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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Incredible Hulk - The Complete Third Season
The Incredible Hulk - The Complete Third Season
Universal // Unrated // June 3, 2008
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted June 25, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Series:

The Incredible Hulk, based on the Marvel Comics creation of the same name created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s, debuted on CBS in a made for TV movie in 1977 before becoming a full fledged weekly series in 1978. The show ran for five seasons before it was cancelled in 1982. Despite the fact that it wasn't all that long lived a series, the show definitely developed a cult following over the years and as such, Universal has followed up their 2006 release of the complete first and second seasons with this third boxed set containing all twenty-three episodes from the third season of the show.. just in time for the new movie in theaters now!

So what is the show all about? Well, most of us know the story of the Hulk, but for those who don't let it suffice to say that it's the story of a scientist named David Banner (Bill Bixby) who was inadvertently exposed to high levels of gamma radiation while researching the strength that lies within us all. Whenever David gets angry, he 'hulks out' and turns into a giant green skinned monster (played by Lou Ferrigno in a role that Arnold Schwarzenegger was famously turned down for) of incredible strength and very short temperment who tends to smash first and ask questions later. It's sort of like Dr. Jekyll And Mister Hyde with a little bit of Frankenstein thrown in periodically in that sometimes the Hulk is a fearsome creature, other times he is quite sympathetic in his childlike simplicity. As if turning into a giant green monster weren't bad enough for poor Banner, he's being followed from town to town by a tabloid reporter named Jack McGee (Jack Colvin), who by this point in the series has become pretty obsessive in his quest to break the big story and blow Banner's secret wide open. You see, early in the series the Hulk was fingered as being responsible for murder when in reality, he was trying to save the victim. That said, who would believe that a violent green monster wasn't responsible? As such, Banner lives his life on the run and roams from town to town taking odd jobs to get by.

Many of us who grew up in the late seventies and early eighties while the show was on the air were completely freaked out by the show. Whenever Banner turned into the Hulk his eyes would turn white and then slowly he'd glow and his muscles would bulge and eventually he'd be the giant green monster that the series was named after. The Hulk's make up was pretty odd too, in an unsettling sort of way, with the giant bushy eyebrows and the forehead appendages that made Ferrigno look like a cro-magnon man. Needless to say, it scared the crap out of a lot of kids at the time, but many of those same kids and plenty of people from an older demographic tuned in each week to see what kind of mess Banner would end up in, how he'd try to help the situation, and how he'd make friends only to have to get back on his way to avoid detection by the cops or by McGee before the end credits hit the screen. It was a pretty good premise for a show that, despite having aged to the point of camp these days, still proves to be genuinely good entertainment in spite of its shortcoming (obviously low budget effects, the fact that the Hulk's make up smears off sometimes, little things like that).

Here's a run down of the episodes that make up the third season:

Metamorphosis: David Banner saves a rock star from a car accident and she befriends him. When in the recording studio with her, a sneaky co-worker puts LSD in his orange juice. You ain't seen nothin' till you've seen the Hulk on an acid trip - and wait until he storms the stage at her upcoming concert! Definitely one of the strangest episodes in the entire series' run.

Blind Rage: David befriends a man who gets blinded by what people assume is a freak accident at a chemical weapons plant. The explosions douses the poor guy in chemicals and Banner finds himself in a race against time to find antidote that will save his pal's life.

Brain Child: David meets a brilliant teenage girl who has run away from her school to live life on her own terms, even if he knows she's really not ready for it. She's got some serious abandonment issues that stem back to her childhood when her mother left her, and David figures that the only way to fix this girl's head up right will be to reunite her with dear old mom.

The Slam: Living the life of a vagabond can come with its own set of unique problems - like getting picked up by the fuzz for vagrancy! He's found guilty and tossed into a work camp but he soon learns first hand that the system is corrupt... and that makes him angry.

My Favorite Magician: David is always looking to take on odd jobs but few are odder than his stint as an assistant to a quirky old magician. He seems alright at first but once David gets to know him a little better, he realizes that this guy is up to more than just parlor tricks. Not surprising in the least, however, is the fact that he's not going to be much of a match for the Hulk.

Jake: David winds up helping out at a rodeo that he's just sort of wandered into by chance. He makes fast friends with one of the performers and soon learns that this guy is performing but at a very serious risk to his health. Old cowboys die hard, however. Will David be able to stop him from what is sure to amount to suicide?

