 June 2006

If one didn't know beforehand who directed this film (which proved to be Renoir's U.S. debut), he would be excused for thinking it was made by John Ford - given the presence of a good number of his stock company of actors (Walter Brennan, John Carradine, Ward Bond, Russell Simpson) and the music score utilizing themes from THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940), which was also a 20th Century-Fox production! Still, Renoir's uniquely humanist outlook is unmistakable - which is only betrayed by the one-dimensional Tweedle-Dee/Tweedle-Dum pairing of Bond (here practically duplicating his villainous role in Ford's YOUNG MR. LINCOLN [1939]) and Guinn Williams.

An altogether impressive production, with the overpowering atmosphere of the Okefenokee beautifully captured by Renoir and veteran cinematographer Peverell Marley (despite some obvious back-projection); the use of shadowy lighting is especially striking. Its concern with realism also extends to some rather physical violence for the time and a couple of unnerving scenes involving prowling alligators and snakes! Consequently, the film is vastly underrated in the director's canon (especially having now watched all his American features). While it may have served as a sort of dry run for Renoir's own THE SOUTHERNER (1945), the film also looks forward to INTRUDER IN THE DUST (1949) - which, similarly, dealt with a miscarriage of justice.

With regards to casting, I don't agree with Leonard Maltin who felt that Walter Brennan's fugitive constituted "bizarre miscasting" (certainly no more than his uncharacteristic if brilliant turn as Old Man Clanton in Ford's MY DARLING CLEMENTINE [1946]): despite receiving top billing, he appears very little but his presence permeates the entire film. Walter Huston is never less than good in anything he does, but his gruff patriarch here isn't all that central to the plot; interestingly, the actor later appeared in a film by another expatriate French director - Rene' Clair's AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (1945). Conversely, Dana Andrews makes quite an impression as his rebellious but subsequently heroic young son - and this film must surely have put him on his way to becoming a veritable leading-man. The film also has Andrews forsaking egotistical village belle Virginia Gilmore for the raggedy but radiant Anne Baxter (whose real identity has been shielded from most of the community). To spite Andrews, the former takes up with another man: the actor's face was familiar to me but I couldn't quite place it, that is, until I saw his name during the end credits - it was none other than Matt Willis, who would go on to play Bela Lugosi's werewolf acolyte in THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE (1944)! Similarly, Huston's young bride (played by Mary Howard) is pursued by an atypically meek, almost pitiful Carradine - though it later transpires that he was involved in Brennan's framing!

Surely one of the film's most endearing aspects is the unconditional love shown by both Andrews and Brennan to the former's wayward dog, hence the name of Trouble (which even occupies the film's very last shot via a well-deserved close-up!). As for the attractively-packaged DVD itself, the overall quality of the film's transfer was acceptable (though print damage was evident on occasion); I don't usually buy bare-bones discs, but the very reasonable price-tag and the fact that this rarely-screened film is as yet unavailable on R1 made the purchase virtually a no-brainer - and it has certainly made me game to pick up some more exclusive R2 stuff, above all the SE of Lewis Milestone's war drama THE PURPLE HEART (1944), also featuring Dana Andrews and a film I missed out on during my tenure in Hollywood...

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23 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Vivid memory of Miss Baxter

8/10
Author: Edouardo from United States
4 December 2006

Only viewed this movie once,when as an eleven year old , it first opened. I still recall the scene where Julie scurried away through the barn to hide from Andrews. Clawing like a black cat (with her raven hair matted as if it were a Brillo Pad.) I instantly fell head over heels in love with that gruff looking girl.

The fight scene , the cottonmouth attack still looms large in my memory. I'm 76 now, but would love to see it twenty more times and hark back to those innocent days, when a nickle candy bar could be bought for five cents .

Excellent movie (Also loved The Southerner)

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17 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

"You'll be back here by tomorrow night, or not at all"

7/10
Author: ackstasis from Australia
12 January 2009

If one had missed the opening credits, he would be forgiven for thinking that 'Swamp Water (1941)' was one of John Ford's lesser-known efforts. If the cast of familiar Ford faces – including Walter Brennan, Ward Bond and John Carradine – didn't lead you up the wrong path, then it's the smaller touches that characterise the director's Westerns: a close-knit community, an impassioned brawl, an innocent young lass, a significant father-son relationship. In this case, however, the credit doesn't belong to one of America's greatest filmmakers, but to the French equivalent {though it comes as no surprise that writer Dudley Nichols was a frequent Ford collaborator}. 'Swamp Water' was Jean Renoir's first picture following his migration to Hollywood in the early 1940s. Interestingly, considering the distinctive brand of auterist film-making evident in 'The Rules of the Game (1939)' just two years earlier, there's little here to suggest that Renoir is seated behind the camera. Aside from a waterbound opening shot that calls to mind several scenes from 'A Day in the Country (1936),' this film bears little resemblance to the other seven Renoirs I've seen to date.

