Wednesday, February 27, 2019

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING: YO HO HO

With superhero television programs blowing up in the last few years, recaps of superhero television shows have become all the internet rage. Other sites, however, are hobbled by the need to cover shows which have been "recently broadcast" or which are "any good at all." But who covers the uncoverable? That's why Gone&Forgotten chooses to cover the 1991-1993 USA Network live-action Swamp Thing television series in a feature I used to like to call a dumb pun kind of title, but I've run out of those, so I just call it ...



Yo ho ho! Arr matey! Bottles of rum! Steven Spielberg's 1991 motion picture Hook! Yep folks, they've finally gotten some pirates into the heavily-trafficked community of Houma, Lousiana -- a moment I'd been dreading! Having previously established that Mayan priests, Egyptian mummies, swamp maidens and other supernatural heebie-jeebies had regularly seeded the Universal Studios backlot with plotlines for future episodes, I assumed that pirates would be inevitable. And why not? There's actual pirate history in Louisiana! Why, it would almost be a crime if it turned out to be some sort of switcheroo!

But were they inevitable? No, because although the episode opens upon a pair of piratey-types (James Zelley, Danny Hanneman) burying treasure by a bilge-pond -- their actions noted by the handsome, lantern jawed pirate Red Reiger (played by I have no idea. He's uncredited) --  it's actually a switcheroo! They got me!

"Ar har har, we sure bamboozled that lubber!"

It turns out that the pirates are actually a pair of slapstick stage-hillbillies (still James Zelley and Danny Hanneman) and that the handsome pirate secreted behind a nearby fern was actually tiny weirdo Josh Reiger (The Sandlot's Shane Obedzinski, I guess, I've never seen it).

Peeping Josh has recently lost his dad and his imagination's going a little out-of-control. Part of this rampant make-uppery manifests itself in his fascination with pirates. The other part manifests itself in the fact that he just tracked two drunk, desperately stupid swamp idiots into the middle of a shit-holler in order to keep careful track of where they buried their "treasure." That'll go over well!

The "hillbillies" (don't blame me, it's what they were called in the episode) notice Josh watching them, and chase him off. They would have done worse except Swamp Thing just straight clotheslined them. He looked like Refrigerator Perry if he were also a landmass. Which Perry sort of was, I guess.

After the impact, one of the hillbillies pulls himself off the ground and asks in astonishment "How'd he do that!?" no joke

Back at Josh's home, we're introduced to his long-suffering mother -- a creature propelled entirely by frustration (Kathy Neff). With her husband recently deceased, she's handling the simultaneous grief and her hyperactive frogspawn with barely-restrained slaps. She berates Josh for his over-active imagination (which, to be fair, did almost get him murdered by drifters in the swamp. He has an imagination so over-active that it requires a living god of nature to keep him from getting snuffed and buried in a beer cooler. Honestly, his mom's criticisms seem reasonable). Josh nonetheless runs away.

Arcane is, meanwhile, getting angry in the woods. The hillbillies are apparently under Graham's supervision, and Graham neglected to predict that they'd get drunk on cheap beer and bury the "treasures" in the wrong spots. Turns out that the treasures are actually weird boxes which Arcane invented and which will flood the swamp with biome-altering amino acids.

Graham's best employee review to date!

Later in this episode, Swamp Thing will briefly muse on the delicate balance of natural influences on the ecology of a region, which is a little more than I expected from this show. Swamp Thing is nominally eco-positive, but they usually just slap a hamhock-heavy "NATURE GOOD" metaphor in the voiceover at the end and call it a 30.

A large part of the episode ends up being devoted to pursuit of the hillbillies through the swamp. Arcane is manning a base station and Graham and two rent-a-cops have taken to the field. Swamp Thing manages to corral these two escapees from a Blue Collar Comedy sketch and, with the magic words "Look out, the fence is electrified," scares them right into an electrified fence, killing them. Well done. No pun intended.

Faces of Death '19

With the hillbillies thankfully dead, Arcane has no way of finding his buried cases. Luckily, Josh had spent his pursuit of his imagined "pirates" drawing a map of all of their locations! I should have mentioned this earlier, it's important.

While Graham surprises his boss with one of these cases, retrieved at the Reiger yard sale, Josh remains ran-away. He's captured Swamp Thing, in a scene which would be more charming if we didn't know that the big rutabaga goes around collecting damaged children to act as his personal attaches.

"I'll call you ... New Will."

