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By James Whittington, Thursday 20th November 2008
Very few comic strip characters transfer successfully to the big screen. History is littered with failures such as The Phantom, Popeye and err The Fat Slags. Horror/Fantasy figures have also had a rough deal with movies such as Judge Dredd springing to mind. But there have been some really cool interpretations including Tim Burton’s Batman and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. So a few eyebrows were raised back in the early when controversial horror movie maker Wes Craven decided to take DC Comics ecological warrior Swamp Thing and turn him into a box office star.
Created by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson in 1971 Swamp Thing is a walking eco warning, a defender of all things environmental. He was originally a scientist named Alex Olsen but he got caught up in the deliberate sabotaging of his lab. The ensuing chemical blast turned him into a walking piece of vegetation. Bizarrely the characters captured comic reader’s attention almost immediately and lead to some incredibly strong stories some with environmental messages that Sting would be proud of.
Swamp Thing the movie was released in 1982 and since then has gained one of the biggest cult followings ever recorded, something most movies can only wish for. Written by Craven himself he took a basic “Good Vs Evil” plot added some dodgy SFX and employed a guy named Dick Durock to play the hulking mass of pond life!The plot is very straight forward as busty babe Adrienne Barbeau finds she must help a scientist keep his rejuvenation formula safe from a team of bad guys as it has turned him into an enormous and deformed swamp creature. And that’s basically it. This is classic fantasy action made at a time when it was OK to go out on a limb and make movies that dared to be different. This ecologically aware shocker from Craven is one of his most inventive efforts and contains one of the most memorable skinny dip sequences ever put to celluloid! If you’ve not seen it keep checking Zone Horror’s TV Guide for transmission dates.
It would take another seven years for the biological beast to revisit the big screen, this time he was given a new love interest in the shape of Heather Locklear. In The Return of Swamp Thing an evil scientist tries to create an army of mutants which threaten Abby Arcane (Locklear). As before this one has a straightforward plot but one that’s brimming with invention and horror fun. The effects are a bit more elaborate and the acting just on the right side of hammy with Durock once again giving great pathos to the marsh man. Director Kim Wynorski packs a lot of action into the movie making giving it quite an adrenalin rush. Look out for The Return of Swamp Thing premiering on Zone Horror on March 28th.
Dick Durock may have thought that was it for his most famous role but in 1990 a television series was given the green light and ran for 3 seasons and a total of 72 episodes. Though slightly lacking the dark horror of the movies it still made an impact and became essential viewing for those bored with all the soap operas that were suffocating the schedules at the time. Plots were a bit on the samey side and Swamp Thing sometimes took a back seat, but it tried the best it could and ran far longer than anyone could have predicted.
Every year or so a rumour that a new Swamp Thing project is in the pipeline rears from the land of movie magic, but until one does it’s up to Zone Horror to help keep the marsh-man legacy alive.
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