Turd of Paradise – Hulk Hogan Does Indiana Jones on the Beach

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Imagine Knight Rider, but instead of David Hasselhoff, it’s Hulk Hogan, and instead of a car, it’s a boat. Cars drive on roads; boring concrete roads where there are hardly any boobs or butts; but boats live on the water, which is where you find women in bikinis. With boobs and butts. That’s clearly the entire thinking behind Thunder in Paradise, from the tit-obsessed minds behind Baywatch. Running for one full season and an interactive videogame, Thunder began as a feature-length pilot, released straight-to-video in September 93, and airing on TV the following March, which is what I’ll be dissecting here.

Should you doubt the relationship between Thunder in Paradise and Baywatch, the opening shot features a swimsuited woman with 90’s TV nipples rubbing herself between the breasts on a boat. The camera pans to another woman’s arse, and then a third lady’s legs and boobs. In a bit stolen from Jurassic Park, marking the approach of something big, their cocktails start vibrating, which I’m pretty sure is not how water works. More exciting than a T Rex, it’s the eponymous hi-tech boat, with its name written on the side in cool graffiti font, accompanied by the rock-wail of its entrance music — “Thunder!

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This introductory sequence demands to be broken down, second by exhilarating second. A black speedboat tears along the water. At the wheel; Hulk Hogan, in a SEAL TEAM baseball cap and eyepatch. A singer howls, undoubtedly with his eyes closed, fists clenched, and endless American flags emerging from his penis like a magician’s handkerchiefs. “Thunder in paradise. Lightning striking twice! Mess with Thunder, and you pay the price!” Hulk’s sidekick, Jack Lemmon’s son, checks that his revolver’s loaded. The word THUNDER slams onto the screen, explodes, and then is struck by lightning. It’s almost too much to bear. “Thunder in paradise. Some sacrifice. Mess with Thunder, paaaaay the price! Yeah!” Hogan’s weird curtain of white-blond doll-hair flaps hypnotically in the wind. “Never had a night like this. Been kissed by a hurricane!” It ends on such a crescendo of excitement, even the singer loses his senses, rhyming “paradise” with “sails blazing in the sun!” Speedboats don’t have sails, but who cares?! Thunder!

Such a thrilling opening leaves Thunder in Paradise a lot to live up to. First good sign, is that we have the classic ‘fighty lug/goofy sidekick’ buddy pairing. Hulk is again credited as Terry “Hulk” Hogan, and gifts us one of the all-time great character names in Randolph J. ‘Hurricane’ Spencer. Chris Lemmon’s character is called Bru, which is one letter away from Bro, but may also take itself from the name of Hulk’s real life bestie, Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake. Beefcake, incidentally, also features in this show. We know Hulk and Bru are bffs, because they have a special handshake. Where does this rank in the TV bro handshakes pantheon? Well, striking forearm to forearm, like a Nam Sgt telling his troops to halt, then raising a thumb of “okay!”, I’d put it above Will and Jazz’s “psssh!” from Fresh Prince, but below Zack Morris and A.C. Slater’s ‘handshake into broshake, out into finger-snap and pistol-point’.

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It’s in this first scene that we’re properly introduced to the boat. Thunder was Hulk’s design, built out of his own pocket so he could pitch it to the Navy. When they go below deck, it’s around twenty times bigger than the actual boat, literally just a huge square room, with that classic 90’s hi-tech computer lab design. There are banks of switches, dials, and buttons for tech-hacker Bru to prod; arrays of CRT screens with various readouts; compartments of guns and a retractable rocket launcher. Occasionally it speaks in a robot voice, and even has a hidden jet ski called Trigger, which rides around on its own looking for its master.