In response to the ranning-awayness, Josh's mom has called the only man who can help -- Will! A poor choice, but Houma's a small town with limited options. Also, either Kathy Neff decided to play Mrs.Reiger as a savage cougar barely in control of her seething attraction for Will or, um ... I don't know, I don't need to be a part of that. She kneads his upper arm like bread dough at one point. Life is long. I've seen too much misery.

But the scene is given one of its finest moments when Mrs.Reiger sneers at the swamp for claiming her husband and possibly her son, and Will replies "It's not the swamp's fault." His tone is like, "The swamp has a good heart, it just comes on a little strong sometimes. Give the swamp a chance. I have a lot of high hopes for that swamp."

This shot's got a lot of fans.
Arcane invades the Reiger house to discover how they'd come into possession of one of his cases. He turns the dial to 11 right out of the gate, torturing the mom in a glass-front toaster oven and making the kid (now retrieved) watch. Did he even ask first? I would have asked first.

Armed with Josh's treasure map, Arcane pursues his lost cases. Will sneers "The jerk's trying to destroy the swamp ... again?" and that's how I know we're in the run-up to the conclusion! They've stopped particularly caring!

I should have mentioned that Josh and Red both wear the same cheap Disneyworld pirate hat.

Unable to personally attend to Arcane as he is using swamp magic to disable Arcane's crazy new plan, Swamp Thing does SWAMP SHAZAMS on Josh! The little boy is turned into his hero, Red something or other, and does battle with Arcane! With swords! And Arcane actually does the thing where he holds the sword under his arm to make it look like he'd been stabbed, like a fourth-grade production of Peter Pan. Badass. It always gets best in the last three minutes, largely because it's about to end.

Josh stabbing Arcane gives Swamp Thing plenty of time to disassemble all of Arcane's machines. Arcane's wounds heal, Josh turns back into a little boy, he's reunited with his mother and then they end this way, with Josh saying from nowhere "It's like dad always said, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do." At no point prior to this moment in this episode had that been mentioned, or had his father saying anything been part of anything. What the hell. Anyway, now it's over.

"You father never said anything of the sort!"

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING: EYE FOR AN EYE

With superhero television programs blowing up in the last few years, recaps of superhero television shows have become all the internet rage. Other sites, however, are hobbled by the need to cover shows which have been "recently broadcast" or which are "any good at all." But who covers the uncoverable? That's why Gone&Forgotten chooses to cover the 1991-1993 USA Network live-action Swamp Thing television series in a feature I used to like to call a dumb pun kind of title, but I've run out of those, so I just call it ...



Kitties!

This episode opens with Swamp Thing pleading desperately with the swamp -- and I'm still not quite sure whether the semi-sentience of the swamp is a general mystical thing, a Parliament of Trees reference, or just how Swamp Thing works in this universe, it's a mystery. Whatever the scenario, the situation is clearly that Swamp Thing only holds so much sway over the source of his powers, and that the swamp has access to cats.

Give us this day our daily swamp bread...

The swamp has released THE PREDATOR (i.e. a very even-tempered cougar) into Houma to finally do what Swamp Thing won't -- kill Arcane! Which I think he did once. But now THE PREDATOR.

I'm sort of at loose ends with this episode on account of it's slim -- even for a Swamp Thing episode. The plot which motivates the Predator involves a radioactive waste dump in the middle of the swamp which sickens nature AND the residents of Houma. One by one, the Predator stalks everyone involved in any fashion with the radioactive waste, saving Arcane for last -- either for extra dramatic tension or because he lives in a compound with deadly electric force fields. The swamp has limits!

Scully to Will's Mulder.
Will recognizes that the many many victims filling up Houma's apparently only hospital emergency ward are suffering from radiation poisoning. This is an opinion left unshared by Tim (Christopher Carter), Will's pal and an orderly at the hospital. Tim is the highlight of the episode, easily, with breezy banter and an utter unconcern for the health and safety of the suffering and ill. Even though he recognizes the symptoms of radiation poisioning, agrees with Will that the symptoms match, AND observes that the radiation detecting badges found in one of the victim's office implies radiation, HE WON'T BELIEVE IT. It's beyond funny. Also, this is why I don't trust doctors.

Meanwhile, Graham has figured out the Predator's pattern, despite Arcane's disdain. "You're afraid of this pernicious puss" he sneers, delivering a line which makes the episode worthwhile.

