Tuesday, May 17, 2016


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 "He's Got That Swamp Thing Special" or...

If You See Swamp Thing, Say Swamp Thing
A fern with a mad-on for evil brings his bloody war to the Universal Studios backlot in Florida... 
Season One / Episode Nine : Spirit of the Swamp

In which Roscoe Lee Brown goes slumming.

Roscoe Lee Brown is, to be blunt, a character actor and television show guest-star staple who nonetheless deserves a lot better than this. That being said, it's interesting to see him gussied up like a voodoo houngan, since I primarily recall him playing exceptionally educated and regally dismissive figures in an assortment of sitcom appearances. Only rarely have I seen him hypnotize a snake into a rigid bar, Thulsa Doom style. Luckily, here's Swamp Thing to help me out ...

In the introductory segment, a pair of Arcane's assistant freaks attempt to capture Swamp Thing by using a piece of contemporary Swedish furniture. Naturally, Doc Holland makes short work of what IMDB credits as "Mutant #1" (Sandi Beach) and "Mutant #2" (Toni Marini). Back at Dr.Arcane's subterranean fuck-cavern/weirdo-factory, the evil scientist comes face to face with his own shortcomings as he beats his pet mutant and pontificates. Surely where science has failed to stop Swamp Thing, magic could succeed? Sure, man, anything;s possible on late-night basic cable.

Two mutants running around with Claes Oldenberg's paperclip.

Enter Duchamp (Roscoe Lee Brown), a swamp resident and practitioner of black magic who is, so far, the only character in the series whose inner monologue can be clearly heard by the viewer. Or the sound editor was taking a nap, it's hard to say for sure.

Duchamp is questing for the Black Rose, a plastic flower currently in Arcane's possession and which Arcane clearly picked up from JoAnn's fabrics during Halloween clearance. He's left it sticking up from the middle of a pink-lit pool of water in the back of his cave, possibly where he stores his dry ice as well, considering the bubbling clouds which idly surface from the puddle.

99 cents at Walgreen's, plu like five bucks for the dry ice.

The Black Rose is a key ingredient in the magic of "The White Darkness," which is what they used to call the Big Show, I think. It's some sort a "zombie business," according to Arcane, and it's good to hear that the undead are getting into the market. A lot of zombie small businesses fail within the first year, so any help that the Black Rose can give ought to be welcomed.

In the swamp, Duchamp finds Arcane's assistant who Swamp Thing turned into a tree way back in episode one. This encourages him to paint his face and do a dandy little dance for a moment, which brings Swamp Thing around. This is sort-of like the weigh-in before a title bout, with both parties smack-talking each other. It ends up going like this:

Duchamp: "Voodoo is very powerful"
Swamp Thing: "So is ... the swamp!"

Keep these two apart!

Duchamp's magic more or less does the trick. Burning a bullfrog alive in the middle of a circle of stones makes Swamp Thing run around the swamp like a five year-old on a sugar rush, right into a ring of magic fire. The flames entrance Swamp Thing, putting him at Arcane's mercy - and what Arcane chooses to do is make Swamp Thing hot for Tressa! Too late, Arcane, that uncomfortable plotline has already been rocking since episode one.

"Just having a stroll through the swamp in my nightie, no big whoop everybody"

Cut to Tressa - or a reasonable simulation thereof - doing Jessica Rabbit walks in a red nightie with her boobs half out through the bog, luring horny Swamp Thing directly into Arcane's mancave. Tied up in one of Arcane's alcoves and wearing some sort of black magic pukka shell necklace, like a haunted hackeysack player, Swamp Thing is theoretically helpless. Of course, he's close enough to the single spot of sunlight which breaks through the cave's interior to power himself and send fake plastic greenery -- and a little bit of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle play ooze -- through the cracks of the cave.

Arcane and Duchamp, in the meanwhile, are jousting elsewhere in the cave. This verbal sparring leads to possibly the greatest line I've yet heard in the show, and which I plan to use to describe it to the curious going forward: "I want your voodoo secrets, and I'll turn you into a mutant if I have to to get them!"

Things get a little BDSM-y for Swamp Thing.

So anyway. Swamp Thing kills a bunch of mutants with his clinging vines, wrecks the cavern, and tears the magic necklace off his neck which if he could do that why didn't he do that first? This sends Arcane and Duchamp scurrying, one for safety and one for the Black Rose --- which is dead in its pool. Possibly because someone put a shit ton of dry ice in the water.

Since you can't bury Roscoe Lee Brown in such a terrible role, he gets one last chance to chat with Swamp Thing before the stinger. Their conversation ties in a little to latter-day Swamp Thing stories in which the local cajun community refers to him as a benevolent spirit of the swamp, but they're gonna drop that pretty quick for the rest of the season, just like they do when Duchamp says "we'll meet again" and they tease the Black Rose returning to life. Whooptie.

He doesn't seem happy with this role. 


Tom Miller said...

Every time I read one of these reviews, I want more and more to watch this show. It sounds gloriously terrible!

Calamity Jon said...

I have to admit, there's a peculiar charm to the show. Obviously, the hacked-together aspect is entertaining. Chapman is a treat in every scene and he and Durock have a remarkable chemistry, all things considered. If the show has a weak spot, it's the same one all of these 90's era scifi/horror shows always had, which is the normal human cast. Why we even have an Obo is beyond me ...

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