Swamp Thing 3.6: The Endless Anger of Harry Ritter

“Where the hell’s my man?” Harry Ritter hollers. “I thought he was back!” He’s right over there.

That’s how we’re introduced to project field supervisor Harry Ritter, who’s coming in hot. I don’t know if you know what a project field supervisor does, but whatever it is, it’s terrifying.

“What’s going on here?” He’s still freaking out. “Get those crates into the church! You men in the boat, what the hell do you think you’re doing? Get that damn thing outta sight! Lamebrains!” I thought this project was supposed to be hush-hush.

Ritter manages to simmer down long enough to shake hands with Cable, but you don’t solve a problem like this with a handshake.

“You know one of your sensors is reading malfunction?” asks Cable, and I guess they’re going to go ahead and keep that line reading in the film.

“Huh!” he gripes. “It’s not surprising. They rot in a week, in these damn swamps.” And then he motions to Charlie for a little walk and talk. I guess malfunctioning sensors aren’t a part of the project that Ritter supervises, probably because he can’t yell at them.

They have a little conversation, and naturally, it only takes three sentences before something happens that makes Ritter furious.

“Anything wrong that you know of?” he asks Charlie, who should be able to see a trap like this from a mile off. Anyone who’s worked with Ritter for more than a minute should know not to answer a question like that.

“A rumor,” Charlie answers, like a chump. “Somebody’s heard Arcane’s gotten wind of the project.”

“I thought Arcane was dead,” Cable says.

He is!” Ritter snaps, in an aggressive act of agreement. “Who said that?” he asks, turning on Charlie. “Who said Arcane’s onto this?”

Charlie looks like a deer caught in the headlights of a car being driven by another deer. “Nobody’s taking credit for it. You know Washington.”

Ritter turns on them. “All it takes is one loudmouth to spill this to Holland,” he says, pointing an agitated finger, “and the whole project goes to hell in a handbasket! You know that?” Charlie knows it.

Then he looks at Cable, and snarls, “That goes for you too!” and Cable’s like, what the fuck did I do?

So if you’re playing along with the Joseph Campbell Hero’s Journey checklist, then Cable is currently Crossing the First Threshold into a region of supernatural wonder, where she will embark on a series of trials that lead to character development.

There are only three people who are allowed access to the Hollands and the spiritual wisdom that they possess, and Cable enters flanked by her two archangels, Charlie (the nice one) and Ritter (the blisteringly angry one). They accompany her into a fantasy playspace of imaginary animals and exploding plants, where she’ll make new friends and undergo a spiritual death and rebirth, as well as a literal one, later on.

Of course, fifteen minutes from now, we’re going to find out that this isn’t Ritter after all. It’s actually the devil dressed up in a Ritter skinsuit, so some of this unpleasantness may be evidence of buyer’s remorse on the part of the supervillain who stepped into the role without really asking himself if being a project field supervisor would make him happy. We don’t know exactly when Arcane got involved in Ritter cosplay, but later he says that Ritter is “long dead”, which could mean anything.

It’s tempting to think that the real Harry Ritter was a nice guy before Arcane took over, but I don’t think it’s likely. When you take over a guy’s identity, it’s best not to draw too much attention to your imposture, and turning into an unstoppable high-decibel volcano of constant fury is the kind of thing that people would notice.

I like to believe that Arcane actually toned Ritter down a bit, and the lamebrains around the camp have been wondering why he’s been in such a good mood lately, in the quiet moments when they’re not discussing how to frag him.

So far, Cable has drifted through the movie on a pink cloud of appreciation and mostly not being the person who’s getting yelled at, but once the archangels have ushered her through the portal to the hidden world, they’ll disappear, and she’ll be left to manage her transition on her own. I’m sure that whatever she does will meet with Ritter’s complete approval.

Tomorrow:
3.7: The Mysteries of Alessandro


Footnotes:

Al Ruban, who plays Charlie, started out as an actor, editor and producer for some early-60s “nudie-cutie” sexploitation films: 1000 Shapes of a Female, Bunny Yeager’s Nude Las Vegas, Nudes on Tiger Reef and The Beautiful, The Bloody, and the Bare, which existed to show people what breasts look like outside of a film that’s explicitly pornographic. (His one director credit is for a nudie-cutie called The Sexploiters.) He also had a couple of very minor roles on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Kraft Suspense Theatre, but the bulk of his career from the late 60s through the early 80s was as a cinematographer and producer on a lot of John Cassavetes films like Husbands, Minnie & Moskovitz and A Woman Under the Influence. Charlie is one of Ruban’s biggest acting roles, which tells you how big his acting career wasn’t.

