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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Incredible Hulk - The Complete Fifth Season
The Incredible Hulk - The Complete Fifth Season
Universal // Unrated // October 21, 2008
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted November 4, 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 releases of the complete first four seasons with this fifth and final boxed set containing all seven episodes from the fifth and final season of the show.. just in time for the new movie's DVD/Blu-ray debut!

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.

So with Banner, his alter ego hopefully held firmly in check, wandering from town to town trying to lay low and stay out of the public eye, you can see how the premise was ripe for odd situations. While it's fun to see the Hulk go nuts in a big city as he did from time to time in the first few seasons, it seemed to be the episodes that take place in more remote areas that lead to strong character development. While we don't get too much of that character development this time around, most of the action does take place a little off the beaten path.

Here's a look at the seven episodes that make up the swan song of The Incredible Hulk:

DISC ONE:

The Phenom: The constantly hitchhiking Banner scores a ride with a young man who is quite a talented baseball pitcher and looks to have a pretty serious career ahead of him. Unfortunately his agent is just out to rip him off. Banner befriends the kid but it'll be up to the Hulk to stop the crooked agent from screwing the poor kid out of what he deserves.

Two Godmothers: Three no good escaped convicts bust out of a women's prison and they wind up kidnapping Banner! Obviously they don't realize who he is or what happens to him when he gets angry. Regardless, things get complicated for everyone involved when one of the escaped cons starts going into labor!

Veteran: A mentally deranged Vietnam veteran wants to assassinate a man running for local office who was once a war hero himself. When David discovers what the man is up to, he has to alert the authorities which will definitely jeopardize his nice, comfy, anonymous status in the small town he's wandered into.

Sanctuary: Banner winds up taking a job at a convent as a caretaker but soon finds himself having to impersonate a Catholic priest in order to access an injured boy that a gang of smugglers have brought in illegally from Mexico. Banner once again has to stop his angrier, greener side from busting out and taking care of business, but he might not have much of a choice as he's sorely outnumbered.

DISC TWO:

Triangle: Banner becomes romantically involved with a woman who seems to treat him well. Unfortunately for both of them, the local lumber mogul has got eyes for the lady too and he is not above stooping low to get her. Banner winds up in a contest to win the ladies affection, but how far is Banner willing to go for love?

Slaves: An insane ex-convict is holed up in a desolate and remote ghost town. When Banner wanders into the area, he's kidnapped by this man and forced to work as a slave in the crazy guy's gold mine! Banner isn't going to have much choice if - if he wants to make it out, he might need some help from his old friend The Hulk.

A Minor Problem: In the final episode of the series, Banner finds a small and seemingly abandoned remote town which he soon finds out was recently contaminated by a deadly plague. With everyone in the town infected, including himself, Banner isn't going to have much time to find an antidote...

The Incredible Hulk was cancelled quite suddenly and as such, the series doesn't really end properly. A Minor Problem wasn't a bad episode it doesn't give the show the send off that it really deserved nor does it give the series a truly proper ending. With only seven episodes in this fifth season, it doesn't have as many interesting stories of characters as the ones that came before it but there are still enough strong moments in here that fans of the series will certainly enjoy it for what it is. Bixby and Ferrigno are still a lot of fun in their roles and Jack Colvin is still an enjoyably obnoxious foil for Banner and company. The scripts are still creative in many ways even if the plots are fairly similar by this point and stick to a bit of a formula.

While the series was cancelled, that didn't mean the end for the Hulk's run on television. A few made for TV movie events would follow, keeping the spirit of Bixby and Ferrigno's most famous characters alive and well, even earning them some new fans along the way.

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:

The main extra feature can be found on the second disc in the form of Behind The Success: The Story Of The Incredible Hulk (18:29) which is in which writer/director/producer Kenneth Johnson, along with writer/producer Karen Harris, writer/producer Jill Donner, writer Rueben Leder, and producer Robert Steinhauer, all discuss what it was like to work on the show, how they joined the writing team, and what some of their favorite moments were. They talk about the lasting impression that the show had on viewers and about the influence that it has had over the years. Plenty of clips from the series are used here as are a wealth of fun behind the scenes photos from the time that the show was in production. Also included on the second disc is a Gag Reel (6:03) that contains some amusing flubs from the shows production. They're taken from a pretty rough looking VHS source but they're fun to watch.

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.

Final Thoughts:

All good things must come to an end and so it is with The Incredible Hulk's five season network television series. As it has been with the previous four seasons, the series is an enjoyable junk food action/sci-fi/soap opera that holds up well today despite some dated aspects of the production. Universal has done a nice job with the release, from the extras to the packaging, and this release comes 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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