The Incredible Hulk: The Harder They Fall (1981) – Marvel SUPERHERO TV SHOW REVIEW

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By Geno McGahee

David Banner (Bill Bixby) is always looking to interfere in the lives of others. He’s not a bad guy, but he is a busy-body. If there is any trouble, he will get involved and try to fix it. Sure, he helps a lot of people but I often thought that once he fled town, those he helped would revert back to the pussies they were before he came along to save the day. Whatever the case, I cannot argue with his intentions. They were surely good across the board.

In the 1981 episode “THE HARDER THEY FALL,” Banner is minding his own business for once, standing on the street corner, waiting for a ride. He has obviously arrived in a town that had no immediate problems to solve. So, it was time to move on, but a car blows out a front tire and barrels right into David, launching him into another car. Hit by two cars at once…that really sucks for the poor guy. I’m sure some of the bad guys that he beat up in prior episodes were happy to hear of this.


David wakes up in the hospital and can’t move. He is paralyzed from the waist down, which shows a new side to Banner. He starts getting depressed and snippy, especially to the nurse. She tries to soothe him by telling him he still has his arms, but he may have thought she was making a masturbation reference which was in really bad taste. I don’t think that she was, but you never know nowadays or nowadays in 1981.

After being told that he will never walk again, Banner is put into a crowded room with other guys in wheelchairs and he is not happy. What dude would be happy in that situation? Stuck in a sausage fest and being helpless. That sucks and Banner was not pleased. He looked across the room at Bobby (Alan Toy) and he was very creepy…rape you in your sleep creepy….fake being in a wheelchair, rape you in your sleep creepy. Banner sensed it. I could see it in his eyes. Perhaps Hulking up and tossing Bobby out of the hospital head first into the concrete pavement would have been the right thing to do…just in case that perv-looking fucker got horny. You wouldn’t like him when he’s horny.


A familiar face rolls into the room. Paul, played by Denny Miller, was also in one of my favorite Hulk episodes “KILLER INSTINCT” in 1978. They probably thought that nobody would remember him after 3 years or maybe they had a shortage of TV actors, or this is the same character, which is my contention. In KILLER INSTINCT, he played John Tobey, a professional football player with a terrible temper. He would take it out on other players and often hurt them severely. With some hypnotic regression, he would start screaming about “cheaters” he encountered when he was younger. Eventually, David helped the guy out, but now he’s back and in a wheelchair. Yeah, good one David. You did really good helping him out.

Paul rolls to David with a basketball on his lap. I’ve learned, you avoid guys that cover up their crotch with anything. They are hiding erections 99.9% of the time. It’s a proven statistic. Google it. (Note: Percentage based on assumption, not fact). At first, David wants nothing to do with Paul and wants to just lie there and feel sorry for himself. Paul explains that he has helped a lot of the other crippled dudes there, but Banner just isn’t ready. He is trying to figure out why he can’t fix himself like he’s done in the past, but there is a pretty good reason. He hasn’t Hulked up yet. The Hulk fixes himself. Banner is relatively regular and can’t heal rapidly and doesn’t want to Hulk up and start tossing people out of wheelchairs. So, he must play the game and go through the treatments to live as a paralyzed guy.


Paul and David become friends and we find out that Paul is former pro footballer and even the picture of himself in football uniform on his wall looks identical to his uniform in KILLER INSTINCT. I’m telling you, this is John Tobey, going by the name “Paul” now. Maybe it’s witness protection. He saw some horse rapist and testified on behalf on the animal and they want to make sure he is safe, especially if he wants to go as a horse for Halloween. Whatever the case, the more I watch Paul in action, the more I see how he is the same guy from KILLER INSTINCT. I’m surprised that Banner doesn’t confront him. A “I remember you asshole” would have been enough to link the episodes.

David, still somewhat depressed, falls out of bed and there is nobody around. And you wonder why these nursing homes and hospitals get such bad press. They don’t give two shits about their patients. Poor Banner was lying there forever before Paul found him. Where the hell was the nurse? Maybe she was pissed off at him. Depressed people aren’t easy to like. They always bring you down. That’s why the best thing to do is to tell them to get lost and be sad somewhere else.

Eventually, David gets a better attitude and is now really enjoying hanging out with Paul. They do a recovery montage, where David lifts weights and climbs ropes, but then he rolls backwards down a set of stairs. When he lands safely, the people applaud. I think this wasn’t part of recovery. I bet somebody said, probably a nurse, “ I bet he can’t go down the stairs backwards without falling and breaking his ass.” Other than that, the montage seemed normal.

