Original Broadcast: 1979-1981
Length: Season Three: 1093 mins Season Four: 867 mins
Genre: Science Fiction/Drama
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Unrated (TV-safe violence, Multiple Hulkouts)
Release Date: June 3, 2008
3 [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img] / [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img]
Starring: Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno and Jack Colvin
From the Comic Book Created By: Stan Lee
Executive Producer: Kenneth Johnson
The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Third Season and The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Fourth Season are the latest full-season DVD releases of the television series that aired on CBS from 1977 to 1982. Originally based on the Marvel Comics character, the series was developed by Kenneth Johnson (The Bionic Woman, the original miniseries of V), who eschewed the more outlandish parts of the comic book and stripped it down to a simple drama along the lines of The Fugitive. The basic story followed Dr. David Banner, a scientist who accidentally overdosed himself with gamma radiation, and then was cursed to transform into a big green monster any time he was angered or outraged. The usual episode would find Dr. Banner making his way through a new town or city, only to run into trouble or new friends that would need his help. And twice an episode, he would wind up turning into the Hulk, to the consternation of the characters and the delight of the audience. The series began with two TV movies that established the situation and set the tone, and then filmed for four seasons. (There were seven episodes aired in the putative “5th season” but those were filmed during the 4th season and were never meant to be aired by themselves as a complete season.) After the 4th season, Kenneth Johnson had wanted to film an additional number of episodes and a series finale to wrap up the story. Unfortunately, this was not to be. Network executives at the time decided instead to simply air the remaining episodes amid a slew of reruns and preemptions, and they ended the series without a finale.
The two new DVD sets comprise the 1979-1980 Third Season, as well as the strike-shortened 1980-1981 Fourth Season. (For those who may not know, SAG went on strike in 1980 for months, delaying the start of the regular TV season for almost 2 months, and shortening the number of episodes that were aired that year.) These episodes, essentially comprising the second half of the series history, show the writers finding new avenues to take Dr. Banner – from the personal (Banner visits his family in “Homecoming”) to the inventive (Banner is hunted in the manner of “The Most Dangerous Game” in “The Snare”) to the fantastic (Banner is caught in mid-transformation in “Prometheus” and encounters another Hulking creature in “The First”). And of course, there are the inevitably silly episodes, such as “Half Nelson” (David meets a dwarf wrestler) or “Free Fall” (David somehow winds up working with a skydiving team, which leads to him falling out of a plane without a parachute). The complete episodes are presented here, in the order of airing. You could actually watch them in any order you like, as there are no major story points that affect the other episodes. The episodes are presented in full frame and 2.0 mono sound. They have the same basic look as when they were originally aired, although the sophistication of today’s TVs and HDTVs reveals the flaws and color limitations to be expected from a nearly 30 year old source. There is no remastering happening here, but it really wouldn’t make any difference, particularly for fans of the series. The point of picking up these sets is the charm of having each season, just as it was originally presented.
The 23 episodes of the Third Season are presented over five discs, with a minimum of special features available on the 5th disc. Those special features are the retrospective featurette Remembering ‘The Incredible Hulk’: An American Classic and a quick “sneak peek” at the upcoming Edward Norton Hulk film. (That new feature is clearly the reason these season sets are being released.) The 18 episodes of the Fourth Season are presented over four discs, with a little bit more in the way of special features being available. For the Fourth Season, Kenneth Johnson contributes a scene specific commentary to the two hour premiere episode, “Prometheus”. On the 4th disc, there is a brief featurette about Ferrigno and his work on the show, called Creating an Iconic Character: The Hulk , and there is a very quick behind the scenes photo gallery from “Prometheus”. Finally, the same sneak peak for the Norton film is presented again. (This featurette thus appears on both season sets, in case viewers were to pick one or the other.)
As we dive into these sets, I’m going to follow the same format I have done with the Saturday Night Live reviews. It’s just easier to keep track of all the episodes if we take them on a disc by disc basis. So we’ll go through each season in order. THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THE EPISODE DESCRIPTIONS HERE, as I am trying to indicate to fans of the show where they may find some of their favourite scenes and situations. All the regular episodes are presented in full-frame with the aforementioned 2.0 soundtrack. Both season sets come boxed with lenticular covers that juxtapose images of Dr. Banner and his alter ego.
One last note before we begin. In the interests of full disclosure, I must acknowledge here that in my regular occupation, I have worked with Kenneth Johnson on multiple episodes of the television series JAG. One of the results of our association is that he has been kind enough to host a list I generated that covers pretty much every reason David Banner ever Hulked out. Another result is that he refers directly to me in his commentary on “Prometheus” in a very friendly manner. (If you’re curious, it comes up right at the first Hulkout, appropriately enough.) That acknowledged, I will still present an impartial evaluation of the image and audio quality of the episodes, as well as of the quality of the special features.
SEASON THREE DISC ONE:
This disc contains the first four episodes of the third season:
“Metamorphosis” – This is the season opener, in which David Banner works for rocker Mackenzie Phillips. A memorable Hulkout happens here, with Banner inadvertently ingesting “orange sunshine” LSD and having a bad trip.
“Blind Rage” – David Banner is blinded by toxic gas, and eventually winds up wandering through an Army minefield while still blind.
“Brain Child” – Banner befriends a brilliant young girl looking for her mother.
“The Slam” – Banner lands in a corrupt prison work camp.
-When this disc is initially put in the player, you can see trailers for Hellboy II: The Golden Army along with trailers for season sets for Eureka and Battlestar Galactica.