When hunter Ben Ragan (Dana Andrews, in an early role) ventures into the feared Okefenokee swamp to retrieve his lost dog, he happens upon the hiding-place of Tom Keefer (Walter Brennan), a convicted murderer who escaped custody and has been living in isolation for several years. Despite having become a rugged and slightly eccentric recluse, Keefer firmly professes his innocence and spares Ben's life, in exchange for keeping silent about his whereabouts. Back in town, and to his sweetheart's (Virginia Gilmore) chagrin, Ben befriends Keefer's daughter Julie (Anne Baxter), a raggedy young beauty who shies away from social interaction like a frightened kitten {fortunately for her career, Baxter would play a substantially more independent character in Wilder's 'Five Graves to Cairo (1943),' and I certainly don't need to mention 'All About Eve (1950)'}. Meanwhile, Ben's father Thursday (Walter Huston) watches out for the cowardly ruffian who has been bothering his younger wife Hannah (Mary Howard) – the perpetrator is, of course, the suitably pathetic John Carradine.

Even if it doesn't attain the dizzying heights of Renoir's other offerings, 'Swamp Water' deserves to be seen for his marvellous and atmospheric cinematography (the stifling swamp photography was captured by Peverell Marley) and strong performances. Andrews perhaps wasn't the most authentic actor of the 1940s, but here he plays the young hero with a tenacity that signalled a successful future in Hollywood. Huston is, of course, terrific, and I've found it interesting that he never seems to play the same character (to such an extent that in 'And Then There Were None (1945)' and 'Dragonwyck (1946)' it took me a while to even recognise him!). But the heart of the film belongs to Brennan, who comes across as sympathetic and likable without even trying, though he brings an added toughness to this role that I liked – by the way, how the heck did they film the snake-bite scene without risking their top-billed star? I don't know if 'Swamp Water' could be confidently recommended to fans of its French director, but John Ford aficionados could certainly do much worse.

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Surprisingly good.

7/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
30 June 2010

Considering that Hollywood's view of the South consisted of films like "L'il Abner" and "Swing Your Lady" during this era, the fact that "Swamp Water" turned out so good is a bit of a surprise. What's even more surprising is that this film about the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia was directed by a Frenchman, Jean Renoir.

The film is set along the edges of the swamp. Apparently the locals all are a bit afraid of going into the treacherous swamp and if they do, it's only in groups. Considering all the gators and snakes, it's easy to see why they avoid it! However, when Dana Andrews' dog gets lost there, he ventures into the swamp alone. Instead of dying or never finding his way back, he meets up with a wanted man (Walter Brennan). Despite Brennan being wanted for murder for the last five years, it soon becomes apparent he's too nice a guy to have killed anyone--and Andrews agrees to keep his whereabouts secret and become his partner in the fur trapping trade.

In addition to this major plot thread, several other seemingly divergent plot elements occur during the course of the film--and by the end they all come together. First, Andrews' mother has been allowing an old boyfriend (John Carradine) to spend time at the house when her older husband (Walter Huston) is gone on hunting trips. While she rebuffs Carradine's advances, you wonder why she doesn't tell him to leave---so it's obvious she' ambivalent about this. When the husband finds out she's been with another man, things get tense--but he has no idea who the man was. And, there is another plot involving two rough and nasty brothers (Ward Bond and Guinn Williams) who just seem to be up to no good! Finally, there is a blossoming love between Brennan's daughter (Anne Baxter) and Andrews.

So why did I like the film? Well, I appreciated how although the actors approximated accents of the locale, it was NOT exaggerated and the people were not made out to be a bunch of ignorant yokels. While I am sure the film would not be one recommended by the Georgia Department of Tourism, the film clearly is not offensive or overdone. The acting is good, the complex plot involving and interesting. While not exactly a great film, it did have some nice tense moments and was quite enjoyable.

By the way, despite the nice Midwest sort of 'perfect' accent, Dana Andrews was Mississippi-born! Interesting.

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A Ford-like Renoir film

Author: Ricardo Santos from Madrid, Spain
16 January 2004

Having seen almost all Renoir's works, I was eager to see this one, the master's first film of his american stint. If you have seen Renoir's The River (1951), one of his loveliest masterpieces, the feeling cames to you, when you are watching this 1941 movie, that you are seeing just a preparatory exercise for that later piece of art. Just listen Walter Brennan's lines when he first meet Dana Andrews about how the death of an individual begets new life elsewhere.

