SWAMP THING: THE SERIES
Reviewed by: JimmyO
Mark Lindsey Chapman
What's it about
It’s a battle of wills as Dr. Arcane, a mad scientist who creates monsters, and Swamp Thing a once man, now plant, fight good against evil. In this 1990’s series, Mr Thing protects the swamp from baddies with the aid of a young boy and his older brother.
Is it good movie?
I have a vague memory of Wes Craven’s original Swamp Thing aside from the fact it had one of my first crushes, Adrienne Barbeau. But truthfully, I don’t even remember this as a series on the USA Network, yet I was curious, especially with Kari Wuhrer as one of the cast. Yet, Kari shows up in the second season so the first disc is dedicated to a young boy named Jim Kipp (Jesse Zeigler) and his mom Tressa (Carroll Myers). Both Jim and his mom find their way to the dark swamp where an evil doctor named Anton Arcane (Mark Lindsey Chapman) is busy making people into mutants. See, little Jesse loves to explore and dear old mom is never around. She seems to have the parenting skills of a certain pop star we all know. But lucky for Jim, Swampy keeps saving his curious butt.
This series feels a bit odd and is largely in contrast with itself, especially in the first season. The episodes are only about twenty-three minutes long, and a whole lot seems to happen. This means that each adventure feels choppy, with characters getting in and out of trouble much too easily. And being that each one is a stand alone, there is no real tension. Don’t get me wrong, people die… including one cool moment where Swampy turns some poor bad dude into part of the swamp. But when the series feels like it’s getting too dark, it is lightened up with it’s almost overly family friendly feel. The words “heck” and “gosh” seem to come up a few times. But when Season One finally comes to a close, the annoying kid is sent off by Arcane to become a slave in South America or something. It’s a pretty sad ending to a character, albeit not my favorite character, but still… he’s a kid. The last image we have of him is in a cage, shirtless, being sent off while his mom thinks her son is dead. Really? What the hell is that?
With that rather creepy end, we find ourselves in Season Two. The young Jim is replaced by an older, dreamy step-brother named Will (Scott Garrison). There are obvious reasons why he has been added to the cast. First off, he likes to take his shirt off, and it doesn’t feel as creepy as when they had Jim running around the same way. And second, having the hero a little older seemed to make the show a tad more adult. In addition to that, another character is added to the cast. Her name is Abigail (Wuhrer). She is young and damn pretty here. So for the second go around, instead of having a young boy as the hero, you have a hunky guy and a hottie girlfriend of sorts. Yes, it makes the series a little more interesting and less “family drama”. But you still have Tressa who seemed to get over losing her son pretty easily (later on, at some point in the series, you find out that the kid ended up okay, so don’t worry too much). But with the changes, it seemed to get a little more edgy… well, as edgy as this show could be, so don’t expect it to get all that dark.
Sadly, the series hasn’t aged too well. The style, the look and even the “science fiction” feel very dated. And the villain, Dr. Arcane and his big hair, really didn’t seem to be all that powerful for a head bad dude. I don’t think it was the actor necessarily, it’s just the scripts that seem sloppy and loaded with plot holes. But even with the problems, it is still kind of a campy, fun watch, especially the second season. It’s cheesy and none too deep, but there is some retro fun to be had. And of course, you have Dick Durock, the former stuntman who brought Swamp Thing back to life. He is surprisingly effective and very comfortable in the role. He is able to create life inside the giant plant suit. This is not the greatest show on television, but it’s kind of fun if you are in the mood for a silly show from the early nineties.
Video / Audio
Video: Sadly, this is not the greatest 1.33:1 transfer. It makes the series look more dated than Arcane’s hair.
Audio: While the audio is a tad better, it still also doesn’t feel as good as it could have. Still, for an old series, it could have been worse.
Len Wein (7:56) who is the co-creator of Swamp Thing. He offers up insight on the creation of the character and it is not a bad 8 minutes of info. Also up for a chat is Dick Durock (10:58), the dude has been around for a lengthy career, including many years as a stuntman. I dig this guy and he really made the character better than it could have been. Both interviews are a good addition, but come on, where are the rest of the fun little features that could have been.
The episodes from Season One are on two discs. Disc one includes “The Emerald Heart”, “Falco”, “Treasure”, “From Beyond the Grave”, “Blood Wind”, “Grotesquery” and “New Acquaintance”. Disc two finishes it off with “Natural Enemy”, “Spirit of the Swamp”, “Legend of the Swamp Maiden”, “The Death of Dr. Arcane”, “The Living Image” and “The Shipment.
For the second season, we also have two discs. Disc one, “Birthmarks”, “The Dark Side of the Mirror”, “Silent Screams”, “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” and “The Watcher”. Disc two, “The Hunt”, “Touch of Death”, “Tremors of the Heart” and “The Prometheus Parabola”.
Fans of the series will be happy to know that the episodes are in the order that they should have been seen. When airing on USA, the network had aired them out of sequence.
If you dig the comics, I’m not sure if this overly sappy half hour of television with only slight hints of creepiness will be very satisfying to you. But there is some fun to be had with Dick Durock as the Swamp Thing saving his much beloved swamp from evil mutant maker Dr. Arcane and his frighteningly big head of hair. A few of the actors other than Durock are fine for these first two seasons, including Garrison and Wuhrer, and even Chapman… hair aside. But I could have done without the boy and his mom. Tressa was much too whiny (aside from being a lousy mom) and seemed to be always getting into trouble, as did the boy. But come on, did you have to sell him into slavery? I wouldn’t call this good television, but at the same time, if you are a fan of the character, it is probably worth it for Durock who brought Swampy to life.