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STUDIO: Shout Factory
RUNNING TIME: 540 minutes
• Exclusive interviews with Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein and actor Dick Durock
“The Parliament of Trees will let anything get into syndication.”
Dick Durock, Mark Lindsay Chapman, Carrell Myers, Kevin Quigley, Kari Wuhrer and Scott Garrison
Dr. Alec Holland was involved in a terrible accident in his lab near the Houma bayou. While working on a bio-regeneration formula, some saboteurs attacked his lab and set him ablaze. While trying to put the flames out, he fell into the murky depths of the nearby swamp. Months pass and a new creature arose from the Swamp to reclaim what was stolen from Dr. Holland. This Swamp Thing will avenge all those that would commit acts of villainy and attempt to destroy others.
FEMA has a new way to taste flood readiness. When the midget starts screaming, you had better fucking run.
It’s kind of hard to pin down what makes Swamp Thing such a strong character. Seasoned viewers have seen the story told in a variety of different ways, but there’s something special about Durock’s beaten-down approach to Swamp Thing. He’s a Force of Nature that is uncomfortable in his leafy flesh. The series builds well off of this conceit, as we watch the creature turn from a vengeful swamp creature to a powerful figure that sits quietly in judgment of humanity.
We gather here today not to bury Bocephus, but to prepare him to come back in a totally sick fight as an Un-Man. Here’s hoping that he’s part spider-demon and part crab. That would totally kick ass.
Swamp Thing got its start on the USA Network in 1990, as an effort for Universal to show off its new Florida studios. Several other shows got their start at Universal via a similar endeavor, but Swamp Thing managed to catch the tailwind of a cult following. Now, I’m sure that we’re going to have a ton of people reading this that are at least somewhat familiar with this series. It’s the law of averages among internet geekdom. No matter how trivial or obscure, someone’s seen it on-line and they probably know more about it than you. So, I’m just going to work off the assumption that you have a working knowledge of the character.
Shout Factory has salvaged this show from depths of my pop culture riddled memory. I’m not sure what made those guys feel like such a junk syndicated show could do well on DVD, but I appreciate a company that is willing to take a chance like this. If only they would take more of a chance on the obscure animated series. Hell, I would’ve killed for an episode of the short-lived FOX Kids Swamp Thing cartoon that aired in between the first and second seasons of the live-action show. But, that’s neither here nor there.
Most of these early episodes center around Swamp Thing/Alec taking part in several Twilight Zone style twists of fate to avenge crimes on the Bayou. Eventually, the show falls into the trap of relying too heavily on Dr. Anton Arcane as a grand nemesis for Swampy. This came about as the USA Network wasn’t sure what to do with the show and it often faced great change in-between seasons. First, you get Kari Wuhrer ditching the show since they couldn’t figure out what to do with Abigail Arcane. So, that freed up Swampy to find a new love interest and gave a new angle to his relationship with Dr. Arcane.
On the Bayou, everyone eventually turns into a Richard Thomas clone.
The remaining two seasons were spent with Swamp Thing going back forth between how to handle Arcane and his dealings with General Sunderland. Towards the end of the series, Swampy seems so indifferent to all of the dirty dealings that you expect him to make a vegetation noose and hang himself. I can’t precisely remember how the series ends, since it appears that this complete series set cuts off the last nine or so episodes that were the bulk of the third season. But, they don’t really matter. Hell, the show ends on a cliffhanger involving the new kid sidekick that never got resolved. Don’t you just love it when that happens?
The best part of the series was when Dick Durock got to have his B-Movie Zen moments by guiding young Jim Kipp through the difficulties of swamp living. Jim had recently moved to the swamp with his divorcee mother, as they try to start life over with his grandmother. The problem is that Jim starts to notice strange dealings with Arcane’s Un-Men and the other freaks that hide in the underbrush. Jim’s one hell of a juvenile bullshitter and Swampy tries to impart the wisdom of being a seven foot plant upon the child. But, nobody really learns anything, as the show meanders onward towards its conclusion.
Un-Man semen can cure anything.
This series isn’t for everyone. The first few episodes show The Outer Limits style influence that early show runner Joseph Stefano brought to the series, but network retooling turned later seasons into a Freak of the Week showcase. But, if you can appreciate television mystery or monsters slapping each other around, then there’s something here for you. If that’s not your deal, then you’re going to want to avoid this DVD. There’s no wiggle room and no redeeming value, it’s a television show about a muck-encrusted pariah.
See! What did I tell you? I’ve got a full head of hair, my eye grew back and it only caused an 80% loss of dignity.
Shout Factory has done about as much work as possible to bring together a complete collection of the USA series. Sure, you don’t have much in terms of special features, but it’s hard to find material for genre shows like these. What are you going to do that hasn’t been done on a previous Swamp Thing release? Fan commentaries only make financial sense on releases such as Freaks and Geeks or something with a bigger following. That’s why you’ve got to stick behind what you get and hope that the sales are strong enough to bring out the last few episodes to DVD.