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Deathmask - The Incredible Hulk Classic TV Series.

Updated on November 3, 2014

The Incredible Hulk does suspense-filled crime drama - and rocks it!

This episode is a gritty story about a serial killer murdering young college girls, who leaves a trademark mask at the scene (hence the title, Deathmask). It's a mix of "ripped from the headlines" type of story inspired by the likes of Ted Bundy with a touch of Friday the 13th/Halloween style slasher flick, and it's totally unlike most other episodes.

Obviously, not the best episode to watch with younger children.

The synopsis:

David Banner (masquerading as David "Brent") works at the college library, and makes the perfect suspect when the murders start - He is a loner and drifter, leaving more questions in his wake than answers. He becomes the only suspect when he saves the latest victim, only to have her call out his name before slipping into a coma as he is taken away by the killer. The eyewitness to the event only see the killer fleeing and the victim yelling "David!" The cops quickly piece together which David this is (she was frequently seen on campus talking with David), and haul him in for questioning.

David Banner makes the perfect suspect, but the tension only builds when he is arrested.
David Banner makes the perfect suspect, but the tension only builds when he is arrested.

Deathmask is atmospheric, chilling and suspenseful.

The first act does what first acts typically do - establish the characters and the situation (set the table so to speak), and the 3rd act provides the resolution. Typically, it's the 3rd act where the action is and the climax is reached, but Deathmask is different. In Deathmask, it's the 2nd act that provides the suspense and builds to a crescendo.

That's something that took me by surprise the first time I saw this episode. After re-watching it, it makes perfect sense when you realize that it's a gritty crime drama set in the universe of The Incredible Hulk, and therefore restricted to that framework. The crime drama aspect ends with Act II, and The Incredible Hulk story plays out in the final act.

So we have an episode where the suspenseful plot climax is reached in Act II, but the action climax hits in Act III. After the suspense-focused crime drama is played out, it's time for the Hulk to go to work on the perpetrator.

But it's the second act, interrogation scene where the meat is...

"You don't know what it's like to have to keep something locked up inside you..."

"You, whatever the hell your name is, are not what you seem..."

During his interrogation, things go badly for David. His driver's license is registered to another person, and his social security card and library employee card are registered to two other, different people.

"Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream? "

-E. A. Poe

We also get a little bit of dream within a dream action in the interrogation scene. Witness this bit of dialog:

Chief Frank Rhodes: Rhodes and Janus. Good cop, bad cop.

Dr. David Bruce Banner: Janus, the Roman God?

Chief Frank Rhodes: Yeah, remember, he's eh... two faced. Each face is ... looking in the opposite direction. Two sides to every question. I can understand that.

When the police chief Rhodes mentions Janus, the two-faced Roman god, David perks up. That's when things get interesting, the interview itself takes on another face.

As we know, David is dealing with the two faces of his condition, so the interrogation plays off that a bit. But it also makes another surprising turn as the audience learns David is not the only one afflicted with dual personalities...

"He doesn't see his little blond teases...with their lipstick and makeup masks.. he doesn't see them making fools of him."

As I said, the 3rd act is fairly anti-climactic owing mostly to the fact that this is, after all, The Incredible Hulk and not a Law and Order episode. This merger of the two concepts works well enough even though the transition is a bit cliched, with an angry posse breaking into the police station to abduct David and bring him to "real justice."

Despite the narrowly defined and cliché mob, the main plot and storyline is executed brilliantly, and the crime drama and The Incredible Hulk elements of the episode are blended fairly well.

Angry and cliched mob.
Angry and cliched mob.

Deathmask is one of the episodes

Gerald McRaney

The chief inspector, Frank Rhodes, is played brilliantly by Gerald McRaney, of Simon & Simon fame.

He also went on to star in Major Dad, and Promised Land and was a series regular for the first season of Jericho, and the final season of Deadwood.

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    • M. Beck profile image

      M. Beck 3 years ago from Parts Unknown

      I know what you mean. This is one of the gems in the series for sure.

    • profile image

      David Barber 3 years ago

      Completely took me by surprise when I first watched this in 1996 on the Sci-Fi Channel. Bixby and McRaney both gave superb performances.