Like all good action films — which this is not — we begin with a mini pre-adventure, which is far from the last time the Indiana Jones films are… referenced by TiP. As in every scene, because it’s the nineties, squealing guitar signals Thunder’s approach to Cuba, where Bru and Hulk rescue some guy named Pong’s family from “angry, die-hard communists,” before Castro can snatch them up as prisoners. Cut to: PUERTO MANATI, CUBA; a real place, but represented here as every third-world South American movie setting ever, with loose chickens and goats running between people pushing wooden carts of fruit, while sleazy-looking militia loiter with rifles. Before setting out, Hulk gorges on a plate of plain, microwaved rice to get some “complex carbs,” and with good reason. He’s riding a jet-ski; he’s hitting five guys at once with a tree trunk; he’s destroying a jetty with his bare hands, sending bad guys flying into the water. And if you like people flipping into the water in slow motion, Thunder in Paradise is the show for you, taking its action beats from The A-Team, where baddies jump out of the way just as their vehicle explodes, so we know they didn’t die, and thousands of rounds of gunfire hit nothing but sandbags and walls. When they break out Thunder’s gatling gun, the enemies hold their hands over their ears, like its deadliest function is being really loud.

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But it’s not all bang-bang bullishness, as much of the Cuban minisode is a ludicrous stealth mission, where a 6’5” man with orange skin and an eyepatch scuttles around on rooftops, with “I’m sneaking!” movements like he’s looking for somewhere to empty his hot diarrhea. Eventually, he drops into the bad guys’ jeep, banging their heads together like a PE teacher, rescues Pong’s family, and Thunder makes its escape, with stock footage gunships on its tail. It’s here that Thunder in Paradise diverts from its action pretensions to become something else entirely. Something horrifying. But first, I want to talk to you about Hulk Hogan’s manky eye.

From the very first scene, Hulk’s character is wearing an eyepatch. An interesting character choice, you think, nicely alluding to some deeper piece of of backstory. Perhaps he lost it in a previous mission, gored out by a swordfish, or some kind of autofellatio incident during a big wave? But on returning from Cuba, he’s in sunglasses, and people are asking “how’s the eye?” There’s vague talk of a “Kowalski” being at fault, but then he’s back to the patch again, and we’ve still not seen what’s behind it. Now there’s a sense of mystery, like singer Gabrielle, whose TOTP appearances cued distracting thoughts of her eyepatch lifting to shoot laser beams, or reveal a nesting field-mouse. When Hulk meets with this Kowalski — played by Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart — and finally shows us his eye, I immediately recognise it as the black eye from Wrestlemania IX, as mentioned in my previous piece.

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In wrestling lore, this is a famous wound, worn by Hogan as he tagged with Brutus Beefcake — seen arm-wrestling Neidhart in this scene — and said variously to be the result of, in storyline, an attack by Ted DiBiase’s goons; in an official statement, a jet ski accident; and in gossip, the result of being punched by Randy Savage. Whatever the truth behind the Wrestlemania injury, Thunder in Paradise started shooting eight days later, forcing hilarious rewrites where Hulk spent most of movie in sunglasses or an eyepatch, and one of his wrestler buddies had to be drafted in for an extra scene to explain it away. A continuity nightmare, it switches between looking pretty normal and completely grotesque from scene to scene; sometimes in the same scene, where you forget all about it, then suddenly — yeech, he’s got a leaky red egg in his eyehole. But I guess that was better than, I dunno, taking two seconds to film him getting injured in the opening scene, and keeping it covered up until the very end?

Okay, I can’t put it off any longer, let’s return to the plot, beginning with a long establishing montage of the Paradise Beach hotel resort, as Patrick Macnee steps out of a white limo and takes it all in. It’s the basic stuff I see on any given day at Littlehampton seafront; women in bikinis running in slow-mo under stock Calypso music; open-mouthed surf dudes drooling over a barmaid tying a knot in a cherry stem with her tongue; Jimmy Hart presiding over an arm wrestling contest between Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake and Hercules Hernandez. What’s Macnee doing here? Well, the hotel/resort was built by “his step-brother’s family,” and having recently died, everything will be going to him, unless his niece, Megan, can fulfil a clause in the will. The clause that she gets married. Within the next 48 hours. And she’s got an antagonistic relationship with Hulk Hogan (though he gets on great with her little girl). Fucking hell. Though it’s not revealed for a while, just the word ‘clause’ had me writing “I hope she’s not got to marry Hulk to keep the hotel” in my notes. Spoilers, she does, and as Evil Uncle Patrick Macnee plans to sell off the hotel to a corporate chain, I’ve been bait-and-switched from action movie into yet another evil property developer plot. But worse, this whole thing is another attempt to sell Hogan as a romantic lead, dragging me down into romcom purgatory.