Oh, and the sheriff is back, despite there being no running order in the series which explains his return to Arcane's payroll...
Here's what happens in the bottom third: Someone gives Will an uzi and a jeep. Arcane descends into some kind of steampunk boudoir panic room. The electric forcefield which is meant to keep Arcane safe is shut down when a panicked guard runs into it rather than facing the incredibly sweet, patient cougar.  And Swamp Thing explains why the Predator killing Arcane is a bad idea. Are you ready? It's good. It's perfect. It will make you a fan. Ready?

The panther, according to Swamp Thing, will -- in the process of killing Arcane -- "ingest Arcane's evil." Furthermore, as the cougar goes out into the world and procreates, "each panther," Swamp Thing warns us, "will be more evil than the one before."

Oh, look honey, it's that nice kitty from the TV...

It doesn't come to that, the world being overrun by increasingly evil cougars. What happens instead is that Arcane is forced to give an apology to the swamp. And "Sorry swamp" won't cut it!

"There have been a few unfortunate mistakes," he confesses, "But they were honest mistakes."

"There've been a few dead bodies here and there," he adds,  "and the rest have been nobbled for life, but they deserved it!" It gets cornier from here, despite being a real testament to Chapman being a fantastic melodramatician. It tests his skills, though, with the confession literally ending with him screaming "FORGIVE ME, FOR I HAVE SINNED" at an unidentified fern.

That steampunk boudoir panic room makes it all worthwhile tho ...
But at least it's all straightened out, and we still have the original amount of evil kitties!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING: BROTHERLY LOVE

With superhero television programs blowing up in the last few years, recaps of superhero television shows have become all the internet rage. Other sites, however, are hobbled by the need to cover shows which have been "recently broadcast" or which are "any good at all." But who covers the uncoverable? That's why Gone&Forgotten chooses to cover the 1991-1993 USA Network live-action Swamp Thing television series in a feature I used to like to call a dumb pun kind of title, but I've run out of those, so I just call it ...




The unfortunate reality is that any time that you have an episode of a television show or an issue of a comic book which is titled "Brotherly Love," you are about to endure a story about two brothers who do not get along and which is going to take a real goddamn long time to get to the payoff. Writers overestimate the inherent drama of sibling rivalry, is my general assessment of the situation.

And that's more or less -- or, in fact, precisely -- what we get in this episode of Swamp Thing. In addition, Tressa is now involved with a new beau! If past episodes are any indication, this means we'll see Tressa slapped, struck, terrified and/or choked in her own home within the next eight minutes. Yay? She's got a type.

"Welcome y'all t'Gator Pete's!"

The episode opens with a longshot of the Kipp household, reminding me once again that I often mistake the Kipp household for a deep-swamp gumbo shack. Pulling up to the dilapidated hovel is Tressa and her date for the evening, Brad (David Rupprecht), a pleasant enough guy who spends every ounce of energy in his body pleading with Tressa to fuck him. He phrases it in terms like "why won't you give me a tumble" or "why are you giving me the cold shoulder" etc etc, even though they are literally going out on multiple dates, and she seems to like him fine, for no reason I can ascertain.

Will pops up on the front porch and basically orders Tressa to fuck the guy. I don't know why he's so invested, but he's practically furious that she hasn't put out yet. I don't know if Will's trying to wipe out a secret debt or something, but however unpleasant Brad is on the matter, Will is 500 times worse. Personal relationships have badly deteriorated in the Kipp household. This bodes poorly for the Swamp Tour business.

In this brief respite, no more than one and one-third of a second, this guy is changing the topic back to him getting fucked.
Tressa, meanwhile, has very good reasons for not trusting the guy. For one thing, he gave his home address as "the middle of Lake Michigan." Yeah, that seems suspicious. Also, his driver's license is under a different name -- and his address? ON DRY LAND! The sneak!

Anyway, this was an interesting decision to make: Beginning the episode in a darkened shithole amidst desperate sex-pleading and open hostility.

Another unsettling fact about Brad is that he's related to some hyper-violent dipshit in a Hawaiian shirt (Kurt Hewett) who kills the only likable character in this whole episode, gas station attendant Steve (Terry Jones). Sorry Steve you had to die, Steve. I love that you clearly softly rested your head rather than letting it hit something hard, tho, I respect your self-care regimen.

May a flight of angels sing you to your supper, or however that goes.

Back at Kippsylvania, Will is making a spaghetti dinner for the unhappy trio, and pretending to play guitar on the porch. I forgot how Will sometimes pretends to play guitar but doesn't, and I am awakened to the fact that he's kind of doing an Elvis impression for his character. Is this something Will's been doing all along? Has he been doing young Swamp Elvis? And, if not, can we get that character onto the DC streaming service?

