November 6, 2009


Stan Lee acknowledged the influence of Frankenstein movies on the creation of his green behemoth monster-hero, The Hulk. The reference would be committed to film when the character was translated to live-action television.

In a recent Halloween-time series of posts on the fun, eclectic Baking With Medusa, blogger Micha Michelle explored the connections between the classic Universal Frankensteins and the Bixby/Ferrigno Hulk, complete with scene comparisons.

In the pilot episode, The Incredible Hulk, broadcast on November 7, 1977, the newly minted mint-green monster goes wandering about and comes upon a little girl by a lake, like Karloff’s Monster did in the original 1931 film. The outcome is, thankfully, different: This monster doesn’t drown the child but rather saves her after she falls into the water, but the reference is perfectly clear. Writer, director and series producer Kenneth Johnson has an obvious love for the original material. He has a long list of genre credits, mostly TV, that include The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, V – The Original Series, Alien Nation and An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe starring Vincent Price.

By the way, the mountains on the far shore look tantalizingly familiar. It would be fun to know if the scene was shot at Malibou Lake!

The second episode, A Death in the Family, famous for its scene of The Hulk wrestling a grizzly bear, also has a Frankenstein moment, this one recalling The Monster’s brief friendship with the blind hermit in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). The Hulk is given bread and a drink by an old man living in the woods. The scene ends in flames, like the original, but this time the conflagration is provoked by the Hulk spitting cheap booze into the campfire.

The most elaborate Frankenstein connections would roll out in a Season 4 two-parter, The First, written by Andrew Schneider and directed by Frank Orsatti, broadcast on March 6 and 13, in 1981. A fan favorite, the whole episode pays homage to Classic Universal monster movies.

Having heard of another scientist who once transformed into a Hulk-like creature, Bruce Banner goes looking for a cure in a place called Vissaria, like Lon Chaney’s Wolf Man went looking for Dr. Frankenstein in Vasaria in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. There’s a scientist named Clive and an Igor equivalent named Frye. There’s a lady named Elizabeth, and a lawman evoking the Lionel Atwill character in Son of Frankenstein. The show even has angry, torch-bearing villagers.

Direct visual quotes are mostly from The Bride of Frankenstein. There’s a sequence with Bixby operating mad-lab machinery. Levers are pulled, with attendant rooftop effects. In the end, The Hulk battles his Evil Hulk counterpart, played by Dick Durock, who would go on to play The Swamp Thing.

Head over to Baking with Medusa for more details and lots more photo comparisons. With thanks to Micha Michelle, who did a wonderful job tracking down these references.

Hulkenstein on Baking with Medusa:
Part 1, the lake scene.
Part 2, the hermit.
Part 3, Evil Hulk.


Sam said...

Loved this post. I grew up with the Incredible Hulk and I remember these episodes well.

MeMakeMonster said...

Wow - look at how different the green was. I never realized. Plus, his brows are crazy.

Chris Hallock said...

Ha! Fantastic post!

Just watched some old Hulk eps a few weeks ago when I was down with the flu.