Sometimes also in the movie I had the resemblance of watching a John Ford movie, specially in the town scenes, more obvious in the ball scenes, the guy with the girl chatting, the dancers background, and suddenly a huge thug coming out, and the fight therefore. More hints about this: the writer is Dudley Nichols, a Ford habitual collaborator, and among the cast, John Carradine and Ward Bond, also from Ford's troup. Anyway, it's a Renoir. Watch it (it's short and pleasant, and hide two or three great moments.)

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Evocative, magical film

10/10
Author: Vincent Reda from Albany, NY
13 August 1999

This is a beautiful, sometimes extremely delicate, often very eerie film of love and death in the nearly primordial Florida Everglades. Both the director (Renoir) and the cinematographer have created a mystical feeling surrounding the setting, and it's a perfect match for the moral complexity Renoir draws from the characterizations. It is not an easy American film; it's morally challenging. Dana Andrews is perfect casting in this way; he is anything but a transparent presence on screen. Anne Baxter too, has an unspoken pain about her that's ideal. And Walter Brennan is just, as always, wonderful.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Entertaining and Dramatic Adventure

7/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
18 December 2014

While participating in a posse to hunt down the fugitive Tom Keefer (Walter Brennan), who is accused of murdering a local inhabitant, the young Ben Ragan (Dana Andrews) loses his dog Trouble in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. He returns to the swamp to seek his dog out but he is captured by Tom. Soon he learns that Tom Keeler is innocent and has a daughter, Julie (Anne Baxter), who is raised by the local merchant Marty McCord (Russell Simpson). Ben has an argument with his father Thursday Ragan (Walter Huston) and he moves to a shanty that belongs to Marty. Then he associate to Tom Keeler to hunt animals in the swamp and he shares the profit of selling furs with Julie. Soon they fall in love with each other. One day, Ben witnesses Bud Dorson (Guinn Williams) and his brother Tim Dorson (Ward Bond) stealing Marty's pigs. There is a meeting in the village with Sheriff Jeb McKane (Eugene Palette) to find the thief and Ben's ex-girlfriend Mabel MacKenzie (Virginia Gilmore) is jealous of Ben and accuses Tom Keefer. The sheriff organizes a search party to hunt Tom down, but Ben presses Jesse Wick (John Carradine), who is harassing his stepmother Hannah (Mary Howard), and he finds who the real killers are. He wants Tom to return to the village, but Tom suspects that Ben might intend to betray him.

"Swamp Water" is an entertaining and dramatic adventure. The locations and the camera work in the swamp are impressive. The choreography of the fight and the quick sand in the swamp "swallowing" the criminal are very realistic. The direction of Jean Renoir and the cinematography are amazing. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "O Segredo do Pântano" ("The Secret of the Swamp")

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A big surprise

9/10
Author: worldofgabby from United States
10 January 2010

I'm not really familiar with Renoir's movies: I watched "The Woman on the Beach" a number of years ago and enjoyed it for Robert Ryan's performance, and its unusual plot and characters (especially Charles Bickford as the blind artist.) Unlike others, my appreciation of "Swamp Water" was not affected by its comparison to other films by the great French director. I came across "Swamp Water" online and, not knowing anything about it, initially thought it was either a horror movie or one of those cornpone looks at the "poor ole souls" of the deep South. The film's credits lifted my spirits, and assured me that I was in for a surprise. And I was. I love this movie: the cinematography, the subtle characterizations, the dialogue (especially Brennan's cosmic musings.) Dana Andrews (never my favorite actor, always to me a poor man's Robert Ryan) is superb, Walter Brennan, as usual, transcendent, the women complex and not condescended to, and the array of familiar character actors round out the cast with their usual more than competent contributions. Swamp Water has a psychological and emotional complexity unusual for such a simply plotted film, and its haunting evocation of the mysterious region in which it is set assures it will remain one of my favorites.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Gator-ate or Cotton-mouth bit?

Author: dbdumonteil
14 August 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you want to enjoy "Swamp water" you'd better forget all you know about Renoir's previous movies of the thirties.If it were a minor director,it would not be a problem.But Renoir is probably the greatest French director of the era ,and the French might feel disappointed because this film is completely impersonal.

That does not mean it's bad,by a long shot.The real star of the movie is this swamp water,these luxuriant landscapes which the cinematography in black and white perfectly captures.Dudley Nichols' screenplay is ,as always ,absorbing ,and even if some subplots are a bit far-fetched (Miss Hannah and Jesse" I'm only passing by" Wike)the story 's interest is sustained till the end.

Walter Brennan is convincing as Keefer ,the outcast.His daughter (Ann Baxter)is also some kind of Cinderella of the community.As Ben (Dana Andrews) is himself an orphan ,it's only natural that they hook up together.It also makes sense that he teams up with Keefer who becomes like a father to him.It 's only after he is knocked about that Thursday (Walter Huston)shows a true foster parent.

"Swamp water" is actually the story of three human beings who used to live on the fringe of society and become at last part of it.

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