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The Incredible Hulk TV on Blu-ray

Tuesday, 13 December 2016 00:00 Written by 

The Incredible Hilk - The Complete Collection out now on UK Blu-rayThe Incredible Hulk - The Complete Collection consists of all 82 original episodes from the five seasons of the show (two of them feature-length) and a wave of bonus material which puts the adventures into context. Indeed, creator Kenneth Johnson’s audio commentaries are some of the best single-person narratives that you will ever hear. He describes how he took the comic book out of the comic character, bringing forth a series which appealed as much to women as men. The episode prints are fully restored and high definition in this 16-disc Blu-ray set.

After being exposed to gamma radiation, mild-mannered research scientist David Banner (Bill Bixby) finds extreme anger or stress transforms him into the terrifying and enraged Hulk (Lou Ferrigno). This format draws inspiration from a trio of works from classic literature. Original creator Stan Lee notes the transformed Hulk was inspired by Frankenstein’s monster, while the alter ego of Dr Banner came from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Kenneth Johnson added the element of news hack Jack McGee (Jack Colvin) pursuing the creature. It chimed with iconic 1960s series The Fugitive with its stories of a man forever on the run.

That element of the older show was inspired by the character of Inspector Javert in “Les Miserables”. McGee was also a retooling of the charactor Thunderbolt Ross, an Army General who obsessively pursued the Hulk in the comic book series. It was to McGee’s character that Banner said the immortal line “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”.

In the comics, Banner's full name was Robert Bruce Banner, and Bruce was also established as Banner’s middle name in the television series. The reason for the name change was series producer Kenneth Johnson’s dislike for alliterative names, so often used in comic books - Johnson decided that ‘David’ (his son’s name) was more ‘solid’.

But who should play the Hulk in the days before CGI could make anything happen? Arnold Schwarzenegger was considered for the role but was reportedly not tall enough – he was 3” smaller than Lou Ferrigno’s 6’ 5”. So, seven foot tall Richard Kiel, known from the James Bond franchise as ‘Jaws’, was given the role. As filming began, Johnson could see a problem - Kiel wasn’t muscular enough to put over the look which was required. His few scenes were re-shot with Lou Ferrigno playing the role. Just one section of Kiel remains in the finished pilot, in one brief high-angle shot of the Hulk looking up a tree.

A renowned bodybuilder have wine the Mr America title and Mr Universe title (twice), Lou Ferrigno lost 80% of his hearing due to an ear infection at the age of three. Lou had been an avid fan of the Hulk comic books. He has credited the character for inspiring him to overcome his hearing disability and associated personal issues.

The Hulk’s growls and snarls were put on after filming by Ted Cassidy (Lurch in The Addams Family) in the first two seasons and by Charles Napier after Cassidy’s death along with dubbed animal growls. Cassidy was also narrator of the show’s opening credits.

Johnson wanted the Hulk’s skin colour to be red, with the reasoning that it would better reflect the character’s anger, rather than green being associated with jealousy. However, Stan Lee rejected the idea. Lou Ferrigno spent much of his time on set in a refrigerated motor home to stop his green makeup sweating off.

Host network CBS in the USA tried to push the series into more fantastic plots, wanting to see more ‘sci-fi’ pulp elements, such as aliens from outer space and other super powered villains. According to Lou Ferrigno, Bill Bixby always sided with Johnson in the fight to maintain the show’s more realistic and dramatic format.

The show was so much of a hit that Kenneth Johnson was thought to have been considering a spin-off format with a focus on a female version of the Hulk. Johnson had done a similar thing with The Six Million Dollar Man, when The Bionic Woman became an in-show ‘backdoor’ pilot during Steve Austin’s adventures.

Their concept was to have David’s sister as the star. The character was already established, Diana Muldaur having played Dr Helen Banner in the season three story “Homecoming”. By this point, Muldaur was already a well-known series actress, having played Joy Adamson in the TV version of Born Free, and Chris Coughlin in McCloud. She would go on to play Dr Katherine Pulaski in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and have a huge social impact as hard-nosed lawyer Rosalind Shays in L A Law.

The McGuffin to bring the female Hulk into being was to have the sister receive an emergency blood transfusion from David. However, the parent show’s cancellation meant the spin-off story never came to pass. As an interesting aside, Marvel Comics’ honcho Stan Lee learned of this suggested franchise expansion, and as a result created ‘She-Hulk’. This meant they would own the rights to any such character. Artist John Buscema was brought in, and the sexy green-skinned Amazonian-style lasy first appeared in Savage She-Hulk #1 in February 1980. The character’s comic-book origins were similar to the plan for the series, with a blood transfusion being the catalyst, but this time she is Bruce Banner’s cousin rather than sister.

