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After getting a glimpse of the Hulk, the citizens of a struggling resort town invent their own replica Hulk as a way of increasing tourist business.
In the season two premiere of The Incredible Hulk we were treated to a dramatic character exploration. David (Bruce Bixby) travelled to Hawaii, got married, confronted the beast inside him, and lost his wife. We last saw him sitting on a Hawaii beach mourning Caroline outside her destroyed home.
I can’t say that I’m surprised that all of these major developments were forgotten by this next episode; that is how all action series worked in the 70s and 80s. But just because it was what I expected doesn’t mean I wasn’t slightly disappointed. For all the drama David endured, the reset button has been hit. David is somehow back in the states and back on the run.
That said, a return to the formula also means a return to form for Hulk. While it’s not in this show’s DNA to allow David to evolve and change much, this reset brings the show back to what viewers expected and wanted from their weekly series.
We open with National Register reporter Jack McGee (Jack Colvin) walking through a wooded area in Utah where Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) had been spotted three weeks prior. There have been no sightings of the creature since, and McGee is stumped. Despite his frustration, he is still not ready to take up master hunter Buck Hendricks’ offer to kill the Hulk.
When at the top of his game Buck was an expert hunter and tracker, but now he’s down on his luck and living in his car. Buck wants McGee to give him a job finding the Hulk, and thinks that if he can be the man to kill the Hulk it will get him back on the lecture circuit. Because, as we all know, hunters travel the world, giving lectures. Hunters are known for their astounding oratory skills. Especially hunters that became bloodthirsty old coots.
McGee refuses, seeing the desperation in Buck’s face. McGee says, “You wouldn’t used to think of shooting something that’s worth more alive than it is dead” and we see that McGee may want the Hulk but he has a moral code about it–he wants the Hulk captured, not killed. Buck doesn’t care either way, and that desperation will lead to trouble for David. When McGee turns Buck away, the old hunter challenges the reporter to see who can get the Hulk first.
Buck had said that Hulk went up into the mountains, and he was right. After his Hulk-out in the woods David had found his way to Antowuk, UT, an obvious back lot, I mean, former resort town in desperate need of tourists. Most people, tourists and locals, have left the town already but David found work in a general store owned by Harlen Bates.
Trading labor for room and board David has been performing odd jobs around Harlen’s store, and also watching after Harlen’s daughter Samantha. Samantha is a precocious girl. She is very smart in science, but worried about her own future living in a ghost town.
There are some very cute scenes between Samantha and David that are a joy to watch. It’s adorable that Samantha sees David using a dirty bandanna to wrap a cut and she gives him a lecture about germs and proper first aid. Bixby is charming playing off the little girl. He has a skill of working well with child actors that he likely honed with years on The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.
While David bonds with Samantha, Harlen drinks beers with his friend Brad. The two knock back a cold one while brainstorming ways to drum up business and tourism. Brad is ready to leave the town behind, as so many others have, but Harlen is attached and becomes frustrated with Brad’s fatalism.
Harlen becomes more angry when he goes inside and sees that Samantha and David have rearranged the store. Obviously threatened by David’s intelligence and ability to connect with Samantha, Harlen snaps at both of them. He tells Samantha she’s lucky her mother’s not alive to see her treating the hired help better than her own father, causing Samantha to burst into tears and, even with Harlen offering an apology, the little girl runs out. Seeing David worried about Samantha’s emotional state angers Harlen even more, and he orders David into a back room to clean and inventory all the items. I’m not sure what Harlen sells, but this back room was full of an insane number of crates and boxes that had been stored behind nailed two-by-fours. In addition to the boxes are steel gas canisters, wood barrels stacked to the ceiling, and more.
Not content to just have David perform manual labor, Harlen stands there berating David as he works, trying to goad David into a physical fight. Harlen obviously wants to take out his frustration by administering a beating to the smarter man. He pushes David around, bullying him, guessing David is on the run. “I know your kind. Big shots, can’t stand having someone tell them what to do. They have little tantrums, Davy. Let loose on me and get it out of your system.”
Truthfully Harlen does have David pegged. Perhaps that is why David looks ready to fight back. The berating, the physical abuse, David looks ready to throw the first punch possibly for the first time in his life. Harlen is inviting it, saying David can keep his job if he beats Harlen in the fight. David forms a fist…he’s considering it. He’s restrained, but prepared to defend himself. If Brad hadn’t come in perhaps David would have thrown the first punch, but Brad does come in. Harlen throws himself at David, and Brad restrains the larger man, escorting him from the room. Alone and frustrated, David does take out some aggression on the boards he must tear out. Working angry, David is careless and a crate falls on his foot. The pain causes him to fall backwards into a pile of wood barrels that collapse upon him. From underneath the barrels David pops his head out and we see the white eyes.
