Thursday, June 19, 2008

Richard Kiel as The Incredible Hulk

When I was a kid there was nothing I liked more than The Incredible Hulk. The show debuted on TV when I was probably too young to watch it, but it lasted 5 seasons and by the time the 1980s rolled around I was a big fan.

I remember lying on the floor staring up at the TV watching Bill Bixby sail through some sappy melodrama as I waited for 2 things.

First, I wanted to see how David Banner would change his last name this week.
See, David Banner was on the run from Mr. Magee and probably some over-zealous funeral directors wanting more information for his tombstone than just his name.

Because as the opening sequence would remind you, David is believed to be buried under a stone that simply reads "David Bruce Banner" no dates, no pithy quote... nothing.

Because his name was on the stone, David had to change his name every week.

One week he would be David Bammer, the next David Branner, then David Beckham and so on and so on.

I was fascinated about this.

As a kid, I also used to like Mr. Magee. Probably because his name was so similar to Mr. Magoo. Plus he never seemed to catch David. Even Magoo would have caught him by the end of the fourth season.

Remember a few paragraphs ago when I mentioned there were TWO things I looked forward to every week? The other was THE HULK!

The Hulk would come out twice an episode. Once about 15 minutes in and once about ten minutes before the episode ended.

I remember that my Dad let me stay up to watch the show, but only through the Hulk's second "Hulk out."

After that I was remanded to bed pleading "but what if he Hulks up a third time?"

My Dad always said, "Son, he never Hulks up a third time."

He was always right.

Anyway, as a kid I became deftly attuned to what would cause him to Hulk up... David Banner was a klutz.

Some bad guy would pull a knife on him, and he WOULDN'T Hulk up. Some bad guy would pull a knife on a lady, and he WOULDN'T Hulk up. Some bad guy would lock him in a closet, and he WOULDN'T Hulk up.

But then as David struggled to get out of the closet he would stub his pinky toe AND HE WOULD HULK UP.

Once he became the Hulk he would neutralize the situation and then go do something silly for the kids in the audience.

One time the Hulk used an ATM:
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He showed up and there was an old lady using the machine. She freaked out and ran away leaving the Hulk to do his transaction.

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Hulk would try to get a balance inquiry...

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Oh no! He forgot his pin number!

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Then a quick Hulk shove would result in the machine spitting out fives like a person that thought they were eating a salad, but then realized they were eating a bowl of five dollar bills.
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Interestingly, lots of things about the Hulk TV show were different from the comic book. In the comic Banner gets hit with the rays of a gamma bomb, in the show it was some scientific equipment that was improperly set. In the comic he was Bruce Banner and the TV show changed his name to David.

They also wanted to change some other things. They wanted to make the Hulk red, and they wanted him to be played by Richard Kiel. Kiel is either best known for his awesome screen stealing performance as Jaws in two James Bond movies... or for a stupid cameo he has in Happy Gilmore as a big tall guy.

And tall he is. Kiel is over 7 feet tall, but didn't have the muscles that Ferrigno later brought to the character.

Looking back, the idea of a red Richard Kiel as the Hulk seems beyond absurd, but I accepted his name as David and I like his TV show back story much more than the comic book version.

So, I bet I would have been a fan of a skinnier red Hulk, too.

Anyway, the idea of making the Hulk red was nixed, but Kiel was hired to play the Hulk. In fact, they even started shooting the TV movie pilot with him... and one shot of Kiel remained in the final cut.

So, with no further ado... here is Richard Kiel as The Incredible Hulk:
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  1. Nick Virga8/28/2012

    The Hulk shows was awesome and I still watch it. I like any Hulk but there was something about Bixby and Ferrigno. Anyway Kiel would have been wrong for the part in most ways. Ferrigno's face gave a sort of compassion and sadness to Hulk and you felt bad for him and rooted for him. Kiel's Hulk was just an ugly monster. But anyway,the name change came about because Ken Johnsnon and the TV people were very homophobic and they thought the name "Bruce" was a gay name. I dont know how a name could be gay but that's that. The name change isn't really that big if a deal though because technically,they only changed the middle name. In the first Hulk comic,the full name was Robert Bruce Banner. They changed the Bruce part. It makes no difference. Dr.Banner is Dr.Banner. And Bixby made us care for Banner.Great actor.