Thursday, January 21, 2021
The Incredible Hulk: "Alice in Disco Land"
In “Alice in Disco Land,” David Banner gets a job as a bus boy at Pandemonium Disco, and meets a runaway teen, Alice (Donna Wilkes) whom he knew as a child.
In fact, David has fond memories of taking care of Alice as a girl, and reading to her from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
Now, however, Alice isn’t doing so well. Virtually abandoned by her wealthy mother, she is adrift and alone. And although she is a great disco dancer, Alice is also an alcoholic. She can’t go a day without drinking, a fact that David gently reminds her of.
When David attempts an intervention, however, the disco’s ganger owner, Ernie (Marc Alaimo) thinks that Banner is compelling her to testify in a Federal case against him, and sets out to punish him. But Ernie hasn’t counted on the fact that David can transform into the Hulk.
Before long, the denizens of Pandemonium Disco meet the Hulk on the dance floor, and terror ensues.
I had forgotten, before watching a few The Incredible Hulk (1978 – 1981) episodes this week, just what a time capsule for the 1970s the series is.
“Alice in Disco Land,” which aired on November 3, 1978, derives all its energy from the ascendant disco culture of the era, including the blockbuster film Saturday Night Fever (1977). To wit, most of the action takes place inside Pandemonium Disco, and under a glitter ball.
While David works as a bus-boy, hairy men in tight polyester pants and flowery shirts and ultra-skinny women (sans bras…) gyrate on the dance floor to songs you never heard of (including a disco-fied version of the series’ piano theme).
Underneath these disco trappings, however, it’s clear that “Alice in Disco Land” actually concerns alcoholism, and the story attempts to draw a signficant connection between David and Alice. At one point, late in the action, Alice notes of her drinking problem: “You don’t understand, this is something in me. I need to control it.”
Clearly, those words resonate with David. The purpose of his life now is to control that thing inside himself, the rage that brings life to his alter-ego, the Incredible Hulk. Both he and Alice must fight internal urges if they are to succeed against the odds, and be whole once more.
“Alice in Disco Land” is one of the episodes of The Incredible Hulk I vividly remember watching during the series’ original run. I was eight years old at the time, and I remember that my older sister and I attempted to re-create the disco milieu (using a Bee Gees album on the record player), and I would pretend to be the Hulk, smashing and throwing sofa pillows in our family room.
That personal story is no weirder, I promise you, than the events of“Alice in Disco Land.”
It was a strange time.
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