SWAMP THING THE SERIES VOL 2

SWAMP THING THE SERIES VOL 2
Starring Dick Durock and Mark Lindsay Chapman
Released by
The Shout Factory

Volume two of the DVD release of the SWAMP THING television show actually picks up with the first half of the third and final season. In one of those real oddities, season three ran for 50 episodes!

Once again we head back into the swamp and pick up the adventures of Dr. Alec Holland, once a great scientist and now a shambling muck monster (played by Durock) who is deeply in touch with the local flora and fauna. Holland protects the locals from threats that creep out of the water, but mostly he protects them from a creep who lives near the water: Dr. Anton Arcane, played with extraordinary gusto my Mark Lindsay Chapman.

I reviewed volume one here and noted that the series was an incredibly earnest, if overwrought, entertainment that was mostly given life by Chapman’s incessant chewing of the scenery, and that holds true for volume two as well. There are some slight changes here; some episodes look like they had a budget of $1.87 rather than the first two seasons’ $1.53. They also get more mileage out of cutting back on Swampy and shifting the focus to Arcane, which works not only budget-wise but also to spotlight Chapman and let him run wild on screen. The best example of this comes in “Tatania,” wherein Arcane revives his comatose wife (played by a positively wooden and godawful Heather Thomas- oh, Heather, why ruin my memories of THE FALL GUY and your bikini poster like that?) and discovers that the body he woke up was that of a stripper surgically altered to resemble Arcane’s spouse. We get about 90 seconds of Swampy, and it doesn’t really matter- Chapman’s so hilariously over-the-top that you never get tired of him.

The earnestness comes in episodes like “Mist Demeanor,” which features a noted character making the ultimate sacrifice and in “Swamp of Dreams” where they turn Swampy into a (I kid you not) drug addict in an attempt to add pathos to his plight.

You can’t go in to watching this series expecting something brilliant or wonderful, but if you want to find something silly and goofy to watch for 22 minutes, you’ll get a kick out of this.

Marc Mason

SWAMP THING THE SERIES SEASON ONE AND TWO

SWAMP THING THE SERIES SEASON ONE AND TWO
Starring Dick Durock, Mark Lindsay Chapman, Carrell Myers, and Kari Wuhrer
Available From
The Shout Factory

IN STORES TODAY!

Coming off of two cult-classic films, Len Wein and Berni Wrightson’s SWAMP THING was given extra life in the form of a television show. Running from 1990-1993 on USA Network, the series saw the resurrected Alec Holland getting involved with the Kipp family, new to the swamp, and continuing to face off against the evil of Dr. Anton Arcane. Over the course of these twenty-two episodes, he does both in relatively equal amounts, though the way it plays out is somewhat unusual, beginning with the show’s actual format. SWAMP THING was the rare 30-minute drama series, a run-time associated heavily with sitcoms. And there wasn’t a funny bone in the entire series, to be honest.

Well, that’s not entirely true. If we separate out the good and the bad of the series, you have to start with Mark Lindsay Chapman’s portrayal of Arcane. Chapman is actually quite hilarious in the part, the only problem being that it isn’t meant to be intentional. Watching him, it’s amazing how svelte he is, because he chewed enough scenery in these episodes to make him into a Thanksgiving parade balloon. Plus, he has the added bonus of rocking a full Patrick Swayze mullet and a wardrobe that would have embarrassed Don Johnson in 1984. The man practically oozes sleaze from every pore. The other major problem the show dealt with throughout the first season: its other primary character, a young boy named Jim Kipp who essentially became Swampy’s sidekick. Unfortunately, the kid couldn’t act, and he brought down every other actor he worked with in a scene (excepting Durock). But that also leads to some of the good about the series.

In the final episode of season one, Arcane and a corrupt sheriff kidnap Jim, slap him in a shipping container, fake his death, and send him off to slavery in South America. Pretty dark cliffhanger, right? It gets darker! Because when the show returns, they don’t even mention it. His mother is over it, Jim’s name goes unspoken, the world moves on! Can you imagine a show trying to get away with that today? Also to like: Durock. The man is stuck in that suit (and kudos to the suit makers- it’s the best looking thing on the show, totally amazing), but he gets every ounce of pathos and emotion out of his eyes and mouth, and Swamp Thing is a very rich character because of it. Really, you have to credit the entire production for what they were doing- they obviously had zero budget, were filming in Florida at Universal Studios, and they weren’t tackling Shakespeare. But they put out a product that was extremely earnest, and you can’t fake that.

Mind you, it wasn’t actually great TV. Season two, minus the kid, shows a strong level of improvement, though it could have lived without Swamp Thing giving the full Meredith Grey voiceover at the end of the episodes. SWAMP THING was strictly B-level entertainment. But you know what? That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For 22 minutes at a time, you can pop one of these episodes in your DVD player and see something unlike anything on the tube right now? That’s really the point, isn’t it?

Marc Mason