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Category:    Home > Reviews > Superhero > Action > Drama > The Incredible Hulk - The Complete First Season

The Incredible Hulk – The Complete First Season


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C     Episodes: B



Marvel Comics is having hit feature films left and right these days, but it was not always this way.  Of course, both Marvel and DC Comics have been lucky to always have interesting animated series produced based on their characters, but live-action has been another story.  Spider-Man did surface on The Electric Company (reviewed elsewhere on this site) in Spidey Super Stories, but getting the characters to come to life on film was another story.  When Warner Bros. bought DC outright, Marvel cut a deal at the time with Universal to license all their characters for film purposes.  Of all the shows launched, none succeeded critically or commercially like The Incredible Hulk.


While Nicholas Hammond’s Spider-Man was shooting ropes over webs and Reb Brown’s Captain America was biking Evel Knievel-style into danger, the grossly underrated producer Kenneth Johnson (The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman) was not going to follow the same route.  Instead, he designed the show to be more psychologically complex than the great comic had been, with a great Fugitive-like set-up as a reporter (Jack Colvin) is out to find the title beast thinking it has killed a female scientist and Dr. David Banner (Bill Bixby).  However, Banner is very much alive and on the run from McGee (Colvin) as he tries to find a cure for the almost fatal gamma radiation dose that has instead unleashed The Hulk.  Also sporting shades of the sadly short-lived Christopher George series The Immortal, Johnson did not include any of the comic villains like The Rhino or Dr. Doom.


Later, some Hulk revival movies used other comic characters, but this series was more interested in being a sort of character study and as a result, it holds up pretty well.  Though Richard Kiel was originally cast, Lou Ferrigno was great and a huge hit as the creature, paving the way for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career in uncredited ways and Bill Bixby was dead-on as Banner.  The result is a Superhero genre classic, especially with the amazing first TV movie on the first of four DVDs in this set.


1)     Pilot telefilm (with Susan Sullivan and Eric Server)

2)     A Death In The Family (second telefilm with guest star William Daniels)

3)     The Final Round

4)     The Beast Within (with guest star Caroline McWilliams)

5)     Of Guilt, Models & Murder (with guest star Loni Anderson)

6)     Terror In Times Square (with guest star Pamela Susan Shoop)

7)     747 (with guest star Brandon Cruz)

8)     The Hulk Breaks Las Vegas

9)     Never Give A Trucker An Even Break (with guest star Jennifer Darling)

10)  Life & Death (with guest stars Julie Adams and Carl Franklin)

11)  Earthquakes Happen (with guest stars Diane Markoff, Kene Holliday and Laird Stuart)

12)  The Waterfront Story (with guest star James B. Sikking)



The other shocker is how and why the first film with its small $1.3 Million budget is much smarter, more involving, more clever and more interesting than most $100 Million+ theatrical films today and why it in particular holds up well against the very troubled and problematic Ang Lee revival.  The truth of the mater is that the series got it right.  Yes, Universal’s other Marvel TV projects did not turn out well, though there are fans arguing for Rex Smith’s Daredevil over the underappreciated Ben Affleck version.  However, there is no arguing this series.  It is the definitive Hulk on film and with a very different Hulk sequel feature being made by without Universal for the first time ever by Marvel’s own studio, we’ll see if the new cast and crew revert back to this series somehow.  Until then, you get a solid Complete First Season set worth revisiting.


The 1.33 X 1 image looks very good for its age.  As a matter of fact, the show has never looked so good and fans will be surprised how well-shot and produced this really is.  Color is decent, especially for 1978 as visual standards and color standards were beginning to decline on TV.  The TV broadcast copies look pale by comparison.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also good, with dialogue and music sounding fine for their age.  Extras include a bonus episode from the second season Stop The Presses, cool lenticular cover where Banner becomes The Hulk just by moving the box around and outstanding, must-hear audio commentary track on the TV movie by producer Johnson.  Anyone serious about film and TV production, fans or filmmakers, will be impressed.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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