Guest stars during the show’s run include Kim Cattrall, Jared Martin, Jane Merrow, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Rick Springfield, Don Marshall, Mark Lenard, Robert Davi, Jerry Hardin, Dennis Haysbert, William Lucking, William Windom, Christine Belford, Anne Lockhart, Whit Bissell, Martin Kove, Henry Darrow, Cameron Mitchell, Loni Anderson, James B Sikking, A Martinez, Carl Franklin, Lance LeGault, Pat Morita, Dana Elcar, Craig Stevens, and even Ray Walston (who worked with Bixby on My Favorite Martian) and William Daniels (the voice of KITT in Knight Rider).

When you watch the series through, you’ll notice that the fifth and final season amounts to just seven episodes. While the first five of these were originally screened in October and November 1981, the final two were held over and didn’t debut Stateside until May 1982. The last episode doesn’t resolve anything, leaving Banner still wandering off to further adventures at the end.

This was despite respectable ratings, but it seems suits higher up in the CBS network took a very late decision to cancel the series in the Autumn of 1981. Kenneth Johnson claims that Harvey Sheppard, then head of CBS programming, deemed the series had run its course, and cancelled it. With seven new episodes already in-the-can, Johnson tried to persuade Sheppard to buy more episodes, and according to Lou Ferrigno's book “My Incredible Life as the Hulk”, Bill Bixby was talking to other networks regarding picking up the show. Alas, it was not to be.

Six years after the cancellation of the television series in 1982, three television movies were produced, minus Johnson but with Bixby and Ferrigno returning to their roles. Regrettably, these are not included in this Blu-ray release:

“The Incredible Hulk Returns” (1988) – Banner encounters a former student, Don Blake (Steve Levitt) who has a magical hammer that summons Thor (Eric Allan Kramer), a Norse god now prevented from returning to Valhalla.

“The Trial of the Incredible Hulk” (1989) – Banner crosses paths with a blind lawyer named Matt Murdock (Rex Smith – who had previously ridden Street Hawk) and his masked alter-ego, Daredevil. The Incredible Hulk and the Daredevil battle Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime (John Rhys-Davies). In this, Stan Lee made his first Marvel Universe cameo appearance as the jury foreman at Banner’s trial.

“The Death of the Incredible Hulk” (1990) – Banner falls in love with an Eastern European spy (Elizabeth Gracen – Highlander, Highlander: The Raven) and saves two kidnapped scientists. The story ends with the Hulk having a fall from an airplane, reverting to human form just before he dies.

Extras included in this set are:

  • Introduction with Kenneth Johnson.
  • “Creating an iconic character: The Hulk” (10 mins)
  • “Remembering The Incredible Hulk: An American Classic” (17 ½ mins)
  • “Behind the success: The story of The Incredible Hulk” (18 ½ mins)
  • Gag Reel (6 mins)
  • Lou Ferrigno Intro (4 mins)
  • Audio commentary with Kenneth Johnson on the “The Incredible Hulk” pilot movie, “Married” (Season 2 Premiere) and “Prometheus” (Season 4 episodes 1 and 2).
  • Inside an episode: “Prometheus” photo gallery (2 mins).

All in all, in retrospect you can understand the success of the series, and Kenneth Johnson proves from his commentaries that he would be an excellent convention guest. Forget the ‘eye candy’ which turns up and just say their lines, this guys knows exactly the sort of information which real fans want to hear, and puts it over in an engaging, connected and thoughtful way. I now have a desire to also go and watch his other shows, aside from tales of bionics, such as V and Alien Nation.

The Incredible Hulk – The Complete Collection is out now on Blu-ray from Fabulous Films / Fremantle Media Enterprises. It has a running time of 4,102 mins approx, a ‘15’ certificate, and a RRP of £119.99, or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com by CLICKING HERE.

You had an opportunity to win one of two copies of this The Incredible Hulk – The Complete Collection Blu-ray release to put on to your mantelpiece, in our prize competition, courtesy of Fabulous Films / Fremantle Media Enterprises.

All you had to do was tell us the answer to the following question: Ted Cassidy was the narrator for The Incredible Hulk opening titles, but in which series did he play Lurch? The answer was The Addams Family, and the winners were Susan Chafer of Wakefield and Linda Taylor of Blackpool - well done both!

 

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 13 December 2016 08:20

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