Behind The Wheel:> David winds up helping out a man who is doing his best to run a legitimate taxi cab company. Unfortunately, a gang of nefarious drug smugglers are moving in on his operation and trying to use it for their own devices. This doesn't sit well with David, nor does it sit well with his big, green, alter-ego.

Homecoming: David hears from his dad and learns that a plague is fast obliterating his farmland so he does what any good son would do in his situation - he develops a biological weapon! His mom, Helen Banner, is a little annoyed that David's been away for so long but soon forgives him when she learns the truth as David Hulks out and saves his dad from a near accident involving a bi-plane!

The Snare: David accepts a ride from a strange guy on his private plane but soon winds up in a Most Dangerous Game rip off and finds out that the island is empty save for one man - an insane hunter who wants to claim the Hulk as his ultimate prize kill! Banner spends an unusual amount of time with his shirt off in this episode for some reason - watch out ladies, he's the Incredible Hunk!

Barbalao: When David winds up in New Orleans, he finds himself having to help out a doctor who is in a strange struggle with a psychotic voodoo priest who seems to wield an unusual power over the city. Lots of neat ceremonial footage and Mardi Gras clips pad this one out and wait until you see The Hulk trash a gigantic cake!

Captive Night: David takes a job at a department store but wouldn't you know it, shortly after a gang of hoods hold it up. In order to save his coworkers he has to play along with the robbers and pretend that he's down with crime, but we all know that the Hulk isn't down with crime at all. Unfortunately, the manager thinks David was in on it and that he cased the store for the hoods. There's a great shot of The Hulk posing down underneath a big disco ball in this episode.

Broken Image: A gang of tough guys think David Banner is someone else, someone they aim to give a dirt nap to! What they don't realize, of course, is that if Banner starts to stress, he 'hulks out.' This is a pretty rad episode as it uses the 'Evil Michael Knight' formula by having Bixby play two roles, one with and one without a moustache! Another highlight? Watching the Hulk toss steel beams at a car. The love story subplot is hokey, but this is still a fun episode.

Proof Positive: Jack McGee's boss tells him to quit monkeying around with stories about the Hulk but McGee is a man obsessed and so he decides to go out on his own to get the real scoop. Meanwhile, Banner's been working at a construction site where a coworker saw him get angry and green. He spills the beans to McGee, and soon the obnoxious reporter is back on Banner's trail.

Sideshow: David takes another odd job - this time as a stage manager for a traveling carnival. The psychic with the carnival knows that Banner is not what he appears to be, but Banner's a hunky charmer so it's all good. It soon becomes obvious

Long Run Home: David accepts a ride from a kind motorcycle rider but soon finds himself stuck in a gang war between rival biker gangs. There's a lot of denim and sweat in this one and the Hulk tosses around a few hogs and wrecks a few pool tables before it's all over.

Falling Angels: Banner takes on a new gig at an orphanage. Seems like a pretty noble thing to do and a safe place to hide out, right? Wrong! He finds out that some of the orphans are actually involved in an underground crime syndicate. When they lock Banner in a dumpster full of rats, he Hulks out and later runs into none other than... Jack McGee!

The Lottery: David lucks out and hits the jackpot when he wins the lottery. But wait a minute... he's supposed to be dead. How is he going to claim the loot? Meanwhile a corrupt general named Marina is running a con. There's a lot of card playing in this episode and a pretty neat scene where Banner transforms inside an elevator shaft and then proceeds to trash a hotel.

The Psychic: Banner meets a psychic girl who can see Banner's inner Hulk. She can also see the future and she predicts Jack McGee's death, putting Banner in a bit of a hot spot. Does he let McGee die and live happily ever after or do the right thing and save his life? And why is he up there on the fire escape, about to jump to his death? Oh, the drama! The Hulk had better freak out at a wrestling ring and save the day... or else!

A Rock And A Hard Place: While in Chicago, David finds himself stuck between fighting a gang of criminals or surrendering to the police so he pulls a Yojimbo and plays both sides against each other. It all ties in to a bunch of missing gold that the bad guys, lead by a crazy old lady, are willing to kill for... or at least drop a bunch of bricks on the Hulk's head for. Meanwhile the cops are confused as to how they arrested a dead man.

Deathmask: For the second time this season, David is mistaken for someone else. This time, however, people think he's a serial killer who has killed six women and an angry mob of townsfolk aim to put him six feet under. The local cops are no help as they just want to close the case, whether they have the right killer or not. It'll be up to David and The Hulk to find the real killer and make an escape with their lives. To make matters worse, McGee is still sniffing around.