So, I'd like to take a moment to check in with the status of Swamp Thing's world. At this point, Tressa and Will have both seen more awful shit than a six-tour 'Nam vet. They have had their home invaded by ghosts and evil spirits, they have traveled through time and other dimensions, the youngest member of the Kipp family was abducted and forced into slavery at a mutant mine in Brazil. And yet Tressa has uncovered so much shady deets about Brad, still lets him into her home, and Will is still shouting "FUCK. THAT. MAN'S. PENIS." every three minutes. Do they love death? Have they accepted that their own heroes' journeys may never begin, for corrupt lintel above the vital threshold? Will they refuse no call, forever mistaking death for adventure? What Houma needs is a trauma therapist or fifty.

"Let me play you a little tune I like to call 'Tressa, Give It Up To This Weird Asshole Already Whydon'tcha"

Speaking of which, Hawaiian shirt dude finally shows up, and Tressa just lets him in before he even knocks. Tressa's finest moment, that. She actually declares that it might be Will at the door, even though Will is literally standing RIGHT BEHIND HER at the time. This is what I mean. They welcome annihilation. Swamp Thing has done a great disservice to these two people, introducing them to a supernatural world where the only reasonable emotional states are apathy and welcoming death with open arms.

The shirt dude is, naturally, Brad's brother Kurt, who is nuts and blames Brad for the death of a mutual love interest, but for which he is actually responsible. Okay. That's it. Now let's have some Swamp Thing.

What the fuck caliber was this guy packing, signal flares?
Swamp Thing's powers, as far as the canon of the television show is concerned, are limited to what the swamp is willing to let him do. The swamp seems to have taken a real liking to Kurt, because it has limited Swamp Thing to actions which -- and I quote here -- "complicate [Kurt's] life." This entails a pouring rain and a downed powerline. Since Kurt is driving Tressa and Brad to a motel to kill them (despite the Kipp household being located right next to a corpse-devouring swamp, just saying), this is indeed ... complicating.

Brad has seizures in one arm, which Kurt takes advantage of in the following over-complicated way: He ties Brad to a chair and tapes a gun to Brad's shaky hand, finger on the trigger. He ties Tressa up and puts her in the path of bullet. Then he refuses to give Bradley medication, which is not cool, so that when Brad seizures -- pow, Tressa ... probably gets injured? There seems to be a lot that might go wrong here.

A real Rube Goldberg device they got there ...
Which is Swamp Thing's cue. He bursts into the motel room and, using the powers granted to him by the swamp -- slows down time.  He can do this. It doesn't actually seem like it makes anyone any all that faster, even though it's fast enough for Will to shove Tressa to the floor with alarming force -- Swamp Thing's most tried-and-true technique for saving a potential shooting victim -- and beat Kurt up.

But, just to clarify: Swamp Thing was only granted the following powers by the swamp -- raining and time-stopping. This is lighting a furnace to burn a hair.

But there is a happy ending: Tressa never fucks that guy.

I'd be a monster if I didn't show you Tressa's "Terrified Face" for this episode.



Wednesday, December 19, 2018

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING: IN THE BEGINNING

With superhero television programs blowing up in the last few years, recaps of superhero television shows have become all the internet rage. Other sites, however, are hobbled by the need to cover shows which have been "recently broadcast" or which are "any good at all." But who covers the uncoverable? That's why Gone&Forgotten chooses to cover the 1991-1993 USA Network live-action Swamp Thing television series in a feature I used to like to call a dumb pun kind of title, but I've run out of those, so I just call it ...



In a fashion totally suited to the Swamp Thing live-action television show, this unusual episode simultaneously deserves accolades for getting the tone right, and then also deserves condemnation for ... being the Swamp Thing live-action television show.

"Stay down, big man. This is a job for  ... Will Thing!"

It seems as though there may be a few approaches to this show which work -- and going very very broad is one of them. This is, after all, a show about a mad scientist and his battles against a magical salad bar, plus the salad bar has many shirtless, profoundly confused and unendearingly confident teenage pals you have to occasionally kidnap and send to slave camps in Brazil. So, in this episode, Anton Arcane carving a kilometer-high cavern almost a mile below the surface of the Earth so as to manufacture a tiny biosphere for his rapidly-mutating army of malevolent murder-ferns which will, in turn, cover the planet and transform our antagonist into a living god is just about right.

