Movie: Recently, a movie was released about everyone's favorite green comic character (well, except for those who like the Green Lantern), The Hulk. The character has been around for over 40 years in one form or another and in 1977 a television movie, and then a series, was made where Dr. Banner was investigating altering the human body by means of radiation rather than the original version where he was a weapon designer for the military. The mood of the times, including a change in public attitudes towards defense department scientists and government in general, made this necessary. Regardless, the doctor gets overexposed to the radiation and ends up turning into a large, green creature known as the Hulk whenever he gets mad. The creature's minimal intelligence retains, on some deeper level, Banner's sense of right and wrong so when he attacks someone or something, he never hurts the innocent. A tabloid reporter follows Hulk sightings, which puts Banner on the run. The television Hulk was a much powered-down version compared to the comic book version (relating to budgets) but he was still strong enough to overpower large bulldozers, heal faster than Wolverine, and escape when chased.
The television series opened each week with the following opener: "Doctor 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 alters his body chemistry and now when David Banner grows angry or outraged, a startling metamorphosis occurs. The creature is driven by rage and pursued by an investigative reporter. The creature is wanted for a murder he didn't commit. David Banner is believed to be dead and he must let the world think that he is dead until he can find a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him."
The show starred the late, great Bill Bixby as Dr. David Bruce Banner and the massive Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk. Pursued by a tabloid reporter, Jack McGee (Jack Colvin), Banner seeks a cure to his self-inflicted ailment by exploring a variety of non-traditional remedies, while attempting to help people along the way. A lot of the late 70's philosophy was structured into the writing of the show (ESP, self help, anti-government themes, alternative medicines, etc.) but it was still entertaining to watch each week as the giant green smashed his way through a variety of obstacles. Several of the shows have already been released and this review concerns The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Collection, a six disc set of episodes from several of the shows seasons. Here's a breakdown of the 6 discs included in the package, followed by some commentary by yours truly:
Episode 2.5: Rainbow's End: October 13, 1978: This episode focused on Banner's attempt to use a Native American medicine to control the Hulk. In a sense, rather than use science to combat a problem brought on by science, he seeks to use an organic means to control the Hulk. Back when this episode aired, a lot of people believed in the power of natural medicines to cure modern ailments (it was a hot topic issue in cancer research). Other than that, the story dealt with a horse racing matter.
Episode 2.7: Another Path: October 27, 1978: This episode focused on Banner's attempt to use martial arts and internal control to regulate the Hulk. This was another popular idea of the time-the thought that modern day living was causing illness and only a return to a simpler life could save us all. The story otherwise dealt with Banner trying to help an old Chinese teacher from those who'd seek to use the martial arts in the wrong way.
Episode 2.18: The Disciple: March 16, 1979: This was a follow up episode to the last one with the old Chinese teacher, Li Sun, again under attack. While Banner seeks to control his anger from within, he once again helps the old man and a young cop (played by Rick Springfield when he was much younger). The power of martial arts and self-control are preached.
Episode 4.12: The First: March 6, 1981: Banner runs across another victim of modern science, one that had a similar problem as he currently faces but years ago. Hoping to find the cure through the research of a long-dead scientist, Banner races against the clock to see if the similar nature of the affliction might have the same cure.
Episode 4.13: The First: March 13, 1981: While trying to find the cure to his transformations, Banner and his new friend accidentally transform the man who had been thought to be cured, into his version of the Hulk. Leaving a trail of destruction much like Banner usually does, the guy fights attempts to be cured (old age has left him sick and weak so the power of his alter ego intoxicates him). The two Hulks fight in the laboratory while McGee races to the scene.
Episode 2.20: Kindred Spirits: April 6, 1979: Hearing of an archeological dig that uncovers evidence of a creature much like the Hulk in the ancient past, Banner rushes to the site in order to see if the past might hold the answers he's looking for. Life gets complicated when one of the scientists is an old friend of his and he must help her from the various interests that want the dig stopped. Some radical Native American activists, trying to prevent the desecration of their ancestors, are the chief problem this time.
Episode 2.10: Stop The Presses: November 24, 1978: Banner, while working an odd job at a restaurant, is caught up in a scandal that threatens to expose that he's still alive. He needs to break into the newspaper office of the National Register, the same paper McGee works at, in order to retrieve a photograph of himself in order to ensure his secret. Into the den of the lion he goes, knowing full well the chances he's taking by doing so.
Episode 2.16: Mystery Man: March 2, 1979: Banner gets amnesia and ends up in a hospital with bandages on his face. McGee investigates and the two end up in a plane crash where Banner saves his life. McGee suspects he knows who the patient is and his investigative instincts serve him well, even if the mystery being solves is the last thing he'll do.
Episode 2.17: Mystery Man: March 9, 1979: As some wildfires and wolves threaten to end both of their quests, the two manage by with one another's help. A lot of background data is learned during the exposition portions of both episodes.