Don Knight, who plays Ritter, was an all-purpose television tough guy character actor, with guest parts in tons of mostly action TV shows from the mid 60s through the early 90s, including The Rat Patrol, It Takes a Thief, Mannix, Mission: Impossible, McCloud, Kojak, Hawaii Five-O, Voyagers and Manimal.

Bill Erickson was credited as “Young Agent”, the redshirt guy who was killed by a snake. (The character is referred to later on as “Ronnie”.) He was just getting started as a stuntman in the early 80s; his later work included Reform School Girls, The Lost Boys, Beaches, Joe Versus the Volcano, Flatliners and 3 Ninjas: Knuckle Up.

The guy who gets on the helicopter and says “What, they sent a woman out here?” is stuntman and actor Dick Durock, who we will be discussing quite a bit later on.

There are also a lot of uncredited people in the movie who have scattered lines here and there, including the guy on the boat and the guys on the dock. The film included a lot of “local actors” that they hired in South Carolina, which basically meant people who didn’t have agents, so they didn’t get credits.

Tomorrow:
3.7: The Mysteries of Alessandro

Chapters

— Danny Horn

10 thoughts on “Swamp Thing 3.6: The Endless Anger of Harry Ritter

  1. Your discussion of Al Ruban’s career got me imagining what this movie would have been like if John Cassavetes had directed it. Wes Craven was probably a better choice, all things considered.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Alec Holland wouldn’t have caught fire for at least 90 minutes- they would have needed that much time for him to have a tearful scene with each of the other male characters, none of which quite ends in a reconciliation.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Arcane managed to imperceptibly wear a full latex mask and wig in the middle of the swamp and hide a thick French accent behind an English one. That’s how you know he’s a Supervillain.
    I found it funny that just after warning that he didn’t want Holland to find out about the rumor about Arcane he shouts at Charlie to tell him about “the Arcane business” after they’re in the lab with the Hollands!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. “TELL ME ABOUT THE THING, THE TERRIBLE SECRET, THAT I CANNOT LET SLIP OUT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES! TELL ME RIGHT NOW, YOU WORTHLESS IMBICILE!!!”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Remember the completion bond (chapter 3)? The project manager is the guy who wanders around the job site, reminding everybody about how they’ll lose money every day they go past the deadline, while giving helpful pointers on how best to cut corners and pinch pennies. These days it’s called “value engineering,” where you give the client your rock-bottom quote and start negotiating downward. See, constructing a movie and constructing a gas station aren’t all that different.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. “being a project field supervisor would make him happy”
    If a project field supervisor is EVER happy with how things are going, they’re the wrong man for the job.
    In “The Abyss,” platform designer Dr. Lindsey Brigman is the right man for the job. Not even her workers being asleep can stop her from project field supervising. “Turn on your side, Virgil.”

    P.S. Catching up, I have comments for 3.3 on up in your queue now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Belated Don Knight note: when bearded, he spent part of the seventies playing “cheeky but untrustworthy Cockney” in sometimes surprising contexts. He was in a 1972 NIGHT GALLERY segment set in Colonial India, where the unscrupulous main character pays him to get an earwig (!) and place it in the ear of a colonel married to the woman he loves. Except Don Knight goofs and the earwig ends up in our “hero’s” head. “Sorry, guvnor” sums it up.

    Then he was in APPLE DUMPLING GANG of all things, as a Western town’s drunken reprobate who starts the plot by skipping before his distant orphaned kin arrive. He did another Disney, TREASURE OF MATECUMBE, which also has a swamp and is basically a mess which *really* justifies the Disney+ disclaimer; he’s a cheeky boatman who betrays the good guys, but the good guys are mostly old school plantation Southerners (and one black kid, and Peter Ustinov as a medicine showman) and the bad guys renegade Union soldiers, and the KKK have a cameo, and the only adult black man with a significant speaking role comes back to give the treasure map to his owner’s family and is killed shortly thereafter. Eeek. (All that and Dick Van Patten in a fake moustache.)

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s