Hulk-Out #1 Hulk throws a barrel and hits the camera! I found it amusing as it’s obviously an accident, the frame shaking as the camera wiggles form the impact.
Hulk then picks up one of the random metal tanks Harlen had in the back room and throws it through the roof. It launches out of the building like a missile. Hulk smashes out of the storeroom and into the streets and everyone is frightened and running. Of the group only Samantha thinks “where is David”. Hulk runs away down the back lot as the crowd gathered around Harlen’s store looks on.
Now is a commercial break, and this is the beginning of a new Hulk trope. I’ve complained in many previous reviews about the bad effects of the reverse transformation, and Bixby himself did not like the time required for the prosthetic appliance application. As such, my memory is that most often Hulk would run away, we have a commercial break, and then when we return David is back. Truthfully, this is better in every way. For almost twenty episodes we’ve seen the transformation of Hulk back into David, then we see David try to surreptitiously, but legally, obtain new clothes. At this point in the series economical storytelling is a bonus as is not having to see those embarrassing fake eyebrows on Bill Bixby. Here at the very start of season two this new, improved method of returning Hulk to David form is born. After the commercial David returns with clothes in tact, so he must have gotten them somewhere. I don’t mind not knowing who’s clothesline he left a fiver on.
David returns to find Harlen’s store in chaos, with Mayor Murphy, Sheriff Colton, and the press all there to find out about the green monster that caused so much damage. David feels guilty for the damage caused to Harlen’s store, but Harlen sees the destruction as a good thing. Finally the shopkeeper thinks he has a way to restore the tourist trade in Antowuk, using the story of this monster to attract “wierdo” monster hunters–monster hunters with money in their pocket. “Resort community battles mountain monster,” is how he spins it to Mayor Murphy and Sheriff Colton, entitling it “The Antowuk Horror”. With nothing to lose, the sheriff and mayor agree to the publicity stunt.
After the people leave we get an unlikely tender moment between Harlen and David. It’s completely unbelievable that Harlen, who had to be physically restrained from beating David when last they met, would pour his heart out to David now. I can chalk it up to Harlen was drunk and now he’s sober, or he had calmed down and now wants to make amends, but it is still an unlikely scene playing out. Harlen is semi-apologetic to David, saying “I don’t really want you to hurt yourself”, as he helps David right some furniture. Then David listens sympathetically while Harlen discusses not being able to fit in with normal people, and the only place Harlen feels at home is on the mountain. This is supposed to explain the gruff, abusive man to us and let us feel bad for him. I just roll my eyes. For all his talk saying he’s stupid, I never got that Harlen was exceptionally dumb. Nor does he come off like a mountain-bound hermit. Had this story been that Harlen built his business with his dead wife and letting the store go would be like the last memory of his wife slipping away I might have bought his rationale for where the story goes. However, trying to tell me that the owner of a shop on a mountain cannot fit in with the residents of Salt Lake City is a stretch. I blame both the writer and the actor for this.
Harlen also has a tender moment with his daughter, perhaps spurred on when David seems to care more about Samantha than her own father does, but more than likely because Harlen has a scheme up his sleeve that will make it so he doesn’t see Samantha for a few days.
Harlen and Brad get gear from the store and make a big show of going out to hunt the Hulk, and Harlen asks David to watch after Samantha while he’s gone. The next morning Brad comes running back into town shouting for help, telling a fake story that they were attacked by the creature and it took Harlen and ran off. Of course, David knows it’s a lie because he still has his clothes on, but they find Harlen’s shirt with blood on it leading the sheriff and mayor to start a posse to find the creature and rescue Harlen.
We then hear a car radio as a reporter says “Harlon Bates is reported missing, supposably captured by the creature.” Yes, the radio reporter says “supposably.” Not “supposedly”, “supposably”. But with that blow to English grammar the reporter sparks a wildfire which causes Jack McGee and a dozen other reporters from TV and print to descend on Antowuk. It’s a media circus and Sheriff Colton, enjoying the spotlight, stands with his chest puffed out looking like Jackie Gleason’s Sheriff Buford from Smokey and the Bandit.
The town is buzzing, and David should be fleeing the town but is tethered by his promise to look after Samantha. He hides from McGee in the store, watching as the tourists Harlen promised come to town and even throw a carnival.
