Tuesday, April 5, 2016

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING: GROTESQUERY

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 like to call "Swamp Thing's Gotta Give" or...

If You See Swamp Thing, Say Swamp Thing

The story of a tragic pumpkin roller-skating his way across America to raise awareness of evil.
Season One / Episode Six : Grotesquery


In which Alan Moore cameos sort of.

USA's Swamp Thing sure thinks it has a lot of time to kill in its abbreviated 22-minute runtime, which is why I suppose that this episode opens with a languorous, almost loving slow pan across mounds of garbage and toxic waste littering the swamplands/Universal Studios backlot. Playing the role of Iron Eyes Cody is Radish Eyes Swamp Thing, who lightly traces his fingers across the rims of steaming barrels of toxic waste. Imagining long-lost days of youth and love, one supposes, Swamp Thing is overtaken by nostalgia -- and fumes -- and passes out in a pool of knocked-over radioactive sludge (presumably -- I think they didn't want to get the costume any stickier)

After the title sequence, we cut to Anton Arcane using his exceptionally creepy sex voice to talk to Tressa on the phone, while receiving a foot massage from a woman who appears to have been recently released from the locker where the less-important Carry On actresses were kept.

Meanwhile, a couple of white-suited sanitation engineers drive the city's dry-cleaning bills through the roof as they lamely rake water around the toxic spill site. Somewhere under a pile of Bud Light cans, they happen to discover Swamp Thing passed out and helpless. What to do with an enormous pile of wet leaves you discover in the middle of the bog? You put him into paper bags and leave him at the curb for food-and-yard-waste pickup, of course.

Swamp Thing's unconscious body was discovered by this pairing of a made-for-tv Casey Affleck and Richard Pryor.
OR you sell him Simon (Jacob Witkin), the owner of a local freak show (In case you wondered where -- excepting the Universal Studios backlot -- Swamp Thing was meant to take place, I guess it's Florida. Where else has a freak show that isn't opening for Slipknot?). Junior psychopath Jim happens to roll up on the freak show during one of the frequent bicycle tours he makes of the swamp, looking for good places to bury his neighbors' pets. Sneaking around the tents -- for god's sake Jim, it's a two-dollar admission, you can make that much selling boiled-clean cat skulls to local taxidermists -- introduces Jim to Simon, whose thick accent, wild beard and drunk-circus-ringmaster outfit makes him resemble a sort-of cut-rate straight-to-DVD ripoff of a certain Northampton snake-worshipper and wizard, intentionally or no.

"'E's a lovely litt'ul serpent god, y'see ..."

Simon's freak show is thin gruel -- he's got two little people, one fat guy, someone with a beard who I think is meant to be a combination "wild man" and "bearded woman," and then like six other cages with low-energy weirdos sitting listlessly cross-legged. It's only two bucks, man! You get what you pay for.

Jim gets hired as the freak-feeder/assistant tormentor, during the commission of which duties he discovers that Swamp Thing has been captured and put on display in Simon's circus. Even worse, "Swamp Thing In The Attic" rules apply, and the living pumpkin pie filling is dying in a rush.

Jim commits to saving his enormous, beloved fern. The few things slowing him down are: Apparent amusement over the kitten-like purrs of the dying Swamp Thing, Simon aggressively raping a teenage runaway (Judy Clayton, I think) in his trailer (where the keys are kept) and Anton Arcane showing up to drop off more freaks.

A Florida Four Seasons Hotel.

Yup, apparently it's Arcane who drops off his less-useful man-monstrosities all over Simon's carnival of the grotesque. It will, over the course of the first season, turn out to be one of at least three different ways Arcane disposes of his overstock, not counting just murdering them or throwing them pell-mell into the swamp to see what garbage they can dig up. How many un-men do you think Arcane is making in a day? This is like factory conditions, he's got them rolling off a conveyor belt like fresh bread at the Franz's.

Arcane also exhibits - for the first time here, and possibly explaining his consistent success with luring ladies back to his gloomy laboratory/cave - hypno-rape powers, which he turns on the runaway Simon had earlier failed to effectively violate. This is a rough episode on teenage runaways.

Considering that he does most of his rapes in a cave, this is a glamorous step up.

Simon and Arcane's martial arts-savvy manservant tussle outside the rape trailer, Jim sneaks off with the keys and returns Swamp Thing to his beloved swamps. In fact, Jim's freed ALL the freaks, who descend on a currently-unprotected Arcane. Hypno-rape powers won't help you now, Anton ... in fact, they might make things much worse.

The end of the episode certainly implies that Arcane was murdered by his former test subjects while Jim haphazardly drives Swamp Thing back to the bog in Simon's stolen truck. This seems like an episode of the Dukes of Hazzard as seen through a fever dream.

Still, Swampy gets back home, Anton is presumably ripped to a million pieces (he's not, of course), and the freak show just disappears as a plot element going forward because it does seem like kind of a poorly thought-out disposal system. Like there aren't already thousands of bodies rotting in the swamp.

"You're drunk ... Jim, let ... me drive."


That's it for Grotesquery, a dumb name for a weird episode. Be back here in two weeks to see if Jim can make any friends that aren't locked behind bars.

It's worth mentioning that there was a fight scene involving a kickboxer and an old weirdo spinning a garden hose around. If you had your money on "weirdo with the garden hose," congratulations, pick up your winnings at Window Two.


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