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As with the love story in No Holds Barred, the only way for an audience to buy romantic interest in such a freakish oaf is via the combative battle of the sexes trope, where intense irritation eventually turns to love. In the pair’s first scene together, Megan screeches at Hulk that he’s “the most reckless, irresponsible, juvenile delinquent of a man I have ever met in my entire life,” in a fine example of the opposites attract rule, where the more adjectives used in the insult, the harder she’ll eventually fall for him. Though in this specific case, those opposites are a gorgeous twenty-something model-type, and a haggered middle-aged maniac with a pus-filled eye, urine-coloured hairline that starts an inch from the back of his neck, and wearing snakeskin boots and a pair of tasselled leather chaps that read BAD TO THE BONE across the arse.

Despite the friction, it turns out Hulk’s in massive debt from building Thunder, which is about to be repossessed, so he agrees to a mutually beneficial marriage. Megan gets to keep the hotel, he gets to keep his magic boat. Plus, he’s great mates with her young daughter. In fact, the scenes with Hulk and the kid are his best acting performances by a mile. The wrestling character of Hulk Hogan is all about the little Hulkamaniacs, and the man himself is great with children. Somewhere out there in the multiverse, along with the world where Jeff Goldblum played Kramer, is a reality where Hogan was cast as the lead in Kindergarten Cop. Such friends are Spencer and the kid, that he gives her a necklace pulled from the guts of a shark and takes her parasailing; the latter giving us some fantastic Hulk Hogan ADR, with “whoooa!” and “ho hoo!” noises, in a scene which is shot entirely in close-up, clearly 6 inches off the ground. Though I imagine this was a rough watch for Brutus Beefcake at the première party, having genuinely had his face caved in via near-fatal parasailing accident a few years prior.

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After a scene where Hulk practises various intonations of “I love you” to make it sound believable — which is like a window into all of his line readings — the wedding day is upon us. The bride looks resplendent in her dress, as does the groom in his blue bandana. The ceremony appears to have been filmed in the middle of a tornado, with crazy Florida winds battering the shrubbery, wedding flowers, and all that big 90’s hair and clothes, while everyone acts like it’s not windy at all. Seriously, they can barely stay on their feet, with Megan almost taking off into the sky as she’s walking the aisle, and as the happy couple join hands, they have to pretend like her 4-feet veil’s not thrashing around like a wild snake, right into Hulk’s face. Though I’ll never marry, certain elements here are exactly what I’d hope to incorporate into my own big day; namely, the Monkey Island-sounding music, and the groomsmen of Brutus Beefcake and Jimmy Hart, in his classic pink jacket with piano key lapels. They bicker during the vows when Megan blackmails him into handing over 51% ownership of Thunder, and Patrick Macnee stands to declare the marriage “a deception and a fraud,” but seal the deal anyway. Then Brutus Beefcake cries and loudly blows his nose. Another one for my wedding dream board.

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After the knot-tying, Thunder in Paradise really hoists its flag as Chucklevision Indiana Jones. We’ve previously been introduced to a skeezy gang of gunrunners, each with that classic 80s/early 90s militia look; all headbands, vests and combat pants; a swarthy league of undefined third-world nations. Also, because Hogan’s WWF mates are all in this, 7’7” Giant Gonzalez is their head muscle. When the lead baddie recognises the necklace Hulk gave his new step-daughter — as once described to him by a convict! — as “the key to a fortune,” he shows up at the wedding to snatch it right off the little girl’s neck. Hulk runs them off, and spends his wedding night smoking cigars and piecing together the necklace into a treasure map of nearby islands. In exposition, we learn the necklace was made by a convict called Andrew ‘The Gimp’ Gilmore, perpetrator of a $3m heist — presumably the cum-soaked leather mask hid his face from the security cam — and the prime suspect in over a dozen unsolved robberies. They figure he stashed all his loot on the islands, which they now have the map to retrieve.

