"Oh, man! Swamp Thang's kickin' some butt now!" — Omar,
Return of Swamp Thing
You wouldn't expect a swamp monster to be the third most adapted
DC Comics superhero. Yet he's had two theatrical movies that
are re-run constantly on cable. That's behind only Superman
and Batman, and two more than the zero movies made about Wonder
Woman, Flash, or Green Lantern. He had his own TV series that
was on for longer than Wonder Woman's, Flash's or Batman's.
Somebody even cranked out toys and a cartoon once, when everyone
else had to settle for being in the Justice League.
Swamp Thing, created by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson, first
appeared in 1971. His best comics run is by Alan Moore, beginning
with "The Anatomy Lesson" in 1984. But I'm not here to gush
about that. I want to talk about everything else.
I first encountered Swamp Thing in the 1970s in the Batman
team-up book Brave and the Bold. Marvel had about 167
heroic monsters. DC had Swamp Thing. DC's characters have rarely
been known for their scintillating personalities. Swamp Thing
was different. He wanted to kill himself. He spent the whole
issue hoping to "take root," a swampy way of saying he was going
to go to sleep and grow into the ground.
Well, that was depressing. But it was something! He was like
a Marvel hero! Changed in a scientific accident, robbed of his
humanity, seeking only to be left alone. That's half the Marvel
Universe. I immediately dug him (so to speak). Then he was in
the thing I looked forward to most back in those days: The live-action
"Does it . . . hurt?" — Alice
"Only . . . when . . . I laugh . . . Ha . . . ha."
— Swamp Thing
I went to see this movie a lot. Swampy was in a leathery brownish-green
costume that looked a lot like his comic book look. The comics'
damsel in distress Abby Arcane and her boyfriend Matt Cable
are smooshed into one character: Alice Cable, played by 1970s
hot mama Adrienne Barbeau.
Swampy's all covered in roots and twigs and feels alone and
Alice hugs him (and doesn't get swamp gunk on her, oddly). Even
though it's a dude in a monster suit, there's emotion. Dick
Durock, the guy in the suit, may be the best stuntman there
is at acting. High melodrama is in his declaration that he can't
continue his scientific work, and looks down at his swamped-up
hands, and says "With these."
Louis Jordan as Dr. Arcane is a classic, slithery evildoer.
When he takes the Swampy formula himself then turns into an
orange-maned pig thing, the ensuing fight in ankle-deep swamp
water is hilarious. It's the same as a Godzilla monster fight,
but without the tiny smashable buildings.
When the movie went to DVD, an "international version" with
Adrienne Barbeau shirtless and in full boobity was mistakenly
released in the States. Oopsie! Parents were outraged
that they bought their children a monster flick with killing,
burning bodies, stabbings, and shootings, and instead got one
set of naked female breasts.
So a stink was had. The DVDs were ripped from shelves, and
Swampy disappeared from DVD, except on eBay, where it would
run you $80. It's back on DVD now, but I bet Adrienne wears
a shirt in it.
I can neither confirm nor deny that I have viewed the nekkid
footage now that I am big. But WHOA BUDDY. If I had seen Ms.
Barbeau in her altogether in 1982 when I was 12, I think I would
have broken something. The scene is sort of ruined, though,
because she takes a naked bath in a swampy creek, and I bet
there's skeeters and night crawlers.
Legend has it you can see the zipper on the Swampy suit. I
don't know. In 1982, I was too busy not seeing Adrienne Barbeau's
of Swamp Thing (1989)
"I think the green one's good!" — Omar
Between the first movie and this one came Swampy's comic revitalization
and turn toward suspenseful, dramatic horror. So of course,
this movie took that to heart and became a goofy campfest.
The opening credits roll over Creedence Clearwater Revival's
totally appropriate "Born on the Bayou." Then Dick Durock makes
a heroic entrance, and beats down thugs and monsters like Tarzan
covered in sod. He wades into the scene, backlit, and bashes,
tosses, and clobbers. In one scene, he wears out evildoers with
a baseball bat. Whatever you do, you must witness a swamp
monster using a baseball bat.
There are two kids in the movie, Darryl and Omar, and they
steal every scene they're in. In the director's comments, Wynorski
says he kept in nearly everything Omar blurted out, like his
awed gasp of, "I think the green one's good."
I must give the respect to Mr. Dick Durock. He played Swamp
Thing every time there was a Swamp Thing to be played. He's
been a stuntman on decades of sci-fi stuff, including several
Planet of the Apes movies, Doc Savage, Quark, A-Team,
and Six Million Dollar Man. He played Imperious Leader
on Battlestar Galactica and an Elasian guard on the Star
Trek episode "Elaan of Troyius." He was body double for
Prof. Robinson on Lost in Space and Jethro on Beverly
Durock's performance makes the whole movie. He delivers each
John Wayne-like line with a smirk while covered in green makeup,
twigs, and leaves. The movie is just fun.
Check the DVD for awesome public service announcements for
Greenpeace. They end with Swamp Thing and the kids throwing
their heads back and laughing like in 1970s cop TV shows. Brilliant.
director's comments show an astonishing incident that spells
out the depth and breadth of Durock's coolness. Heather Locklear
and Swamp Thing have a makeout scene. But like the comic book,
it's a hallucination. So in the hallucination, Heather makes
out totally G-ratedly, with a human dude. The director says
she asked that Dick Durock be the human victim of her liplocking
and caressing. SHE asked -- and Durock REFUSED! Because he didn't
want to spend the 90 minutes it would take to REMOVE THE SWAMPY
Now, anyone else would have come out of that thing like it
was on fire. But Mr. Dick Durock is such a pro that he didn't
feel like getting smooches from Miss Locklear.
I can just imagine that conversation. "I ain't got the time,
baby. I'm Dick Durock."
Swamp Thing TV Series (1991)
"Do not bring your evil into my swamp." Swampy
I didn't see nearly enough of this show. Abby Arcane was Kari
Wuhrer. As in, Sliders and Remote Control. You
know who she is. But there were no veggie/human hijinx, which
is a shame, since Wuhrer has hijinx in pretty much everything
It really tried to be dramatic, with no cheese. That's no
fun. But Dick Durock was still the moss-encrusted man. Dick
Durock? Damn right he does.
Thing Cartoon (1990)
This was a five-part miniseries that hawked Swamp Thing toys,
which included Bio-Glow Swamp Thing, Snap Up Swamp Thing ("Hey
Swampy, your daddy's a fern"), and Bayou Jack, the only non-monster
toy in the bunch. So every kid said "What a gyp" when Jack was
the only one left on the Toys R Us rack.
All that needs to be said is that the show had a theme song.
It sounded like The Troggs' "Wild Thing." As a closing gift,
I give you the lyrics to the "Swamp Thing" theme.
You are amazing!
You fight everything . . . nasty!
Swamp Thing, Earth really needs you!
So come on, fight for right!
We NEED you!
You are amazing!
Oooooooh Swamp Thing!