Hey kids, it’s pop quiz time!
What do you get when you mix a bodybuilder, a former Miss America who has ties to a U.S. President, and the director of the third season of the “hit” TV show Blossom? Give up? The third and final installment to the hit television series The Incredible Hulk, that’s what!
The Death of the Incredible Hulk
Starring: Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno, Elizabeth Gracen,
Philip Sterling, Andreas Katsulas
Director: Bill Bixby
Rating: Not Rated
“You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry…”
The Death of the Incredible Hulk (hereafter referred to as DotIH because I’m too lazy to type the title out again) starts off at a scientific research facility in sunny California, where Dr. Ronald Pratt (Philip Sterling) is working on the formula for unlocking the latent superhuman strength and healing abilities found in humans, and is doing a real poor job of it. None of his formulas seem to work out. Fortunately for him, scientist extraordinaire and human bad luck magnet David Banner (Bill Bixby) has been posing as a handicapped janitor during the day and fixing the good doctor’s work by night. See, David believes that a modified version of the formula could finally rid him of his curse… the “transform into Lou Ferrigno” curse, that is. We get to see David do his thing about 8 minutes in, as some unsuspecting thugs get thrashed by the Hulk.
Also established early on is the shadowy Russian-esque secret-spy mafia, led by the mysterious “Voshenko” and total slimeball Kasha (Andreas Katsula). One of their agents, Jasmin (pronounced Yas-meen, because the writers of this movie hate me apparently, as I had to hear it about 50 times before this film was over; played by Elizabeth Gracen), has been tasked to steal Dr. Pratt’s formula, in the hopes of building an invincible army of Russian-esque secret spies. Jasimn is an interesting character, but I’ll get to that later on in the review.
Anyway, Dr. Pratt eventually discovers David is both a super-genius AND the Hulk, and vows to help him find his cure in exchange for getting a sample of ol’ Hulkie’s DNA. With the help of his wife (Barbara Tarbuck), they devise a way to incapacitate the beast using a force field generator and heavy tranquilizers, so they can get a decent reading of the Hulk without the mess of mass lab devastation. Watching the videotaped playback, it is here where David realized that he’s never actually seen the Hulk before. Kind of a neat sidepoint, if you ask me.
It’s about this time where Jasmin (who I kept thinking was Alyssa Milano) tries to kidnap Pratt, but only succeeds in putting him in a coma, thanks to some Hulk intervention. The Spy Mafia wants her to bring David in, thinking he too knows the formula, but SURPRISE… they fall in love. More stuff happens that’s not really important, but eventually Pratt comes out of his coma, is kidnapped by “Voshenko” (who is really Jasmin’s sister), and is taken to their secret spy airport hideout. Fighty-fighty ensues, and the Hulk blows up Voshinko’s plane and falls about 500 feet, smack onto the pavement. As Hulk reverts back into David, Jasmin says “Don’t die. We can be free now,” to which David replies “I am free” and dies.
Cue sad piano music, roll credits.
Iron Magnum P.I.?
Keeping with this month’s (unintended) theme, DotIH has a pretty interesting background story.
Interesting and vague.
Now, I’m about to throw out my idea of what went on behind the scenes of this film, based solely on the bits and pieces of information I’ve found over the Intardwebs. And based on validity of information on the Intardwebs, it’s safe to say that some of this may be fact, some may be broad speculation.
First off, it is rock-solid proof that DotIH was intended to be the third in a quadrilogy (I think that’s how you say four-movie series), ending with The Revenge of the Incredible Hulk, in which Hulk gains the intelligence of David Banner. This film was never made due to the untimely death of Bill Bixby. It’s also a fact that this movie was supposed to co-star the She-Hulk, much like the two prior Hulk films (with Thor and Daredevil, respectively). Speculation suggests that actress/bodybuilder/Flavor Flav enthusiest Brigitte Nielsen was cast to play She-Hulk, going so far as to pose for promotional pictures (although the pictures could have been for the possible film version of the character, which was slated to be made after Shulkie was removed from DotIH. I’ve read it both ways). Also, if the fourth movie was made, legend has it that Tom Selleck was on board to guest star as Iron Man, and let’s be honest, that would’ve been pretty awesome.
So now we move on to the character Jasmin. There was something about her that kind-of stuck out at me. I mean, where else has there been a female Russian-esque secret spy with short hair, a black bodysuit, and has turned from her group and works for the forces of good? Sounds familiar, right?
So here’s my theory: She-Hulk was planned to guest star in DotIH. That fell through when NBC saw the pre-production stills of Nielsen in her costume. The script was rewritten with the Black Widow as the co-star. Bixby then found out he had prostate cancer, and decided that this will be his last Hulk film. The writers quickly changed the name of Widow to Jasmin in order to make Hulk the only Marvel hero and the main focus of the movie, since it was the last one.
But then again, I may be reading into things a little too much.
And The Rest
OK, no more speculation, back to THIS movie. Overall, DotIH is a fairly decent wrap-up to the Incredible Hulk series. There’s nothing I can complain about plot-wise (although the death of Hulk at the end did seem a little tacked-on). Ferrigno grunted, jogged, and threw stuff like a champ. Bixby’s performance was outstanding. He really conveyed the sense of “down-and-out, tired of living in the shadows, jaded to the world” perfectly. He sometimes got a little melodramatic, but it wasn’t so bad as to be distracting. His direction was nothing spectacular, but ultimately got the job done. Went a little overboard with the slow-motion, if you ask me. Elizabeth Gracen’s Jasmin was decent enough, plus he claimed to have a one-night stand with former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1982, so she has that going for her, which is nice (sorry for “borrowing” one of your lines, Matthew!).
There are really only two items that I had a problem with, and to be honest, it’s not that big of a deal. First off, that music in this film is horrible. Beyond the use of the fantastic and immortal piano theme “The Lonely Man” by Joe Harnell, the rest of the score was uninspired, weak, and forgettable. The other troubling point is the noticeable absence of Jack McGee, played by Jack Colvin. It’s a shame for a character so integral and and actor so good to be left out of the finale for the show he was arguably best known for.
Incredible or Incredibly Lame?
All in all, I had a good time watching DotIH. Is this filmmaking gold? No. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot. Could I have done a better ending to the series? I’d like to think so… take that back, I probably couldn’t, but someone else more than likely could have. But it’s definitely worth a watch, and seeing as it has recently found it’s way into the “cheap bin” at many Local Video Stores, you won’t be out a ton of money if you mileage varies from mine. I give The Death of the Incredible Hulk a gentleman’s 3 ½ out of 5 stars.