But the carnival is interrupted as the Antowuk creature attacks–and it’s not the Hulk, it’s Harlen with black shoe polish smeared over his face. Having seen Hulk himself I don’t know why Harlen paints himself black instead of green, maybe green shoe polish is harder to find, but it really look’s like Lon Cheney is attacking Antowuk in full werewolf make-up.
Harlen runs around screaming like a loon and shakes a popcorn stand, terrorizing the tourists. But then I get a bit confused as he effortlessly flips the sheriff’s pick-up truck. No show is made of it, but it’s later revealed some of the steel canisters Harlen kept in the storeroom were full of compressed air. Harlen hid it under the truck and, with it as pressure, used a secret lever to flip the vehicle.
I also wondered if the sheriff was in on this ruse. Both Sheriff Colton and Mayor Murphy were up for using the monster to bring tourists, so it’s not a stretch that this small town could concoct a conspiracy to boost tourism. Plus we never see anyone find Harlen’s car-flip contraption, and I would assume the Sheriff’s first order of duty would be to tend to his flipped truck. But it’s later revealed this was Harlen and Brad working alone, and I’m probably asking too much by hoping for a bit more logic in a 70s television episode.
But Harlen’s timing for this “attack” couldn’t be worse as Buck just arrived in Antowuk looking for the Hulk. Buck sees Harlen’s “monster” and gets Harlen in his sights, but in his haste Buck forgot to load the gun. By the time the ammo is ready Harlen has run into the night, but Buck is ready to use his expert tracking skills to find and kill the Antowuk Horror.
We see Brad and Harlen plotting, and any audience member who didn’t realize Harlen was the monster is now shown clearly that it was a hoax, and that Samantha is in on the hoax. Brad told Samantha the truth so the little girl didn’t worry about her “missing” father. With Harlen’s antics the night before the town is booming with tourists and Brad thinks it’s time for Harlen to be “rescued,” but Harlen wants to give one more performance before putting up his blackface.
But in town Samantha breaks down and, worried for her father, tells David the truth. Of course, David had it all figured out already. When Buck, mistaking Samantha’s concern for the monster as fear, tells her that he’s sure he’ll kill the beast, Samantha gives David directions to where Harlen is hiding. David wants to go alone to talk sense into the shopkeeper, but Samantha follows David up the mountain.
There Harlen is preparing for the performance of a lifetime. He has hid another canister of compressed air under a large boulder for “the monster” to roll down the mountain, and also a pile of logs he plans to roll down and scare reporters. He then has Brad to gather the reporters to lead them to his site.
After Brad goes, David finds Harlen’s hiding spot. Harlen begins his performance early, trying to scare off David by rolling the logs. Undeterred, David loses his patience with the shopkeeper, telling Harlen to stop acting foolish and that the people aren’t coming to report on the creature, they’re coming to kill it. Harlen is having none of it, mostly concerned that if the reporters come and see David they’ll figure out Harlen’s ruse. Resorting again to violence Harlen pushes David, so David retaliates by shouting to the reporters that the monster is just Harlen. The shopkeeper then shows how monstrous he can really be, lifting David in the air and throwing him down the mountain. “He asked for that anyway” Harlen says as David’s shirt tears. Harlen is walking back to his mark to await the reporters so he never sees…
Hulk-Out #2: We start with a close-up of the Hulk’s face and he doesn’t look good. Perhaps it’s the camera angle, perhaps it’s the lighting, but Ferrigno’s eyebrow appliance appears too large, the largest it’s been since the pilot episodes, and the wig looks a bit like Hulk just came from a guest spot on The Monkees.
Hulk’s make-up problems are far less evident in a wide shot as he goes after Harlen. The shopkeeper is panicked seeing the real monster again and, without waiting for reporters, launches his boulder down at the Hulk. Hulk doesn’t run, Hulk doesn’t dodge, Hulk just stands still and punches the boulder. This is why I love the Hulk. He. Punches. A. Boulder. Take that, Indiana Jones! The boulder shatters, and Hulk doesn’t budge an inch.
No one can face a man that can punch a boulder, so Harlen runs and Hulk gives chase. I also notice that we are seeing this chase in real-time. Season one Hulk was almost entirely seen in slow motion during action scenes, much like the Six Million Dollar Man. Now the producers are comfortable enough to let the action be in real-time and it’s more exciting for it.
Hulk catches up to the mountain man and throws Harlen, much like Harlen threw David earlier. But Harlen is finally getting the fight he’s been itching for the whole episode. He stands up, pulls off his furry gloves, and obviously forgetting what happened to the boulder he goes at the Hulk. Deflecting a punch, Hulk effortlessly pushes Harlen down again.
