All posts by Danny Horn

About Danny Horn

Product Manager at the Wikimedia Foundation. I write a daily blog, Dark Shadows Every Day, about the 1960s vampire soap opera. Founder of Muppet Wiki and Tough Pigs, a Muppet fansite.

Swamp Thing 3.39: Who Henches the Henchman?

To recap, here’s what we know about Dr. Alec Holland’s bio-restorative formula: It’s the result of experiments in merging animal cells with plant cells. Dr. Holland was hoping to develop plants that have an animal’s aggressive power for survival; he wanted tomatoes that can grow in the desert. Personally, I don’t think world hunger is the tomatoes’ fault, but Alec thought we ought to have some, just in case.

So far, we’ve seen the formula work three times:

#1) Some drops that fell on the pine floor made the floorboards sprout new branches.

#2) A little bit of formula mixed into a beaker made an orchid grow into a full tree in less than a day.

#3) A human who was soaked in the formula, set on fire and thrown into the swamp turned into an unholy mud zombie made of moss and fury and Latin names for things.

You’ll notice that all three of those were topical uses, and all of them involved the formula interacting with plant matter. But now Arcane, the presumed-dead megalomaniac cult leader, thinks that he should gulp down a big glass of it and it’ll do something exciting to him, and I honestly can not imagine where he got that idea.

Continue reading Swamp Thing 3.39: Who Henches the Henchman?

Swamp Thing 3.38: Party at Arcane’s Place

The well-known and presumed-dead international criminal Arcane is throwing a dinner party for both his well-heeled investors and his smelly contagious henchmen, although everyone seems to be getting along fine, as long as they don’t ask too many questions about the contents of their cocktails. Swamp Thing and Cable have been captured, and now the monster’s being held downstairs in the castle dungeon, with the federal agent trussed up and on display at the party. The only way out is through, Alec said, and this is a particularly unsettling through.

But this is exactly the right point in the movie to land the lead characters in a terrible jam, according to the classic three-act movie structure. Say what you like about Wes Craven’s script — and I have, and will continue to — the man knew his Syd Field.

I’ll do a quick review, if you’re not familiar. According to Field’s 1979 book Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, which I have decided to use on this blog like it’s the Ten Commandments, a movie should have three distinct acts.

Act 1 should take up the first 25% of the screenplay, introducing the premise and the main character, and it should end with the first plot point — an inciting incident that changes the character’s situation, and drives the film. For Swamp Thing, the first plot point is obviously the flaming Alec Holland jumping into the mire, and it shows up at minute 25, which is only about a minute late.

Act 2 takes up the middle two quarters of the movie, and features the rising action, as the main character deals with the fallout from the first plot point, usually by making boats explode. The second act often ends with the main character at their lowest point, with the second plot point putting them in a situation where they need to experience character growth.

For Swamp Thing, that second plot point was Arcane capturing Swamp Thing and Cable, and getting his hands on the notebook, which makes this party the beginning of Act 3 — and it’s happening 24 minutes before the end of the film, exactly on time.

I mean, the rest of the movie frankly sucks; from here on, there’s practically nothing in the film that is of any value to the audience. But at least the structure of the movie is sound; it’s got that going for it.

Continue reading Swamp Thing 3.38: Party at Arcane’s Place

Swamp Thing 3.37: Because You Demanded It

Back in early ’82, the producers of Swamp Thing published a trade ad in Variety that listed all the tie-in merchandise that Warner Bros was planning to release for Swamp Thing, before they realized that it wasn’t a good movie and they shouldn’t bother.

Warners had a full slate of products lined up, as per the Superman movie, which set the standard for superhero movie tie-in merch. The Swamp Thing plans included a line of toys by Mego, Halloween costumes and masks by Ben Cooper, and T-shirts and sleepwear by Strata. Grandreams was going to produce a poster book, Eclipse Enterprises planned to make a souvenir program and an art portfolio, and Crown Books was supposed to publish a hardcover book about the movie’s special effects. Just imagine! It probably would have cost more to produce the book than they spent on the actual effects.