Okay, so a mere two days ago, a shirtless Hulk was pensively staring out at the water because he owed $100k to the bank and was about to lose everything, while Megan was fretting over her uncle selling off the hotel. That would have given the treasure hunt some dramatic tension. Instead, they got married, instantly solving both their problems, and leaving us to enjoy more pointless and excretable photocopies of far-better sequences from Temple of Doom. Where No Holds Barred gave us ‘Hulk Hogan at the Pankot Palace,’ Thunder in Paradise presents the full Willie Scott, as clumsy, scaredy-cat Megan gets wrapped in cobwebs, screams at snakes, and almost breaks a nail, until Hulk’s forced to carry her over his shoulder, like Richard Branson with a nineteen-year-old model whose smile doesn’t reach her eyes. It’s almost as if she wasn’t listening when he banned her from “backtalk.

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If you’re keeping score, we’ve got the opposites attract marriage plot, evil gunrunners, and a necklace leading to hidden treasure. There’s so much going on, and yet, nothing is happening. Really, I’m making this sound a thousand times more interesting than it actually is. During its 104 minute running time, I had to constantly rewind after getting distracted by more enjoyable pursuits, such as smashing my dick up with a hammer. After what seems like fifty years, they finally reach the treasure, when Hulk lifts a big polystyrene rock to reveal a Goonies-style underground grotto, and a hidden cache of gold coins. But of course, the gunrunners have followed them, and after kidnapping the little girl and the barmaid, they have Hulk and co send up the gold, before closing off the entrance with the rock and trapping them down there, you know, like the snake pit in Raiders.

There follows another example of Thunder’s childlike approach, down there in its plastic, glowing cavern covered in Halloween cobwebs. After the earlier ingestion of microwaved rice because it’s “rocket fuel for your body!”, Hulk, now in tiny speedos, makes a big deal of breathing in and out real deeply, with Bru informing us “he’s oxygenating his blood.” Perhaps that’s how he managed to hold his breath for about a decade while searching for an underwater exit. Once he sees it, after literally minutes down there, rather than surface and take a breath, he turns straight round and swims all the way back, almost drowning in the process. By the way, if you think his hair looks gross dry, it’s even more disgusting wet, like 3D-printed piss. The three of them swim out through the underground chamber, keeping some spare air in a bag that Megan sticks her head into occasionally, ending an interminable six minutes of slow, silent, underwater swim footage by surfacing inside Thunder, which is being towed behind the bad guy’s boat.

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Preparing for his first real action sequence since the opening ten minutes, and readying to rescue his new daughter from her murderous captors, Hulk takes the time to paint his face in an intricate warpaint design. He’s practically invisible, sneaking around the enemies’ big white boat, an orange giant in black shorts and jungle camouflage. He’s even tied his wet ‘hair’ into a vile little ponytail. The goons quickly succumb to more A-Team non-violence; sleeperholds, going overboard in slow motion; at one point, Hulk pulls out a massive Rambo knife, but it’s kicked out of his hand by some ninja guy before he can core out anyone’s anus with it. Said ninja does a flippy Kung Fu demonstration before Hulk wearily KOs him with a single punch, like, say, the sword guy in Raiders.

Hulk is captured, and ordered to be chained up and fed to the sharks, along with the little girl and the barmaid, leading to some of that great, cheek-wobbling Angry Wrestler acting. Earlier, Hulk told an anecdote about being locked inside a shark tank and literally tearing one in half with his bare hands, so it seemed like the set-up for some final act Lucio Fulci-style shark-wrestling. No. Even though this is happening way out to sea, they hit the bottom right away, in crystal-clear daylight waters, quite obviously laying on the bottom of a swimming pool, where you can see the reflection of the waves right above. Hulk breaks loose and rescues them, with zero sharks to be seen, though there are plenty of shots of Megan pacing thunder’s lab in a bikini, as though some brave viewer’s risking a wank, knowing at any moment they’ll cut back to Hulk Hogan, writhing around in speedos with a face like an old tyre. So, everyone gets free, Bru gets his kiss from the barmaid, and Thunder speeds away, chased by a huge missile. Hulk steers the missile back to the baddies’ boat, where each goon is shown individually leaping overboard to safety before it hits, so the little Hulkamaniacs can see nobody died. Little do they know, they’ve far, far worse in store before this is over. Also, it’s clear from the rockets firing out during the explosion that production beefed it up by putting actual fireworks in there. Unfortunately, the treasure got ‘sploded too. “There’s always another day in paradise,” says Hulk.

