Stan Lee and Jack Kirby have created some of the most iconic superheroes of our time. Marvel Comics brought us such great names like Spiderman, X-Men, Iron Man, and of course, The Incredible Hulk. Now, television has had a jaded history with comic superheroes as series material. A bad Spiderman and Captain America set of episodes are good examples. The Incredible Hulk is one of the exceptions. Why? Mostly because the series was less about super heroics and more about human drama. The Fugitive style set-up gives the writers the entire country to play with. Instead of superhuman villains, Banner is really his own worst villain. The very human McGee, who haunts Banner, is an aggressive writer out to expose The Hulk. This grounds the entire show in reality as much as is possible. Enter Kenneth Johnson, also known for the Alien Nation series, and you know that quality isn’t going to be compromised. Insurance is obtained through the extremely likable Bill Bixby as the Dr. Jekyll to Lou Ferrigno’s Mr. Hyde as manifested by The Hulk. His ability to pump up the action is rivaled by his surprising ability to convey emotion with his eyes. This Hulk appropriately doesn’t speak.
The series started with two tele-films, both included in this set. While the stories and cinematography seriously date this material, the themes resonate on into the 21st Century. Far better than the 200 million dollar film, this series is quite a catch on DVD. The episode 747 features Brandon Cruz who starred with Bixby as Eddie in The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father, another fond memory from my childhood. A nitpick Hulk fans still rage about is the name change from Bruce, in the comics, to David. As a homage to these fans, we are shown his middle name is Bruce. Johnson has addressed these “problems,” and I understand his wanting to create a very different character here. Comics and television are very different media. We would have been quickly bored watching a grunting, wise-cracking crime fighter after too long.
The Incredible Hulk is naturally presented in its original full frame broadcast format. Although significant effort is obvious here to clean the film up, there are plenty of minor flaws. Too many specks and film artifacts are evident. Color reproduction is solid, however. The detail is often good enough for you to notice spots where the green paint has rubbed off a bit on Lou’s body. The use of a ton of stock images brings the overall quality down a peg. Occasional heavy grain should, once again, pretty much be expected.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is good enough. The score is very simple, mostly consisting of a nice haunting piano. It’s all reproduced about as well as it was likely originally broadcast. Dialogue is quite clear. This is typical early television sound. I’d consider it a better than average utility track
An audio commentary by Kenneth Johnson is a very nice treat. He makes no bones about the show and how it was made. He’s obviously proud of what was done, while readily admitting to the cardboard aspects of the f/x. This is a nice candid track. Worth a listen.
Sadly only the commentary track. The package is pretty cool, with a holographic face that turns from Banner to The Hulk depending on the angle you look at. It’s also good to see Universal sticking with their switch to single-sided discs. Thanks guys! A second season episode is provided as an extra, but that makes absolutely no sense if you are planning on buying all of the sets.
If you look hard enough, there are plenty of flaws to be found in this series. Still, it is a very genuine effort which can be rare in this genre. It all looks and feels so sincere and downright believable. When talking about this show with friends, they are always swift to point out the flaws. I happen to enjoy the quality of work found in the acting and writing rather than dwell on the show’s obvious limitations. Judge for yourself, but try not to nitpick. That just makes me mad, and “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”.