Clive James on The Hulk

This has to be one of the funniest things ever written. Clive James writing about the old TV show …

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Unlike Bionic Woman or Six Million Dollar Man, The Incredible Hulk (ITV) is not a rebuild but a true mutant. Bionic and Six used to be ordinary human beings but were transformed by engineering. Hulk remains an ordinary human being who can’t help turning into an extraordinary one every time he gets angry. An ‘overdose of gamma radiation’ has altered ‘his body chemistry’ so that in vexing moments he becomes the physical expression of his own fury.

‘The creature,’ it is explained, ‘is driven by rage.’ A combination of Clark Kent and Dr Jekyll, ‘mild-mannered’ David Banner falls first into a sweat, then into a trance, and finally into a metamorphosis. In the same time that it takes to wheel a small actor off and a large one on, a weedy schnurk like you and me is transmogrified into seven feet of green beef.

Hulk has the standard body-builder’s physique, with two sets of shoulders one on top of the other and wings of lateral muscle that hold his arms out from his sides as if his armpits had piles. He is made remarkable by his avocado complexion, eyes like plover’s eggs and the same permanently exposed lower teeth displayed by Richard Harris when he is acting determined, or indeed just acting.

Given a flying start by the shock effect of his personal appearance, Hulk goes into action against the heavies, flinging them about in slow motion. Like Bionic, Six and Wonderwoman, Hulk does his action numbers at glacial speed. Emitting slow roars of rage, Hulk runs very slowly towards the enemy, who slowly attempt to make their escape. But no matter how slowly they run, Hulk runs more slowly. Slowly he picks them up, gradually bangs their heads together, and with a supreme burst of lethargy throws them through the side of a building.

Hardly have the bricks floated to the ground before Hulk is changing back into spindly David, with a sad cello weeping on the sound-track. One thinks of Frankenstein’s monster or the Hunchback of Notre Dame. One thinks of King Kong. One thinks one is being had. Why can’t the soft twit cut the soul-searching and just enjoy his ability to swell up and clobber the foe? But David is in quest of ‘a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him’. Since the series could hardly continue if he finds it, presumably he will be long on the trail.

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