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But before paradise, comes Hell. While great lengths were taken to render its action as violent as your grandad tapping you on the shoulder to get your attention during Sunday lunch, Thunder‘s final scene proves they have no such qualms when it comes to sex. Nothing is more appalling than the sexualizing of the Hulkster, and an earlier scene showed Horny Hogan going off with a bikini woman who offered to go fuck him behind the dunes — “Lead the way!” — painting abhorrent mental pictures of how a man who emotes entirely through sweat-drenched, primal grunting behaves when he’s pumping away with his willy. But now we get to see it live, in a hard cut to a seemingly naked Hulk, laying in bed, surrounded by candles. He puts on some sex music, as Megan emerges from the bathroom in lingerie, causing him to accidentally pop a champagne cork like he’s just cum.

This begins what’s best described as the pair of them squirm-cuddling, in an alien’s idea of what sex entails. Hulk’s dubbing is truly sensational here, genuinely making that “mmmm” noise typed by Twitter sex pests when commenting on the “busty displays” of Scottish weather presenters. His erotic moans and pig-like grunts suggest the kind of sexual agonies depicted in Hellraiser; like he’s been in prison for 30 years and suddenly let loose on a fleshlight. Aside from scrawling “I’ll never become erect again,” my initial notes during this scene were “wonder if Macnee’s watching through the keyhole?” Before the biro was dry, we pan up to a hidden camera in an air-vent, and Patrick Macnee watching his niece have sex with Hulk Hogan on a monitor, in a spooky prediction of what ended up bringing down Gawker. Though unlike the real tape, at least this one doesn’t start with Hogan slapping his tummy and complaining of bellyache from eating too much Chinese food. But as it turns out, it’s all a ruse. If Macnee doesn’t buy that they’re in love, she’ll lose the hotel, so they’re trying to make it look real, knowing that he’s watching. Honestly, no television audience has ever believed Hulk Hogan’s felt an emotion besides ‘has just done cocaine’, so their chances aren’t good. We end this most PG of TV movies with Hogan vigorously thrusting under the sheets, before making a noise like he’s ejaculating so hard, his helmet’s shot off across the room like Boba Fett’s rocket.

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As thin and tedious as the actual plots within, Thunder in Paradise contains enough outright weirdness, combined with the cardboard sets and Hulk’s roundly awful acting — he has the emotional range of an old BMX at the bottom of a lake — to fit into the watchably shitty category. If nothing else, enjoy its take on Women in Love‘s scene by the fire, where a depressed Hulk gets snapped out of his funk thanks to a bro-fight with Bru, throwing karate poses and choking each other while laughing hysterically; made all the better by Chris Lemmon’s close physical resemblance to his legendary father. Unfortunately, there are enough elements to make me curious enough to return to the full series, which ran for another twenty episodes. Megan is only credited for the first episode, while Hulk’s character is described as “a widower,” meaning I’ll have to track it down for some great grieving scenes; while the show was such an artistic travesty, ‘Bru’ Lemmon blames it for the subsequent and immediate death of his acting career.

This is from my new Patreon, where subscribers could read this a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as $1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, including more in-depth looks at Hulk Hogan’s ‘acting’, like this piece about No Holds Barred and Zeus, or the time he joined his WCW chums on Baywatch.

There’s a bunch of posts live already, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, like my new novella, Jangle. Please give my existing books a look too.

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~ by Stuart on June 16, 2018.

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