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Swamp Thing 3.36: The Anatomy Lesson

After a tough day of being chased and caught and kidnapped and assaulted and chased again, around and around in a trackless swamp with no exit signs or toilet facilities, it makes sense that Agent Alice Cable would want to take a moment to relax, and refresh herself.

Still, I don’t get why she’s choosing to relax in the gross tannic-acid parasite-ridden swamp water. This is the same water that she just swam in; it doesn’t get cleaner because you’re standing still. This is the thing you’re trying to wash off.

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Swamp Thing 3.35: Swamp Music

Here’s how I figure it: there’s the love theme, obviously, and there’s a fight theme, a chase theme, and a general unease theme. There’s a discovery motif and a commando motif, and absolute silence for Arcane. There’s probably other stuff as well.

Writing about the soundtrack was a lot easier in the Superman posts, because there’s a whole industry full of people who would like to explain John Williams scores to you. I’m flying solo this time.

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Elektra 25.2: This Will Make You Happy

I know that it sounds impossible. Elektra is a terrible movie, you would say, and you would be one hundred percent correct. If you listened to the first part of our two-part Elektra episode on the Signal Watch podcast, you learned exactly how terrible the first half of the movie is.

And yet — here in part 2 — I will give you four very good reasons to watch the final battle sequence from Elektra, and when you do, it will make you happy, and your life will be improved.

So catch our latest episode to learn all about flying electric snakes, ninja boardroom meetings, blind pool hustlers, the most ridiculous explosion ever filmed, and what you should consider when running away from lunatic ninja wizards.

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Swamp Thing 3.33: Meeting the Monster

In my last post, I wrote about what an incredible moment it was in Swamp Thing when the lead character said somebody’s name out loud, got his arm chopped off by editing, and then crushed a dude’s skull with his hand, which basically says everything about how low your standards can get, when you spend weeks and weeks writing about a grade-C movie like Swamp Thing.

And meanwhile, up in the cinema stratosphere, there was another 1982 movie about a misunderstood monster, who also gets chased through the underbrush by mean science thugs, takes a long time to learn how to say other people’s names, and heals his friends with his magical glowing fingers.

That film was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the simple story of a friendship between a boy and a telepathic mad-science space botanist, and it made more money than any other movie ever made so far, and held that record for the next ten years. But Swamp Thing got a sequel and E.T. didn’t, so who’s laughing now, space boy?

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Swamp Thing 3.32: Mostly Armless

Let’s see… Knight Rider, Manimal, The Fall Guy, The A-Team… a mini-series called Ocean, and a horror movie called Nutcracker… and then there’s Fallen Angels, Used, The Steppes, and The House That Wept Blood.

Phew! I’m in the clear. David Hess, who unfortunately plays Ferret in Swamp Thing, has twenty-seven more credits on IMDb, and none of them are superhero movies. So unless I decide to write about terrible horror movies from the 2000s, which obviously I won’t, then this is the last time I ever need to look David Hess in the face again. You have no idea how comforting that is to me.

Continue reading Swamp Thing 3.32: Mostly Armless

Swamp Thing 3.31: A Tale of Two Kisses

At this point in the movie, we know that eccentric millionaire Arcane wants three things: the girl, the notebook and the creature. His current high score is one out of three, and she’s probably not thrilled about being called “the girl” as often as she has, so far.

Agent Alice Cable is currently involved in a high-stakes game of keep-away involving the notebook, which is full of important secrets. The notebook is now in the care of the creature, who should be but is not currently destroying it by chucking it into the swamp water. I mean, if it’s vital for the world that Arcane doesn’t get his hands on the notebook — and I am not entirely convinced that it is — then why don’t they tear it up, dunk it in the water, and let the tannic acid take it from there?

Continue reading Swamp Thing 3.31: A Tale of Two Kisses