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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Incredible Hulk
The Complete Collection


Starring: Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno and Jack Colvin
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £119.99

Certificate: 12
Release Date: 05 December 2016

Dr David Bruce Banner is a scientist who explores how selective people have managed to produce great feats of strength in times of emotional stress and panic (particularly as he failed to save his own partner in similar circumstances). Research pinpoints high bombardments of Gamma Rays as being responsible. To test the theory he subjects himself to an intense level of Gamma radiation. There seems to be no effect, but from then on pain, stress or anguish triggers a monstrous metamorphosis as an inner beast is released...

The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Collection boasts all five seasons of the much loved 1970s TV series, based on the Marvel character created by the great Stan Lee. They are all fully restored and upgraded to high definition shiny bright Blu-ray across 16 discs.

This version of the Hulk is quite different from the original comic books. The idea right from the start was for producer Kenneth Johnson to ground the stories in everyday problems; perhaps in doing so inadvertently borrowing from the Spider-Man premise. Of course, with a limited budget and very few effects, it was only sensible to tell ‘people’ stories. Bill Bixby was apparently the only person the producer had in mind to play Banner. Bixby was a successful jobbing guest-star actor before he found fame in the series The Magician. He was seen as a highly competent actor who could pull-off exactly what they had in mind in terms of friendliness, anxiety, anger and touching scenes of emotion. It was decided that the comic book character’s first name of Bruce wasn’t strong enough, so they made that his middle name and called him David instead (go figure!).

Richard Kiel (Jaws in the Bond films Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me) was originally cast as the Hulk in the pilot, but it was soon decided he wasn’t right for the part. The programme-makers went after Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was busy filming Conan, but he did suggest his fellow bodybuilder and Mr Universe Lou Ferrigno.

After watching him in action for so long it’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the role – although Johnson did want the skin colour to be red rather than green, to show rage. Thankfully, Stan Lee vetoed the idea. Ferrigno was more than happy to be given the opportunity to act to the show’s requirements that the Hulk should be more than a monster, and display hesitancy, tenderness and sadness when the scripts required it. Another interesting fact about the character of the Hulk is that the growls and grunts for the first two seasons were added in voice over by Ted Cassidy, who was Lurch in The Addams Family. He also narrated the opening titles. Ferrigno was a consummate professional regardless of his hearing disability (he lost 80% of his hearing at the age of three).

The series started with two feature-length stories which are probably the strongest of the show’s run. The Incredible Hulk brilliantly tells the origin story, with the added danger of nosy roving reporter Jack McGee, played by Jack Colvin. However, the basic story is so well-known that the pilot is somewhat overshadowed by Death in the Family, which tells the story of a girl who has lost her father in a suspicious fire, and is being systematically poisoned by her stepmother so that the evil woman can inherit the wealth that would otherwise go to the girl. As a doctor, Banner recognises the signs and intervenes to the point that the stepmother gets her hired thugs to take him out of the picture. Enter our green friend...

As you would expect there is a certain format to the single episodes which follow. Reporter Jack McGee believes the Hulk killed Banner and another scientist, so Banner is forced to keep on the move to be one step ahead in case the inadvertent transformation happens again and the reporter turns up. Thankfully, in many of the episodes he travels to where he believes new scientific research will cure him of his malady – although his ultimate goal is more often than not forgotten in favour of a ‘trouble of the week’ scenario wherein by trying to help people he falls foul of the bad guys. I’m sure that in reality someone with this affliction would stay well out of everyone’s way. But then we wouldn’t have a story and, as I’ve already mentioned, these are very much ‘people’ stories.

I’m certain that prospective viewers currently in their teens or twenties would throw scorn upon this series; after all, the Hulk isn’t all powerful and sometimes darkly humorous like in the Avengers film. In fact, he mostly roars and growls, showing his muscles, and throws objects or people across the room. But that’s the whole point: the idea being that if David (Bruce) Banner wouldn’t kill or intentionally harm them, then his inner ‘Mr Hyde’ would be unwilling to, also. The best way to sum up this show is to say it has heart... a big heart. Accept it in the context of its intention in the era it was made and it’s evident they had a hit on their hands. Although I have seen these episodes probably many times over the years, it didn’t take long for me to be drawn in to its magic. It’s testament to its status that it is enjoying another run on the Horror Channel.

Extras include: Three entertaining featurettes which could have been edited together, as the same people are spoken to in each; a Gag Reel, that is sometimes amusing and so strangely conflicts with the style of the show; a Photo Gallery; a Lou Ferrigno Intro; and a Producer Commentary on the Pilot and two other episodes.


Ty Power

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