Shout! Factory finally closes the book on the “Swamp Thing” cable-TV series of the early ’90s by issuing its last 24 episodes on a four-disc set. They’re the worst ones of the entire run, recommended only for die-hard Swampy fans willing to accept its cheap, supa-cheesy, Universal Studios backlot-shot vibe … yeah, that’s me.
“Do not bring your evil here,” warns Swamp Thing (the recently departed Dick Durock) in the beginning credits of each 22-minute episode, but do you think anyone listens? That was rhetorical, but no, they do not “ ergo, the villain of the week. Although often a secondary character in his own series, kindhearted creature Swamp Thing protects his Louisana marshland home from greedy land developers, just-passing-through criminals and the ever-evil scientist Dr. Arcane (Mark Lindsay Chapman, saddles with one sad mullet). That makes our hero the Al Gore of his time (and of the USA Network); its eco-friendly message certainly plays with more relevance today.
Among the ne’er-do-wells Swamp Thing comes across include bat-like beasts, convicts on the lam, spoiled teenage girls in search of an urban legend, and modern-day pirates menacing a little kid. On the side of good, there’s a woman who’s a witch. Whether the show aims for dead serious or dead silly, the limitations of its creative forces and budget make it a guilty pleasure. And as goofy as some of the eps are, I indeed feel guilty.
One in particular, “A Most Bitter Pill,” traps mortal enemies Swamp Thing and Arcane in a cave. Our moss-covered man of morality is knocked out cold, leaving Arcane to deliver one looooong soliloquy, as if it he were a cast member of Shakespeare in the Park. Need to wash off the pretension? No worries “ the very next one involves a mummy, complete with Dollar General effects.
Guest stars abound. There’s a slumming Tyne Daly, apparently needing to pay off a credit card at the time. “Twin Peaks” daddy Ray Wise pops in to do his crazy-guy shtick, and “Curb Your Enthusiasm“‘s Cheryl Hines makes her screen debut “ a rather dubious one, given that perm.
As for our regular stars, Chapman chews up scripts like dogs to ground chuck, and Scott Garrison “ the resident “hunk” “ cannot act. As in, at all. But kudos to Durock, who brings class “ yes, class “ to his title role, through all 72 episodes, plus two feature films. Swampy may be resurrected for the big screen in a presumably better production, but no matter who takes the part, it won’t be the same. “Rod Lott