Tuesday, June 28, 2016

IF YOU SEE SWAMP THING, SAY SWAMP THING: THE LIVING IMAGE

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 Beautiful" or...

If You See Swamp Thing, Say Swamp Thing
A stack of fried zucchini battles the forces of evil
Season One / Episode Twelve : The Living Image

In which Arcane torments Swamp Thing with the power of evil plastic surgery.



As we're twelve episodes into the recap series of USA's Swamp Thing, it might be a good time to revisit the dramatis personae of the show's late-night basic cable pioneers.

To start with, the show is primarily carried on the large shoulders of Swamp Thing himself (Dick Durock, reprising his role from the theatrical releases which preceded the series), and additionally hefted on the even-larger shoulder pads of the muck-raker's nemesis, mad scientist Dr.Anton Arcane (Mark Lindsay Chapman, taking over for Louis Jordan). If the show had survived solely on the power of these two bouncing off one another, it would have been a hit. Unfortunately, it chose to dilute the soup with the following cold splashes of tap water...

Tressa Kipp (Carell Myers) is a recently-divorced-or-something single mother who's relocated from Philadelphia to her family home in the swamps of the Universal Studios backlot. She's a sometimes love-interest for Swamp Thing and a constant target for Anton Arcane's rape-eyes, but other than that her main role is to have popped out the cast's most grueling figure. Jim Kipp (Jesse Ziegler) is Tressa's young son, a burgeoning sociopath whose chronic fib-telling and unusual habit of stalking darkened city streets unchaperoned have caused the highly dysfunctional family to relocate southwards.

Also in the cast is/was Tressa's mother Savanna Langford (Patricia Helwick) who snuffed it between episodes, burnt-pink boatnik Obo Hartison (Anthony Galde) and Arcane's bought-and-paid for local law enforcement officer, Sheriff Andrews (Mark Macaulay).

Who ISN'T on the cast is Swamp Thing's deceased ex-wife, Linda Holland -- an oversight which is rectified in this very episode!

"Okay, you take I-10 East to I-5 North, you're gonna get a slowdown in Burbank but you can make Sacramento by nightfall"

Linda Holland -- Swamp Thing's scientist wife, before an accident involving their recently invented "bio-restorative formula" left her dead and him transformed into a steroidal fern -- is a character to whom the television audience has yet to be introduced. It is, therefore, a weird choice to open the show on long, slow pans over a wall filled with photographs of Linda Holland (Martha Smith), as Arcane provides a smoky voiceover and marks everything up with a Sharpie. It's like the scene in Batman when Jack Nicholson's Joker and his thugs vandalize an art museum, except on Percoset.

Arcane's intro turns out to be him speaking to an unnamed test subject upon whom he's performing radical plastic surgery. In fact, he makes such a big deal about the "extreme" quality of the surgery that I expect the test subject to have been one of Arcane's mutated pig-men from an earlier episode. That's as may be, but the figure comes out looking exactly like all of the Glamour Shots of Linda Holland which Arcane had taped up to the wall. Once she's quizzed on a few Alec-and-Linda-specific trivia pieces, she's dressed up like Carmen Sandiego and sent out into the world to play havoc with Swamp Thing's (artichoke) heart.

"Where in the world am I?"


Fake twin Linda -- let's call her Twinda -- makes apparent headlines by arranging a belated memorial service for her "husband," attracting the attention of the town's two biggest vegetables. The first of these is Obo, whose unerring attraction to blonde-haired psychopaths leads him to meeting Twinda on the street, falling immediately for her lookalikeness.

Swamp Thing, too, seems to have been taken in by the likeness. Despite the series having previously established that Swamp Thing dies if he's away too long from the swamp, he all but parkours his way across asphalt to catch up with Twinda. Maybe he's figured out how to Oscar the whole thing, maybe he lives in a garbage can now.

This episode chooses to keep zooming in or panning over photos of Linda Holland, which would be very meaningful if we'd ever seen them before. As a conciliation to storytelling, the idyllic life of scientists Linda and Alec Holland is exhibited by way of a series of flashbacks which allow the audience to see how big Dick Durock's head looks without the Swamp Thing costume on and what Anton Arcane looks like with the 'wet look.'

He looks like one of the snooty rich kids from the camp across the lake.

The flashbacks also treat us to Arcane's agents raiding the Holland lab looking for the Bio-Restorative formula, then the place exploding, then a stuntman on fire (possibly Durock, actually, the guy's legit) diving into a lake, all in a series of actions which could have been taken shot-for-shot from the Universal Studios Stunt Show. If a speedboat zoomed by and jumped over a dinghy, we'd have had something.

As Arcane and Twinda lounge around in post-coital bliss, they idly recount the goal of their plan -- to coerce Swamp Thing into revealing the location of the bio-restorative formula. It's at this point that we basically see Mark David Chapman almost completely nude. You absolutely see his butt. Welcome to late night basic cable.

More like "Mark David Chap-Ass," am I right?

Swamp Thing, however, was onto the pair from the start. Having hung some costume jewelry on a branch -- the number one means by which Swamp Thing meets girls -- Swampy somehow susses out Arcane's and Twinda's plan. Retrieving his formula from under a brick in the burned out husk of his lab -- which a real estate agent is in the process of trying to upsell, despite it being a burnt out husk in a wasteland -- Swampy hands it over to his ersatz bride.

The surprise twist? It's Bio-UNrestorative formula! Oh gosh! Arcane allows Twinda to try the formula first, thanking his lucky stars as the rigged green goo transforms her into basically a human scrotum before his eyes.

"It turned me into Heidi Klum's Halloween costume!"

In the end, Linda Holland is dead (again) and Swamp Thing has proven himself to be the kind of guy who'd put razor blades in candy bars.

Next week -- let's put one of the cast of characters to bed forever!

1 comment:

karinations said...

I'm so happy you do this.
Thank you sir.

Or is it thank you, sir.

Having to ask that sucks.
That's fine though.

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