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Swamp Thing: The Series DVD Review

Written by Sham

DVD released by Shout! Factory

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Various writers and directors
1990-1993, Region 1 (NTSC), 630 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on January 22nd, 2008

Dick Durock as Swamp Thing
Mark Lindsay Chapman as Dr. Anton Arcane
Carrell Myers as Tressa Kipp
Scott Garrison as Will Kipp
Jesse Zeigler as Jim Kipp
Anthony Galde as Obo Haritson

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If "Captain Planet" met Batman's Poison Ivy, you'd probably get Swamp Thing.

Swamp Thing began as a DC comic book series in the early 1970s. The series, for the most part, has yet to be matched by the lens of a video camera, but somehow the character has earned a cult following over the years, largely due to this moderately successful television series. Shout! Factory releases the first two seasons on four discs, and — wouldn't you know it? — they are actually putting the episodes in the order they were meant to be seen. But does continuity matter when it comes to the quality of Swamp Thing?

When Dr. Anton Arcane (Mark Lindsay Chapman) begins work on new science experiments, he inadvertently creates Swamp Thing (Dick Durock), the Jolly Green Giant of genetic testing gone awry. When the crossbreed, a hulking man made of plants, escapes and takes shelter in the swamp, he swears to protect it, and himself, from evildoers, specifically malicious patients and workers from Arcane's laboratory. Thus begins a series of adventures and tribulations for Swamp Thing as he risks his own life to protect a local boy (Jesse Zeigler) and his mother (Tressa Kipp) from mutated creatures like himself.

But mostly, the show is about coping with failure and dealing with crime's penalties. The series is an after-school special to the greatest extent. If "Saved by the Bell" relocated to the swamp and threw in some blood, I imagine it would look a lot like this. For every creative plot twist or character arc, the writers come up with something equally preachy to bring it right back to the bottom of the barrel.

The television series, just like the two motion pictures before it, is a missed opportunity. The special effects are dated, and the overall style feels mechanical and unimpressive. The swamp never feels substantial or boggy, which is a shame because it's the only thing (besides the character) certain to appear in every story. When an episode finishes, it seems like viewers have watched a twenty-minute tour of a Florida movie studio, which they have. Swamp Thing: The Series was one of the first to be filmed at (the then new) Universal Studios, and it feels like it. Swamp Thing doesn't live in his own world because of this, and it's a shame because it's one of the few reasons fans revisit the character.

The acting is about what you expect from a series like this. The jokes are corny, and the solemn dialogue feels more compulsory than informed. The raspy, imposing voice of the Swamp Thing loses some of its appeal because of horrible dialogue, which isn't surprising considering the same values can be found in other, better comic translations. As far as Swamp Thing goes, it's a 600-minute time warp to a series that feels older than it should.

I'm sure Swamp Thing: The Series has a loyal fan base predating this DVD, and they'll be grateful for this slick package. It's a nice DVD set, one that surely has a market. But if you didn't grow up with this series or the character, you're hardly likely to grow into it.

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Video and Audio:

Shout! Factory has done an adequate cleanup job with Swamp Thing: The Series. The picture is relatively sharp for its modest budget, and there isn't much to nitpick. However, the colors glaringly appear washed out and bleed from time to time, giving the series an off-putting inferiority.

The 2.0 sound is sufficient for an older television show. You won't need the remote.

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Special Features:

  • Interviews with Len Wein and Dick Durock

There's only one special feature on this four-disc set. Fortunately, it's a good one.

The 20-minute interview with co-creator Len Wein is informative and interesting. It justifies why a lot of Swamp Thing's story elements seem rushed and awkward. Wein explains he got the idea for the comics on his way to pitch it to producers. This is how Swamp Thing got its name — the character essentially wasn't fleshed out enough to be called anything else. This is also why the series doesn't work as a prolonged, dragged out television show. Not enough thought is given to the story beyond the character and how he got the way he is.

Following Wein's interview is Dick Durock's, the man behind the Swamp Thing for the series and both feature films. Durock's success story contains less luck and more hard work than Wein's, but both are rock solid interviews.

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Movie: 1.5 Stars
Video: 3 stars
Audio: 3.5 Stars
Features: 2.5 Stars
Overall: 2.5 Stars

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"Do not bring your evil into my swamp," says the Swamp Thing.

Do yourself the favor: just stay away from this DVD completely.

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