To reward David for his progression, Paul takes him out on the town to a sports bar and all is well until Al (Joe Dorsey) approaches the duo and offers to pay for their drinks, believing that they are wounded soldiers. Paul takes great offense and rolls over and gives Al back his money and challenges him to a fight. Paul really had a temper and because of that temper, a fight breaks out and poor David is launched down a flight of stairs. This episode gave the Banner stuntman quite the work.


Banner Hulks up, but the Hulk is confused because his legs are still sort of fucked. He’s able to climb the stairs and destroy the bar, but he didn’t beat the fuck out of anyone like he usually does. He just focused on destruction of private property. Paul watched on and he had this “I’ve seen this before look.” Maybe he didn’t know he was really John from the other episode. This show is not beyond putting amnesia into the storyline.

The Hulk sighting brings Jack McGee (Jack Colvin) and he now wants to speak to Paul, but Paul has other plans. He wants to re-launch his sporting goods store and just needs a loan from the bank, but when he gets there, Melton (William Bogert), the loan officer, explains that the market is in the tank and that he can’t get the loan. Immediately, Paul starts telling Melton that he is being discriminated against. What bullshit. If the market sucks, the market sucks, but Paul will not get it out of his head that it’s due to him being in a wheelchair. Keep in mind that Paul is at the hospital to inspire and help others in wheelchairs and how the hell is he going to do that when he has this idea that the whole world is against them?


The Hulk transformation has helped David to start walking again, but when he runs into Paul, he realizes that something is wrong. He plans to rob the bank to send a message. David can’t stop him as he takes off, but he soon sees a familiar car. McGee pulls in and parks in the handicapped spot, prompting some geek to yell at him to move it. He refuses and runs in, but notes that the keys are in the ignition. Banner steals the car and takes off to stop Paul, but it had to feel good to take the prick’s car. I knew McGee was an asshole, but to park in a handicapped spot too? That place is full of handicapped people and now one of them probably had to walk from the parking garage because of that asshole. Not cool McGee! Not cool!

Because Banner’s legs are fucked, he is having a hard time driving the car, prompting the redneck asshole behind him to start blaring on the horn. It’s rather funny to watch the guy get so pissed off and spout of things like “what’s with this guy” over and over. The honking distracts Banner enough to cause an accident. Banner plows into another car and gets hit by the redneck which is great. It’s not his car! McGee will have to eat the cost.

All of the honking, insults, and accidents get the best of Banner and as he Hulks up, he hears that asshole redneck call him an “idiot” and a “dumb idiot” to the gathering crowd. Banner was one of the most respected doctors in the world and this guy that probably works at Walmart is now calling him an idiot? That had to quicken the Hulking process. I was certain that this guy was going to find out that the Hulk isn’t paralyzed from the waist down as he chased this pecker, bent him over and split him like firewood.

With a huge kick, the car door comes flying off…more damage to McGee’s car. Good. Fuck him. Hulk then screams a few times and destroys the redneck’s car. He totally deserved that. Hulk then runs to the bank to stop Paul from robbing it. He breaks both doors and knocks the poor 80 year old security guard on his ass. He probably died. If you toss an 80 year old into the wall and you’re that strong, you killed the guy. Hulk may not respect his elders.


When Hulk sees Melton, he starts breaking stuff around him, and Melton begins to cry and scream “don’t hurt me.” I’ve seen a lot of Hulk episodes, but Melton may get the pussy of the series award, although I don’t think he deserved this. Melton was just doing his job and was probably right about the economy. Paul did not have income and all signs pointed to a bad loan. So, he wasn’t a bad guy. He was just doing the job. Hulk got this one wrong. Paul was the one that needed a reality check here, but instead, the Hulk bullied poor Melton.

Leaving the wheelchair behind, Hulk picks up Paul and runs off with him as he’s done with many others. What he was protecting Paul from, I don’t know. He only carried him over to a street bench about fifteen feet from the building. Maybe the Hulk was planning on blowing up the building to send the message home to Melton and wanted Paul to see how glorious it would be, but that never happened.

THE HARDER THEY FALL is not a great episode of Hulk but it’s not a bad one either. I really wish that they gave Denny Miller more moments where he could scream and go crazy as he did in the other episode. When he’s going nuts, he is very amusing, but he kept it rather under control here, outside of an outburst here and there…but most of those were normal ones. In KILLER INSTINCT, he was so over the top, I couldn’t get enough of it.


I recommend this episode. It’s worth a watch and entertaining for the most part.

Rating: 6/10