The Incredible Hulk - Original Television Premiere
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Discover the origin of "The Incredible Hulk" with the TV series pilot that helped to inspire the "Hulk" phenomenon. While conducting a research project about superhuman strength, Dr. David Banner bombards his own system with gamma radiation, unexpectedly transforming himself into the powerful beast, "The Incredible Hulk."
Universal's Incredible Hulk DVD will satisfy fans of the CBS television series by offering the two-hour 1978 pilot, as well as the feature-length second-season opener, "Married," and a commentary track by series creator Kenneth Johnson. In bringing the Hulk to TV, Johnson decided to focus on its human alter ego, scientist Bruce Banner (here renamed David), rather than its rampages. In the pilot, Banner (Bill Bixby) is haunted by the death of his wife and unleashes his untapped rage in the form of a monstrous creature (Lou Ferrigno) after experimenting with radiation. And in "Married," Banner falls for a researcher (Mariette Hartley in an Emmy-winning performance) who attempts to cure his "hulk-outs." Johnson's solid scripting and direction and fine performances from the leads made the series a critical and audience favorite during its network run, and the DVD--deceptive cover art aside (which features images from the 2003 Hulk theatrical feature)--should again please longtime fans and novice viewers alike. --Paul GaitaSee all Editorial Reviews
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The superb pilot episode portrays how tragedy inevitably follows once geneticist David Banner (Bill Bixby) impulsively tests out a new scientific theory of whether or not intensified gamma radiation enhances human physical strength. Haunted by the death of his wife in a fiery car crash (and his agonizing failure to save her), an increasingly agitated Banner drives home from the lab on a dark, stormy night. A chance flat tire enrages Banner, which soon unleashes his new alter ego: the Incredible Hulk. According to Lou Ferrigno's claim in a recentPBS documentary, without assistance, he actually flipped over Banner's car during the Hulk's first rage. Much like the Hulk, he said he was in a foul mood filming in the rain at, like, four o'clock in the morning, and didn't want wait any longer for the stunt to be properly set up. If his story is true, it only adds to the realism that Ferrigno's Hulk is as close as to believable as possible. Forget the pseudo-science involved: Johnson's screenplay at least makes the set-up about essentially radioactive steroids powering Ferrigno's Hulk sound far more plausible than Banner somehow surviving the comic book's nuclear blast origin.
During the Hulk's first appearance, Johnson's script cleverly reimagines (rather than ripping off) a classic sequence from Boris Karloff's 1931 "Frankenstein" film in which the creature encounters a young girl at a lake's edge. The effect once more suggests a horror film, but the Hulk's heroic intent is never in question. Afterwards, as a skeptical Banner's worried colleague, Elaina Marks (guest star Susan Sullivan), points out, the minimal evidence suggests that the Hulk is really a primitive extension of Banner's basic personality, so he will not kill because David Banner will not kill. I give credit to Johnson, Bixby, and Sullivan for effectively selling a brilliant science fiction concept and yet still keeping it so down-to-earth. Also, co-star Jack Colvin makes his appearance as nosy tabloid reporter Jack McGee, as his unexpected link to the Hulk's origin anchors the ongoing storyline for the television series. All in all, after thirty-five years, the "Incredible Hulk" pilot episode (minus the badly outdated wardrobe) remains top-notch television by updating the classic monster movies of the 1930's and 1940's with class and intelligence. Composer Joseph Harnell's poignantly familiar "Lonely Man" theme here becomes timeless in setting the mood and tone of Banner's conflict within himself. On a trivia note, yes, the late Ted Cassidy (TV's Lurch from "The Addams Family") is both the narrator on the series' opening credits and the grunting voice of the Hulk himself.
The bonus episode, "Married," features guest star Mariette Hartley as a dying psychiatrist in Hawaii who hypnotizes her new husband, David Banner, in an experimental form of psychoanalysis in confronting his Hulk alter-ego. Although the episode's pace is often slow with minimal action, it is very well-written and performed to make it definitely a Top Five episode of the entire series. My favorite moment from "Married," comes when a confused Hulk examines a toupee after he rips it off a bully's head during a brawl with two ladies' men at their swinging bachelors' pad. Having viewed a few of the Season Two episodes last week, this type of sight gag evidently was a recurring element in the series, and, for whatever reason, it just really works. Also, look for young guest star Meeno Peluce in a small role, as he was a regular performer on television during that era.
