David finds work in a Times Square arcade, but the job is hardly fun and games when he realizes that the owner is being blackmailed, and he also uncovers a murder plot.
The episode opens with some stock footage of New York in the 70s, and it really is an “incredible” sight. I love New York City but only went in the late 90s and after, when Giuliani had already begun his sanitization of the city in general, and Times Square specifically. So when the episode began with a montage of arial shots from the bay and seeing the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building I actually did some freeze frames, to compare the city as I know it to how it looked 35 years ago.
The third shot is of Times Square, and if the same year this episode was released George Benson sang “the neon lights are bright on Broadway” he had no idea the garish spectacle it would be in 2012! In these early scenes I see an almost quaint Times Square with old school Sony and Coca-Cola ads, very subdued to the Times Square of the 21st century.
But soon we’re taken to our reason for being in New York City–the Hulk! For a change, we start off with Jack McGee (Jack Colvin) telling his friend Bobby the Hulk had been spotted in New Jersey. Now McGee thinks the Hulk has come to The Big Apple. Bobby accuses Jack of being obsessed with the Hulk, revealing the reporter has traveled to Chicago, St. Louis and even Cleveland chasing after the elusive green giant.
This gives us our first look inside the life of Jack McGee. In every episode since the pilot Mr. McGee has shown up halfway through the episode and snooped around making things difficult for David and bringing the police to arrest the bad guys. But we have never heard his reasons why focuses so much on the Hulk, or what his contemporaries think of his investigation. Here we see he’s seen as a bit crazy chasing stories about green men, but McGee reveals his view that the Hulk is “the biggest knock-down drag-out five-star final I’ve ever latched onto.”
And through his investigations McGee has come to know the Hulk’s patterns, because he’s exactly right–David Banner (Bill Bixby) has come to New York. David wants to find Dr. Everett Lewis, an expert in genetics research, looking for a cure to his Hulkism. But Dr. Lewis is out of town until “next Friday” and in the meantime David took a job working at an arcade.
Not to spend this whole review reflecting on the 70s, but arcades were very different before Pac-Man and Frogger. Full of pinball machines and novelties, it’s a different type of arcade than any I’ve known.
We’re also introduced to Carol Abrams, the boss’ daughter. She is being tutored in her pre-med studies by David, and she seems to have a flirtation with the older man. I was shocked at how forward she was when she, pretending to be an unruly customer to see how David would react, told David “how about I go for your sack”. I could not believe a testicle joke on family television! But it turned out she meant a bag of quarters David was carrying, retrieved from the pinball machines. Still, I think this was an intentional double entendre.
But wherever David works we know there’s trouble, and at the arcade we find the arcade’s owner, Norman Abrams is one of several Times Square businesses being shaken down by local mobster Jasion Laird (Robert Alda) for protection money. When the businessmen revolt and start to reduce their payments to “Uncle Jason”, Laird and his lackey Johnathan thinks that a “cancer” is spreading through Times Square. In retribution for Norman reducing his latest payment, Jason orders Norman to kill”Uncle” Leo (Hello!)–the ring leader of the revolt. Jason makes vague threats towards Carol if Norman refuses.
David overhears Jason’s demands and tries to intervene, but one of Jason’s goons stands in David’s way with a clever bit of dialogue to David: “Look, you really don’t want to make me angry. And I don’t want to make you angry.” A nice play on David’s famous opening credits line. The goon then takes David hostage, but we know where this will end up…
Hulk-Out #1: Jason’s goon takes David to Jason at a shipping dock where Jason does some smuggling of “candles”. Candles supplied by Eddie Franklin, the biggest drug dealer in New York. Jason suspects David to be a middle-man for a competing mafioso and orders his goons to beat the truth out of David. Not wanting to witness the violence, Jason leaves David with the odd threat “there’s a shortage of wheelchairs in this city.”
David ends up making a run for it and we see Bixby to be quite nimble, vaulting over shipping crates, before being caught and punched behind a series of crates, just out of sight for his transformation.
The Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) has a new wig this time with bangs!
He throws some crates and goons around but doesn’t see a sneak attack from behind by a forklift. Hurt, Hulk bends, then topples the forklift, showing some great feats of strength. But now wounded, Hulk runs off down an alleyway, kind of skipping to show him favoring his wounded leg as we go to commercial.
We return to the reverse transformation and the animated green glow over the face is almost entirely gone now. He found a quiet spot in Manhattan–in an alleyway? Having been to Manhattan many times I know alleys are basically nonexistent; real estate is too valuable to spend unused as alleyways are. We are obviously on a soundstage.
Now once again human David whispers “Norman!”, super worried for his employer. When we last saw Norman and Leo it did look like Norman was going to give in and, to protect his daughter, follow Jason’s wishes and kill Leo. We, the audience, have every reason to want David to hurry and stop Norman from becoming a murderer. But before heading to help his boss, David first finds some fashionable plaid shirts hanging from a clothesline. David takes the shirts, but leaves some cash in their place because, remember kiddies, stealing is wrong!
We see David limping, wincing from the leg injury he sustained as the Hulk, but he still makes it to Norman’s apartment and when Norman doesn’t answer David breaks down the door. And we thought only the Hulk could break through doors! But all David’s worrying was for nothing as he enters to find no one killed. Instead, Norman and Leo drunk themselves into a stupor while planning to kill Jason.