Equinox: When Banner hulk out at a costume ball held to celebrate the equinox, McGee decides to blast him with his new tranquilizer gun but with every one running around in different costumes and with the Hulk having just split the scene with the hostess in his arms, it all becomes very confusing. The highlight? When a girl in a monk's costume asks the Hulk to get into the hot tub with her and then asks McGee to disco with her. That's comedy gold right there.

Nine Hours: After taking a job at a hospital, David finds himself having to save a little boy being held hostage and a former crime lord from an evil gang of hit men. When Banner gets hit by a car and knocked into a manhole, the Hulk bursts out of the street to save the day but when the hit men launch an all out assault on the hospital, he soon finds he's running out of time.

On The Line: The authorities figure David must be the no-goodnik who started the forest fire but David soon finds himself stuck in the middle of the burning woods where only the Hulk can save him. Jack McGee is still on the look for the Hulk, who decides that smashing water towers might be a good way to save the day and make everyone happy.

While the series hasn't quite jumped the shark by this third season, there are a few gimmicky episodes that hint that it might be heading that way. On the plus side, the episodes where we learn more about David Banner's life before the Hulk give him more depth and add some more drama. In this third season, McGee isn't quite as strong a presence as he was earlier on but he still shows up to make trouble for poor David plenty of times. This go around we get some interesting episodes that give Banner more back story and allow Bixby to try a few new things. A couple of love interest subplots feel like padding more often than not but you can't blame the writers for wanting to give Banner a love life, no matter how fleeting it may be. Ferrigno's appearances as the Hulk are still very much the highlight of each and every episode but without the Banner stories to give the episodes context, they just wouldn't have as much impact and so it's definitely a good thing that the writing team got just a little bit experimental for this season.

The series remains a lot of fun and while there's no denying the camp appeal of a series like this, there's still something nostalgically magical about seeing Bixby turn into a green Ferrigno and trash the bad guys while grunting and groaning and basically just spazzing out. The acting is hammy and the plots are only a hair away from soap opera material but what matters is that this series is still enjoyable and entertaining as can be. The Incredible Hulk is pure junk food TV. It might not be healthy for you but it sure tastes great!

The DVD

Video:

The series was made for TV so it makes perfect sense that it was shot and shown fullframe, which is exactly how Universal presents it on DVD in this set. Surprisingly, considering the age of the material, these episodes look very good. There are some stock footage inserts used in various episodes that definitely exhibit more grain and print damage than the rest of the footage does, but thankfully the actual footage shot for the show is in very nice shape. Some film grain is present, and periodically you'll note some specks and possibly a bit of dirt here and there, but color reproduction is stronger than what you usually see on seventies television and there's a surprisingly good level of both foreground and background detail. Mpeg compression artifacts are never an issue and while there is some mild aliasing and some mild edge enhancement from time to time that you'll detect if you want to look for it, overall The Incredible Hulk arrives here in very nice shape.

Sound:

The series was recorded in an English language mono presentation and that's what we get in this set, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono across the board. Quality is fine, no problems with hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced throughout. The limitations of the source material show up from time to time in that the range is really limited but that isn't really a fault so much as an observation and a limitation of the technology at the time. There are no problems with the audio in this set, it's all completely satisfactory. No alternate language dubs or subtitles options are present though there are English closed captions present.

Extras:

First up is Remembering The Incredible Hulk: An American Classic (17:32), a featurette with some of the writers and producers from the show who explain what they tried to change for the third season and how they tried to deliver more background on Banner this time around to keep things interesting. It's interesting to hear from the writers how there were really two different kinds of episodes - one where Banner was trying to get to someone who could help him, and one where Banner ran into someone who could try to help him - and how they based most of the series around those two premises. This is actually a pretty interesting featurette as it explains some of the show's quirks and formulas in the words of those who created them in the first place.

Up next is A Behind The Scenes Look At The Incredible Hulk (3:55). This featurette begins with a brief history of the character before turning into a promo spot for the recent theatrical release of the movie with Edward Norton in the lead. We get a few interviews, some behind the scenes footage and some clips from the film but really, this is a glorified commercial for the movie.

Each disc contains a 'play all' option or the option to watch an individual episode and the episodes themselves are broken up into chapters. The packaging features a neat lenticular cover and inside the keepcase (for a limited time) for disc one is a free pass to see The Incredible Hulk in theaters.

Final Thoughts:

Goofy, corny, but thoroughly entertaining, The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Third Season could have used more extra features but is otherwise quite a nice release. The audio and video quality is surprisingly good and the variety of episodes included in the five disc collection proves to be a lot of fun. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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