But the two gladiators are unaware they are being watched by two people with drastically different motives. Samantha has followed David up the incline and is crying out to try and help her father, and at the bottom of the cliff Buck sees the two and, thinking there are two monsters, plans to kill them both.
Samantha rushes toward her downed father, but in her haste she slips and falls off the side of the mountain. At the last moment she is able to grab hold of a small tree, but her grip is slipping.
Hulk, always the good guy, goes to rescue the girl, but she is out of reach and even Hulk knows he can’t get to her without falling. Harlen also goes when he sees his daughter needs help. There is a great moment where Harlen stands toe-to-toe with Hulk, unflinching, putting his need to save his daughter above his own fear. But Hulk isn’t there to fight, he’s there to help Harlen rescue the girl.
Harlen tries to have Samantha grab a stick, but she can’t get a grip. Hulk then grabs Harlen by the ankles and lowers him over the cliff to grab the girl.
But at the bottom of the mountain Buck sees Hulk exposed and takes aim. It is truly a tense moment. We know nothing will happen to Hulk, but we also know bullets hurt the green beast. If he is shot while lowering Harlen his grip will slip, and then will the father and daughter fall? It seems poetic if Harlen were to cause the daughter he ignored to be injured or killed as part of his foolish plot to save the town he put above his family. I know Samantha’s not going to die, but I could see her being hurt so I’m on the edge of my seat.
Buck shoots. Hulk is hit in the shoulder (he’s always hit in the shoulder), and he recoils. He loses his grip on Harlen with one hand, but the other hand holds tight and, single handed, he holds both father and daughter. Even injured Hulk gets back to work pulling the two up to safety.
With Samantha out of danger Hulk roars, and leaps off the top of the mountain. I love Hulk this episode! It’s the most super we’ve seen him, punching boulders, leaping from mountains. He drops hundreds of feet but lands upright in front of Buck, pushing the old hunter into a tree and bending his gun in two. Even bleeding from his arm nothing can stop the Hulk!
Except a posse with a bloodlust. At the top of the mountain the posse rush to the edge with their guns, taking aim at Hulk, but they don’t shoot for fear of hitting Buck. The actual looped line of dialog is “Don’t shoot, you’ll hit the old man” and I feel bad for Buck. This once unstoppable hunter has now been reduced to living in his car, beaten by Hulk, and then called “the old man” by a group of strangers.
Hulk runs off, but standing at the top of the mountain holding his daughter is Harlen, still half in his monster make-up. The sheriff and the mayor are enraged, and the reporters are ready to denounce the entire thing as a hoax, but McGee saves the day pointing out that while Harlen may be a hoax Hulk most certainly is not.
In a bit of comedy, reporters start to declare Buck a hero for standing up to the Hulk, and as reporters rush after Buck for an interview, McGee shouts “that man is an employee of the National Register!” We end the episode knowing Buck will be alright and he didn’t have to kill the Hulk to do it. Of course, he’ll likely be too busy on the lecture circuit to come back and repay McGee by finding the Hulk.
Left alone, Harlen has finally stopped acting like a jerk. He tells Samantha, “We better find David. I’ve got some apologizin’ to do. To both of you.” But it’s too late, David had left town. He put a note in Samantha’s microscope kit saying good-bye, but the girl chases David on the highway. She tries to convince him to stay, but David has to move on.
As they say farewell a car of tourists stop and ask the two “is this the way to Antowuk where the monsters hang out?” Thus, while David may be gone, we know Samantha and Harlen will do okay because tourism will still be alive and well for some time to come.
David throws his tan jacket over his shoulder and walks down the side of the mountain while credits roll.
With a horrible title that attempts to evoke thoughts of The Amityville Horror this episode began with me prepared for the worst. I could not have been more wrong. Bixby shines in this episode, his scenes with Harlen show a stronger side of David than we’re used to, and his scenes with Samantha show David as a good-hearted person. Bixby is just a pleasure to watch scene to scene here. Even when he has no dialogue, such as when he’s standing in Harlen’s store watching the carnival outside, we know his every thought and motivation. This episode is a shining example of why I love Bixby as David Banner.
Hulk also shines this episode. While the first Hulk-out is a bit lackluster, causing some minor property damage, the second Hulk-out has monster fights, bounder punching, and leaps off mountainsides. Due to budget the action is shot in such a way as to not be too incredible, but it’s exciting nontheless.
Finally we get to see McGee as a good-hearted person. While he is chasing Hulk from town to town for his own career, he doesn’t want to see the Hulk killed, and he also is a moral compass for his old friend Buck. It’s nice to see this third series regular become a bit more fleshed out.
The worst thing about this episode is its title. I give it a strong recommend.