Episode 4.4: Dark Side: December 5, 1980: Banner, in his ever-continuing quest to rid himself of the Hulk, screws up and injects himself with a serum that ends up changing his personality into that of a carefree criminal with little, if any, regard for others. Until this point in the show, Banner's conscious was the only thing that protected people from the ravages of the Hulk. Will this be one of the times when the Hulk saves the day from Banner?
Episode 4.5: Deep Shock: December 12, 1980: Banner nearly dies from an electrical jolt and ends up with the ability to see the future. His new ability isn't as handy as you'd think and when he tries to save some people from the future, they resist.
Episode 4.14: The Harder They Fall: March 27, 1981: Banner is crippled by a car accident and put in a recovery unit with similarly afflicted people. He knows how to cure himself but when his new friends turn to criminal activities to right some wrongs, he feels obligated to save them from themselves first.
Episode 1.5: 747: April 7, 1978: On a passenger airliner full of people, Banner becomes their only hope of survival when the pilots are out of commission by a couple of saboteurs. This episode reunited Bixby with his co-star from The Courtship Of Eddie's Father, Brandon Cruz. Will Banner be able to safely land the plane without any piloting skills whatsoever?
Episode 1.2: A Death In The Family: November 28, 1977: This was actually the follow-up movie to the original premiere opener and dealt with the aftermath of the laboratory accident. It lasted two hours when it first showed (it was about 95 minutes here) and centered on Banner coming to the realization that his experiments impacted not only himself but those around him too. In a sense, it showed his motivation for being on the run in order to keep those around him from being hurt by the transformations.
Episode 3.18: The Psychic: February 22, 1980: A psychic, in search of money, attempts to sell Banner out to McGee. When fate intervenes, she finds he's not only innocent of murder, but also her only hope against a real killer. Will she still turn him in if he saves her?
Episodes 4.1: Prometheus: November 7, 1980: A meteor crashes to the Earth and emits a strange radiation that effects Banner, keeping him stuck halfway through his transformation. He has some of the Hulk's strength and some of Banner's intelligence with an equivalent amount of emotional control (or lack thereof). Hampered by his desire to protect a blind woman, he is captured by the United States military.
Episodes 4.2: Prometheus: November 14, 1980: Trapped in a secret government laboratory, Banner, in his current state, is unable to escape. It may take McGee to come to the rescue of his nemesis when he runs through the complex, trying to get away from everyone who would trap him like a lab rat forever.
Okay, there were 17 episodes of the original show (one was the double-length follow-up to the first two hour movie) here. The box suggests that these were the favorite episodes of the fans, which may be true for some of you, but I have a list of my own favorites and only about half of these come close. There were no extras included and I was disappointed that the show wasn't released in a season box set like so many other shows have been lately. True fans of the show will buy each season and those who aren't are unlikely to buy a mishmash of episodes from throughout the shows run (the first episode aired on March 10, 1978 and the last on May 12, 1982). I remember reviewing the final television movie, Death Of The Incredible Hulk, which was a great disappointment for me (and a terrible way to close out the show) and hoping that a sensible way of releasing the original episodes would take place but I guess someone in marketing had other ideas.
Other problems for me were that the discs are not externally marked with which episode was on each disc, there was no paper insert detailing any information on the included episodes, no extras at all were included, and the fold out DVD case is prone to scratches. The shows themselves looked okay, with all the typical print scratches you'd expect from a television show from over twenty years ago, and the monaural sound was cleaned up a bit (but not very advanced considering modern advances in re-mastering technology.
So, what to rate the DVD set becomes my dilemma. I liked the show and the themes it explored and I thought this set was better than if it had been released in a two shows per disc format, I just hope that future releases include something extra since the "favorite" episodes have now been released. My rating for this one applies solely to fans of the show and comes in at Recommended.
Picture: The picture was presented in its original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color, as broadcast. There were a multitude of print scratches and minor flaws due to the source material but it certainly looked better than the episodes currently aired on the Sci-Fi Channel. I don't think Universal is going to spend the money to clean it up so consider this an okay looking DVD for that old of a show.
Sound: The audio was presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural English with closed captions in English for the hard of hearing as well as French and Spanish subtitles. It sounded a bit hollow but then, so did the original. The whole show appeared to be standard for an older television show with no new problems as a result of the DVD transfer.
Extras: None, not a paper insert, a commentary, a featurette as found in the archives of the show, or anything else. Maybe in the future, Universal will see the light to include something for fans.
Final Thoughts: The show had its share of flaws when it originally aired and was never meant to be great but it did have a number of solid episodes that transcended the gimmick of the Hulk special effects. For all its limitations, there was a lot to like here and fans will certainly appreciate the box set for what it is, rather than complain too loudly for what it is not. The technical stuff wasn't bad and this is likely as close to season sets as you'll ever find so get one if you're a fan.