Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Incredible Hulk S1 E9: Never Give A Trucker An Even Break

"I really have to buy shirts that stretch."
-David Banner (in tattered shirt following a Hulk transformation)-

Writer/creator/executive producer Kenneth Johnson returned here following his creation of the Pilot and second pilot film Death In The Family as well as Final Round with The Incredible Hulk, Season One, Episode 9, Never Give A Trucker An Even Break.

Seeing the return of Kenneth Johnson as a writer in the installment brought me back to an interview with Johnson featured in a piece called Hulk-Out in Starlog #312. The seeds of his idea for David Bruce Banner had somewhat unexpected roots, but not entirely surprising when you consider the working elements within Kenneth Johnson's series. Johnson recalled "the fugitive concept" swirling about his mind following a viewing of Les Miserables. "I thought, 'Maybe there's a way to take a bit of Victor Hugo and Robert Louis Stevenson, as in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and this ludicrous thing called The Incredible Hulk and turn it into a psychological drama.'" And turn it into a psychological drama he did.

Borrowing ideas from different sources and ultimately creating a contemporary morality play through the use of Bill Bixby as Banner certainly turned into a notable stroke of genius. Of course, it wouldn't be the last time ideas were borrowed as the latest entry found the studio implementing footage directly from Steven Spielberg's Duel (1971) to get the tone right. Does it work and keep on trucking? We get our Hulk on to find out.

Not only does the previous entry, The Hulk Breaks Las Vegas, and this entry borrow footage from outside sources the two share some incredible continuity for 1970s television albeit a small link.

David Banner moves liberally from town to town eking out a meager existence any way he can until he can finds a way to control the savage demon within him.

As it turns out, not unlike a Marvel comic that linked from issue to issue with NEXT ISSUE, but the series takes those cues here. David catches a lift from a female driver to Carson City, Nevada. Banner informs her of his previous visit to Las Vegas in a nice bit of journeying continuity. Banner is moving onto his next adventure but logically following on from neighboring Las Vegas. Excelsior indeed!

Inexplicably SciFiNow relegated Never Give A Trucker An Even Break a thumbs down dubbing it one of the worst of the series.

It may lazily or economically utilize and employ Spielberg's Duel as a liberal crutch for footage, but there's a kind of Dukes Of Hazzard-like energy about the episode as David Banner and token girl of the entry are chased in pursuit by a pack of baddies. The editing is a bit rough and a little hodgepodge for budgetary reasons but somehow they make it work rather well despite the imperfections.

One of the biggest problems with this episode, and I suspect others, is the lack of character motivation. We don't really understand these bad guys. They are just bad guys to dislike, but we don't really no much more. It's all fairly comic book in that way by having the Hulk do battle with a group of faceless human baddies. But what is there problem?

Some of the back and forth dialogue exchange is actually fun to watch and if you like Duel that may be a bonus. It's only the use of that footage and some monotonous chase scenes that detract from an otherwise entertaining story idea. The episode is fairly entertaining as Season One entries go.

At its conclusion Bill Bixby as David Banner is about to move on but not before having a lady friend throw herself at him with the suggestion she would like to bed the man.

Bixby makes the role. His character is suave, kind and ultimately the chivalrous gentleman. These are, or were, infinitely likable qualities to women at least once upon a time. He also had something that is in short supply today---class.

And of course Bill Bixby has some dramatically perfect comic timing in moments that are just, well, incredible.

This writer is not a big comic book and superhero movie fan. People take them, gobble them up and love them while I can the leave the dramatically empty pathos of those engagements behind all day long, but it's truly Bixby's performance and what he brings to the character of David Banner that brings me back to this series time and again.

I'm always moved seeing the tortured soul walk into the sunset to the sound of Joe Harnell's The Lonely Man. We empathize with Banner for very basic emotional and human reasons that resonate with us, because aren't we all a little lonely at times?

Writer: Kenneth Johnson.
Director: Kenneth Gilbert/ Steven Spielberg (?).

Next Blog Issue: Life And Death.

Hulk Transformation Reason #1: David Banner becomes irate with an operator at a pay phone who simply cannot assist him and he's out of change at the pay phone. That's enough to make anyone angry. Boy, all of us old timers have been there. Remember those pay phones? Please insert another nickel.

Hulk Transformation Reason #2: A car crash as a result of pursuit is the trigger to mass destruction.

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