Rating: 9/10 (If you have not viewed the "Incredible Hulk" television series before, this DVD is an excellent starting point).
Veteran actor Bill Bixby (My Favorite Martian, The Courtship of Eddie's Father) plays David Banner, a man with his insides torn apart with frustration, stemming from his inability to save his wife's life, during a tragic car accident. Banner works at the Culver Institute with his long time colleague, Dr. Elaina Harding (Susan Sullivan). Coincidentally they are involved in research on how humans are able to perform superhuman acts of strength, in times of stress.
Discovering that gamma radiation may be the cause of great strength in a crisis, Banner exposes himself to an ultra high dosage. However instead of acquiring super strength, Banner finds that when he gets angry, he transforms into a green skinned muscular giant that comes to be known as "the Hulk". Portrayed by body builder Lou Ferrigno, the Hulk is extremely powerful and destructive, but not too bright.
Banner has no memory of what happens while he is the Hulk. He confides in Elaina, who helps find out what has happened to him. A key character in the series, investigative reporter Jack McGee (Jack Colvin) is introduced, setting in place the basic elements for a series that would run for five seasons.
Multitalented writer, director, and producer, Kenneth Johnson had already had great success with his creations The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-78), and The Bionic Woman (1976-78), when he was approached about bringing a character from the Marvel Universe to television. Johnson saw potential in the Incredible Hulk, and he cleverly found a way to adapt the character, and scale down his violent capabilities for series television.
The thought process behind the genesis of the series, is discussed in detail by Johnson in a commentary track recorded in 2003. Johnson has a remarkable memory, and his remarks are extremely insightful and detailed. Referring to him as "Bix", Johnson's affection and respect for the late Bill Bixby (1934-1993) is evident. Johnson wrote the screenplay specifically with Bixby in mind, and the actor is absolutely perfect for the role, bringing great vulnerability, humility, and dignity, to David Banner, who tragically is responsible for his own predicament.
Susan Sullivan (Falcon Crest, Castle) is so much more than a pretty face, and gives a wonderfully warm performance, that helps to reveal Banner's character. Jack Colvin is also very good as the pesky reporter, who like a bad rash, just won't go away. Bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno was primarily selected for his physical abilities, but still manages to display some decent acting skills, conveying much through his facial expressions. Having lost his hearing as a child, affected Ferrigno's speech, and limited his ability to deliver lines. The Hulk mostly growls, with his voice provided by Ted Cassidy. Ferrigno endures heavy application of green makeup, and some wild haircuts. The same slow motion techniques utilized in The Six Million Dollar Man, are also employed in The Incredible Hulk. The technique is somewhat effective, though would perhaps become overused.
The pilot has some ridiculous moments, topped by David and Elaina attempting to recreate the situation when the transformation first took place. Locked in a hyperbaric chamber in a secluded lab, Banner loosens a water line to simulate rain, and then generates electrical arcs to simulate lightning. Elaina witnesses Banner's transformation and destruction of the chamber, and David learns the shocking truth. Thanks to the troublesome McGee, the lab accidentally blows up. The Hulk appears to rescue Elaina from the flames, but Banner tragically loses his best friend, and is presumed dead.
With the Hulk wanted for murder, the stage is set for David Banner to wander from place to place, like Richard Kimble in The Fugitive (1963-67). Using false names, he tries to keep a low profile and avoid trouble, but somehow always seems to find it, inevitably leading to the appearance of the Hulk. Trailing the green skinned giant across the country is McGee, who Banner tries very hard to avoid. This becomes a familiar formula that is repeated through over eighty episodes, from 1977 through 1982.
Despite some minor shortcomings, the pilot episode sets up the series nicely, and features wonderful performances by Bill Bixby and Susan Sullivan. Image quality is good, but a little hazy at times. The episode has subtitles, and Kenneth's Johnson's commentary is not to be missed.
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