The episode opens with Will impatiently sassing the swamp. It appears that Will attends regular "communicating with the swamp" classes, taught by Swamp Thing, and that he also has zero to little respect for it. "Hey swamp!' he hollers, "How's the missus -- I mean, the mosses!" he puns, adding "Aw, you're no fern -- I mean fun!" It only makes sense that he is almost subsequently murdered by a begonia.

Please enjoy this animated gif of the only thing I ever make animated gifs of: Will getting thrown around by plants.

Arcane has released one of his mutated murder-plants into the wild, and it nearly makes very short work of Will. Swamp Thing intercedes at the last second, receiving a face-full of dayglo-pink spraypaint in the face for it. He ends up looking like a variant exclusive sofubi.

Will and Swamp Thing decide to investigate the origin of the killer weed, which is also how I spent a lot of my time college. The neuro-toxin which Swamp Thing inhaled AND the underground biosphere (about which the duo is not yet aware) drain Swampy's powers, meaning that Will is going to have to investigate the origins of the deadly plant on his lonesome. That sounds like the opening line of his obituary, but it works out surprisingly well!

The Hunter S.Thompson look suits him.

Meanwhile, over at Arcane's labs -- Graham returns from vacation! And he brought Dr.Arcane a cool-ass tee-shirt! I didn't know that he was on vacation, but trying to foist a tourist-trap tee-shirt off on his boss is among Graham's finest moments and also possibly the high point of the episode. It's also preferable to what Graham almost did upon returning to the labs, which is to jam his whole hand into a terrarium full of dangerous murder-plants! "You almost achieved immortality" sneers Arcane, in a typically delightful Chapman delivery.

Down in the underground chamber, Arcane introduces Graham to his nursery of murder-plants. Mutating at "a thousand times normal"  -- which, I don't know what the standard amount of mutation is but a thousand times sounds good, so, that's cool -- the plants are also spliced with Arcane's DNA, making them his 'children.' They also grant him Swamp Thing powers, mostly, allowing him to control the weather using only his will (and also he shouts his commands so the crew knows when to turn off the sprinklers). This is also when Graham accidentally drops a box full of important electronics, or a box full of wires, whichever, we never get a very good look at it, but it plays a role later on.

Of COURSE I 'cappd the tee-shirt scene. I take care of you.

Will's efforts to infiltrate Arcane's lab are so awkward and inept that I assume they let him in only out of pity. He manages to play it cool while navigating the secure areas checkpoints of the high-security facility, as long as your definition of cool owes a lot to Steve Martin and Dan Akroyd's "Wild and Crazy Guys." He keeps SHOUTING his lines, like a really cool guy who isn't suspicious.

Some of the plants have managed to cobble together a huge, ridiculous robot body out of the dropped box of electronics, becoming "A plant that kills like a machine," according to Arcane. So ... it's a guitar.

"Beep Boop Give Me Chlorophyll Beep Boop I Guess"

"It feeds on metal, electronics and flesh" ponders Arcane, adding "-- Human flesh!" which is the prelude to Will getting tied to a tree as bait for the beast. This would be an easy fix for Swamp Thing, were he at full power and not wandering around the bog, puffy and confused, like if Steven Seagal were 100% chia.

Eventually, Swamp Thing and Woody Guthrie's guitar face off in the swamp. The machine has been savagely knocking people over, which appears to be its sole superpower inasmuch as I think it's just a refrigerator box with electrical tape all over it. There's nothing plant-like about the machine at this point, except that its eyes glow green. Like a traffic signal which, last time I checked, did not indicate "Stop / Caution / Plant Murder Machine Creature." And the fight scenes sound like a man passing a difficult stool while dremeling.

And Will? Will is ready for anything ...
Swamp Thing delivers the episode's killer line -- "You're not a plant. You're an aberration! You must die!" as he lunges into battle. Meanwhile, in a rare exhibition of cooperation, Arcane is destroying his own biosphere, so as to heal the swamp and return Swamp Thing's powers. With his murder plants growing out of control, Arcane has no choice but to rely on the aid of his old foe. Unfortunately, he finds that the plants have rebelled against him and are drawing power from an alternate source. Could it be -- love? No, it could not. It's a generator. He hits it with an axe.

The swamp indicates its return to robustness with stock footage of lightning and loads of air bubbles emerging from a deep pool. I assume the swamp is ... farting? Letting out some painful gas? Apparently that's all it required, because we end on Swamp Thing lecturing Will about how plant machines are bad, and ones that murder are worse, and even Will's expression seems to say "I never thought that they weren't." And ... scene!

It's sweet, he looks so excited.


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