David tells Norman to do nothing rash as he plans to use the information he found out at the dock to get Jason arrested. Needing hard proof, David steals a stethoscope and goes to Jason’s warehouse and starts searching crates. He finds some piece of art that, judging from Bixby’s sniffing his fingers, is apparently filled with heroin or cocaine or some such. Then David uses the stethoscope to crack Jason’s safe. Oh that wily Dr. Banner!
In the safe David finds Jason’s little black book of debts and, careful to not touch it with his own fingerprints, David puts it in an envelope. Then, sure to wrap the statue in a brown paper bag, David flees the warehouse with the evidence.
But sobering up, Norman and Leo decide to team up to kill Jason, knowing they will die in the process. And we get some honestly touching, fairly well-acted scenes of Leo coming to terms with the end of his own life, and Norman having a subtle goodbye with Carol. Joe Harnell created a great piece of piano and synth music for this familial scene, and it’s built up so the audience really believes it’s Norman’s last goodbye.
And it would be, if not for the Hulk!
This whole episode seems to be David chasing a couple old men and always being a few steps behind. He is getting agitated, unable to score a cab (which is a challenge oft times in New York). With his lame leg, he travels around the city. At the arcade David finds Norman and Leo have gone to their fatal appointment with Jason. David brings Carol up to speed and gives her the incriminating evidence and orders to call the police. Unwilling to wait for the police himself, though, David continues his chase for the old men. This time he actually scores a cab and offers the cabbie $5 to take him to the Park Avenue rendezvous. Again I laugh; $5 wouldn’t get me 3 blocks in New York today, let alone motivate the cabbie to do it quickly.
Then again it doesn’t help David either, nor does another Hamilton David offers the cabbie to hurry. So agitated by the city’s gridlock, and worried about Norman’s well-being, David starts yelling at the cabbie. The stress of the situation gets to him and then right there in the back seat of the cab we have…
Hulk-Out #2: There is a great pun as the cabbie, not looking in the back seat, says “You’re gonna be 10 minutes late so keep your shirt on” only to look up and see Hulk, who has never worn a shirt. After some humerous facial expressions both from Lou and the cabbie, Hulk smashes off the cab door, and starts to run down the street.
And now we get our money shot. This is what we are here to see–the Hulk in Times Square, running through the streets. While much of this episode has been shot on a soundstage with some stock footage for establishing shots, there’s no mistaking–this is the real thing. I’m again gawking at the time period, seeing one movie theater proudly proclaiming they are playing Saturday Night Fever, another playing Coma. But beyond the dated landmarks and fashion the scene is actually phenomenal. There are plenty of reactions from both extras in the shoot and regular New Yorkers Ferrigno just happened to run past. The score works well for these scenes, a bit of gothic rock, and the use of a telephoto lens adds some grit to the film. It really is a great scene, Hulk smashing newspaper kiosks on his way to save Norman.
You also can tell it’s cold. There is snow on the ground, and the Hulk’s breath is visible as he roars. The wet cement and brown color of the film stock makes New York feel seedy and dangerous, as I remember thinking of it before I went. The camera circles round and round the Hulk, giving me another great look at the Times Square of the 70s. Shockingly they had those shady electronics stores on every corner even back then.
But yes, this is one of the famous episodes where we see the “Hulk slippers”–a pair of green ballet shoes that Ferrigno sometimes wore to protect his feet. On DVD they do stand out, but if I hadn’t read about them in Lou Ferrigno’s autobiography I may not have noticed. They did a good job of matching the paint of his body, and for most shots his feet are out of frame.
It only takes a few minutes of Hulk terrorizing Times Square before reports make their way to Jack McGee, who is soon chasing the Hulk down to Park Avenue. It’s a wonderful shot of McGee casually wandering the streets, smoking a cigarette, until he spots the Hulk. McGee throws down his smoke and takes chase, and again Colvin has sold me on the reality of his character.
Hulk finally gets to the parking garage where Leo and Norman plan to kill Jason. To stop Norman from pulling the trigger Hulk throws the old man into a wall. Hulk then throws around Jason’s mobsters, and throws head mobster face-down into some wet cement–a reference to Jimmy Hoffa perhaps?
But the police sirens cause Hulk to flee. Carol summoned the cops as David ordered, and they quickly arrest Jason and his goons. Inexplicably Norman and Leo, a duo planning a murder, are left unmolested.
The heat is now on, so David dons his tan jacket, kisses Carol goodbye and wanders off to a saxophone-laden rendition of The Lonely Man theme–perhaps the big city remix? But it fades to the familiar piano score and a wide shot of New York one last time as credits roll.
This episode does have some disappointing aspects. From the opening with Jack McGee and his buddy I expected the reporter to play a much larger role in the episode. Seeing McGee with other reporters in the big city, as well as the NYPD, would have been an interesting dynamic for David and the Hulk to face. I mean, for once McGee got to town before the Hulk showed up, so I was certain that would play into the plot. But I was wrong. Despite the wonderful opening scene of McGee, he’s forgotten until the last 5 minutes of the episode…just like every other episode.
Also the main plot of local businessmen shaken down and fighting back against a mafioso is mundane and hackneyed. I liked the way it was played, but it didn’t feel like a story that had to be told in New York. The same story could have been played in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, or any big city. If the production was going to fly to New York, I’d have preferred a story that really played on that fact.
Despite this, the scenes of Hulk in New York are damn fun. And the director knew it, letting the scene go on so long as to become indulgent, but it never lost its energy. Ferrigno gave it all he had on those streets and it worked perfectly. Add to that some good character actors cast as Leo and Norman, and it’s a very solid episode that I can easily recommend.