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Reviewed by Will Harris
he swamp is my world. It is who I am; it is what I am. I was once a man. I know the evil men do. Do not bring your evil here, I warn you. Beware the wrath of… Swamp Thing.”
Okay, raise your hand if, when 1990 began, you thought there’d ever be a chance in Hell of seeing a “Swamp Thing” TV series.
Oh, put those things down. Everyone knows that was a rhetorical question -- you’re not fooling anyone. It might’ve been one thing if the time frame in question was 1982, not long after Wes Craven’s feature film was released. But after the film’s belated (and decidedly low budget) sequel, “The Return of Swamp Thing,” was released in 1989, it would’ve been a sucker’s bet to think that we’d see the return any time soon of the character in any medium other than comic books. In a move that surprised most everyone, however, the USA Network premiered “Swamp Thing: The Series” in July 1990. Frankly, it makes one surmise that the deal for the series was arranged simultaneously to the deal for the sequel. If that was the case, then USA must’ve absolutely lost their shit when the flick went on to earn a grand total of $192,816 at the box office. (That’s what it says on IMDb.com, anyway, and having seen the film, we’re inclined to trust its accuracy.)
As most comic book geeks already know, the most likely reason we got the “Swamp Thing” sequel was the 1984 reinvention of the comic book series by writer Alan Moore. He took the story of Alec Holland, and the muck monster he’d become, and expanded the scope beyond the realm of mortal men. (No, seriously; you can read all about it here.) It’s a shame, then, that precious few of Moore’s creations made it into the film or, to bring us back on topic, onto the small-screen adventures of Swamp Thing.
“Swamp Thing: The Series” had two things working for it from the outset: Dick Durock’s iconic performance as the rumbling title character (let’s be fair – it had as much to do with the suit as with his clunky dialogue), and Mark Lindsay Chapman’s deliciously evil take on the series’ villain, Anton Arcane. Chapman had the challenge of living up to his predecessor in the role, Louis Jordan, but he also had the advantage of the character practically being reinvented from the ground up. Another advantage: a British accent that somehow aids him in making his every line positively ooze with evil.
Even with Durock and Chapman, however, the producers never seemed to have a handle on what they wanted to do with the show. Their first big mistake: trying to make it into some semblance of a family series. They had the show revolve heavily around a divorcee with two kids, with the kids befriending Swamp Thing and keeping his existence a secret from their mom; it’s an element that rarely feels anything less than cheesy. Worse, however, is the appearance in Season Two of Kari Wuhrer, playing a character named Abigail. She has an affinity with plants, thanks to a government experiment, but it’s well documented that Wuhrer isn’t much of an actress, and if “Swamp Thing: The Series” doesn’t represent the nadir of her filmed work, it’s gotta be pretty damned close.
If you remember the original film fondly but never saw the series and were hoping this might live up to it, don’t kid yourself. The title character still looks as awesome as ever, and, granted, some of the episodes hold up as standalone efforts. But as a weekly series, “Swamp Thing” was pretty much dead in the water.
Special Features: Pretty slim pickings for a Shout! Factory set, but at least we do get a new and exclusive interview with Durock, as well as a few minutes of conversation with Len Wein, who co-created the character of Swamp Thing for DC Comics. Too bad they couldn’t get Alan Moore to say a few things about the series; that alone would’ve been worth the price of admission.