Universal // 1979 // 1080 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino (Retired) // June 4th, 2008
"Dr. David Banner, physician/scientist, searching for a way to tap into the hidden strengths that all humans have. Then an accidental overdose of gamma radiation interacts with his unique body chemistry. And now, when David Banner grows angry or outraged, a startling metamorphosis occurs."
The Incredible Hulk was a classic mix of science fiction and human drama. Based on the Marvel Comic book, the late-70s television series was more like The Fugitive with a shot of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This third season offers more of the fun camp and serious drama that the series is known for.
Dr. David Banner has a little problem -- when he gets angry he turns into a large, green monster and starts busting up the place. It all started when Banner (Bill Bixby) was doused with a boatload of gamma rays. Now, thanks to his destructive nature, he's a fugitive in search of a cure, on the run from reporter Jack McGee (Jack Colvin). And while Banner may not understand the need for press coverage, he does try and help those in need -- and he manages to find someone in need just about every episode.
The show's episodes can essentially be lumped in to two categories: David Banner is traveling somewhere and he runs into danger, or Banner is stationary and trouble finds him. No matter the situation, his adventures always end up making him "Hulk out" twice an episode...because that's what the people want!
Here's a list of episodes from Season Three:
* "Blind Rage"
* "Brain Child"
* "The Slam"
* "My Favorite Magician"
* "Behind the Wheel"
* "The Snare"
* "Captive Night"
* "Broken Image"
* "Proof Positive"
* "Long Run Home"
* "Falling Angels"
* "The Lottery"
* "The Psychic"
* "A Rock and a Hard Place"
* "Nine Hours"
* "On The Line"
The Incredible Hulk is a rare breed: a successful live-action comic book series that lasted more than just a season. (Sorry Flash and The Tick, but Hulk has you guys beat.) This is largely due to the fact that the show has little to do with the original source material. Instead of being an action packed super-hero brawl where the Hulk fights the military and Wolverine every episode, it's a morality play about a man's battle with his inner demons in a society that refuses to accept him. Writer Walker Percy says it best, that The Incredible Hulk combines two great literary traditions, "rotation" (i.e. running away, adventures, etc.) and "the good monster." It's a formula that never seems to get old.
The Fugitive and The Incredible Hulk may have the same premise, but their tones are rather different. Hulk feels more theatrical, largely because of Bixby's grandiose acting. He's really the perfect actor to play Dr. David Banner. Yet despite the respectability of the show's lead, the series can't escape the campy feel of '70s television. There are plenty of goofy outfits, wonky musical cues, and more than a number of ridiculous sight-gags. Why, for example, does David Banner need to become a stagehand for a has-been magician, or work as a side-show in a carnival? These episodes provide a little bit of ironic humor to someone watching this show for the first time, but they were probably genuinely appreciated back in the day (I assume...unless people thought they were just as goofy back then).
Adding to the campy nature of the show is the "Hulk out" itself. Whenever Banner gets angry, his eyes turn white and his clothes rip; moments later he is The Hulk (played by bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno), a grunting green giant who moves in slow motion and sports a dapper pair of shorts. I can understand why I liked watching this series as a child (in reruns of course), the Hulk always shows up just in time to kick the butts of the bad guys (without every throwing a punch) and bust through a few walls. Sure his destructive nature is tame compared to the comics, but the show does pretty well for its budget. It's really the reasons Banner turns in to the Hulk that are questionable.
Most of the time, Banner "Hulks out" because of his own clumsiness. In "Blind Rage," Banner accidentally becomes blind after losing his gas mask and being pushed down a hill into a military landfill...later in the episode he blindly wanders into a minefield and gets blown up. In "The Lottery," Banner gets shoved into a closet by some crooks, and accidentally puts his hand in a box full of glass. In "The Snare," he is struck with a bullwhip at point-blank range on top of a mountain, and continues to stand there and take it until he finally trips and then turns into the Hulk (see photo). Because he turns into the Hulk twice an episode, there are plenty of great, and not-so-great, reasons for him to go-green. That's part of the fun of watching the show.
Season Three has its share of ups and downs for Banner. Every episode is self-contained, and there isn't a real chronology as things play out amongst the 23 episodes. Sometimes Banner is very close to finding a cure, and other times it feels like he's starting from scratch. We all know that he isn't going to find a cure (if he did, the series would end), but we do want to know what gets in his way. There are a few episodes worth skipping, like "My Favorite Magician" and "Proof Positive," and others absolutely worth watching, like "Deathmask" and "The Snare" (which is a retelling of The Most Dangerous Game adapted by Richard Matheson, who wrote I Am Legend).
If you do watch the show as I did, which is in chronological order, you'll quickly spot the generic Hulk footage they use over and over (like him running down a narrow, dark alley). You may also catch the over-abundance of styrofoam props that look pretty fake -- who knew that a brick wall would produce a ton of little snowy dots? These are minor quibbles, of course, that add a little bit of charm to the show while simultaneously detracting from the drama and excitement I'm supposed to be feeling. It's just additional proof that the show is more about the drama of Banner and less about the actions of the Hulk.
This five-disc box set looks and sounds fairly good. The episodes have held up well in terms of image quality, while still retaining that distinct '70s TV feel. The sound is okay, even for being Dolby mono. There are a few instances where the voiceover dubs (which are used quite frequently) sound terribly fake and probably could have used a little balancing. But I must say that "The Lonely Man" theme song is still as memorable as ever.
There are two special features on the fifth disc of the set. The first is a 17-minute video featuring interviews with the show's producer Kenneth Johnson, and various writers from the series. It's a very informative featurette that delves into the background of the show, their treatment of the third season, and the behind-the-scenes dealings with the actors. The second featurette is much less substantial; it's just a three-minute look at the upcoming blockbuster The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton. It's about as fluffy as Ferrigno's hair.
The set is packed together nicely, with a cool lenticular cover showing Banner transforming into Hulk.
On its own merit, Season Three of The Incredible Hulk is a fun and assorted taste of the classic '70s sci-fi drama. There are some great episodes in the mix, and it's worth watching just to see how David Banner is going to "Hulk out." If you've already purchased the first two seasons, then you don't need convincing. This is a welcome addition, and a generally good season with only a few duds.
Plus, if you're buying this as soon as it's released, you'll get a free ticket to see the new Hulk film in theaters. So that right there should be worth it for any fan.
Guilty of immeasurable property damage!
Review content copyright © 2008 Michael Rubino; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 1080 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Remembering "The Incredible Hulk:" An American Classic
* The Incredible Hulk Sneak Peak
* Official Site
* Kenneth Johnson's Hulk Out List
* DVD Verdict Review - Season 1