There is also a “Previews” menu, which brings up trailers for the season sets for 30 Rock, Battlestar Galactica, Crossing Jordan, House, Miami Vice, Murder She Wrote, Quantum Leap and a collective trailer for The A Team, Knight Rider and Magnum PI.
SEASON THREE DISC TWO:
“My Favorite Magician” – Banner helps a magician, played by Ray Walston in a guest appearance that hearkens back to MY FAVORITE MARTIAN.
“Jake” – Banner works the rodeo circuit and tries to help an aging rodeo rider before the man gets himself killed.
“Behind the Wheel” – Banner works as a cabbie for a company being squeezed by a loan shark. This episode features a memorable Hulkout specific to the gas crisis of the 1970s – Banner is unable to get gas for his cab even though he has a pregnant woman passenger whose water has broken.
“Homecoming” – This is a memorable and effective episode, in which David returns home to help his sister and father. It is thought to be one of the best episodes in the series.
“The Snare” – This is another effective episode, playing out the story of “The Most Dangerous Game”. In this case, the man-hunter on the island winds up hunting the Hulk. But the script is quite strong, as are the performances.
SEASON THREE DISC THREE:
“Babalau” – Banner runs afoul of voodoo in New Orleans.
“Captive Night” – Banner is trapped in a department store overnight as two thieves try to break into the safe. A memorable Hulkout occurs when Banner is locked in an elevator shaft, and the elevator falls on him.
“Broken Image” – Banner discovers he looks exactly like mobster Mike Cassidy, which gets him into hot water throughout the episode.
“Proof Positive” – This episode focuses on Jack McGee’s hunt for the Hulk. It’s an effective episode, in that it turns McGee into the protagonist for a change. Bill Bixby does not appear in this episode.
“Sideshow” – Banner gets involved with a carnival.
SEASON THREE DISC FOUR:
“Long Run Home” – Banner gets a ride from a biker who’s in plenty of hot water himself.
“Falling Angels” – Banner works at a home for girls, only to find out that the girls are being put to work as thieves on the side. There’s a memorable Hulkout halfway in when two garbagemen lock Banner in a dumpster and ignore his cries of “Hey! There’s rats in here!”
“The Lottery” – David and a con artist somehow win the lottery, but wind up in bigger and bigger trouble. This is the episode where David attempts to do a Bruce Willis maneuver a la Die Hard, only to wind up getting blasted with hot steam.
“The Psychic” – David encounters a psychic, played by Bixby’s real-life spouse Brenda Benet. (This matter is discussed in much greater detail in the featurette on the 5th disc.)
“A Rock and a Hard Place” – Banner is forced to help his landlady with a heist. The climactic Hulkout sees David wrapped in chains and thrown off a pier, with the result being an underwater transformation.
SEASON THREE DISC FIVE:
“Deathmask” – David gets involved in the matter of a serial murderer in a town, only to have the town believe that HE is the killer. This is another effective and tense episode.
“Equinox” – David and Jack McGee are both present at a masquerade party that could have dire consequences. In the middle of the episode, McGee traps David in a backroom, but before he can get a good look at him, David runs outside, bangs his knee on the door, and then somehow falls down the stairs and into a giant piece of pottery. By the time McGee catches up, the Hulk is on the scene.
“Nine Hours” – Banner doesn’t mind his own business when it comes to mob guys trying to kill a former mobster and a boy. Needless to say, the Hulk doesn’t mind his own business either.
“On the Line” – The final episode of the season finds David working with a group fighting a forest fire. In the middle of the episode, David gets trapped in the middle of the fire and has a burning tree fall on him.
SPECIAL FEATURES on DISC FIVE –
Remembering “The Incredible Hulk”: An American Classic - (17:32, Non-anamorphic) – This featurette includes interviews with Kenneth Johnson, Karen Harris, Jill Sherman and Robert Bennett Steinhauer intercut with stock footage from the series. They discuss Bill Bixby’s life and contributions to the show, and the drive to try different things as the series went into its third season. The very real tragedies of Bixby's life are discussed here, including the loss of his son and then the suicide of his ex wife.
A Behind-the-Scenes Look at THE INCREDIBLE HULK featuring an Interview with Edward Norton - (3:54) – This is a quick promotional piece for the upcoming feature film. It has the expected bits of footage intercut with enthusiastic comments by Norton.
And now on to the Fourth Season:
SEASON FOUR DISC ONE:
“Prometheus, Parts One and Two” – This is the big premiere episode for the fourth season, written and directed by series creator Johnson. The story is a completely different idea than the usual one. In this case, Banner encounters a gamma-charged meteor and is unable to transform all the way back to himself after a Hulkout. While in that condition, he is captured by a secret military project that thinks the Hulk is an extraterrestrial. Several locations in this episode were previously filmed by Johnson for an episode of The Bionic Woman called “Doomsday is Tomorrow”. Guest actress Laurie Prange previously appeared in the second HULK pilot “Death in the Family” – although in that episode she was confined to a wheelchair. For this episode, she is blind. Johnson provides a scene specific commentary for both parts of this episode, discussing everything from the cast to the crew to the locations to the stock footage to anything else you could want to know about the show. He ends the commentary with a sad note of mourning for series cinematographer John McPherson. I can’t resist also recommending the reader especially listen to the commentary at the first Hulkout, roughly 24 minutes in…
“Free Fall” – David helps out a skydiving team, which inevitably leads to David falling out of the plane without a parachute.
“Dark Side” – David’s attempt to inject himself with a possible cure backfires when it unleashes the dark side of his personality.
-When this disc is initially put in the player, you can see trailers for Wanted and Doomsday, along with a collective trailer for season sets for The A Team, Knight Rider and Magnum PI.
There is also a “Previews” menu, which brings up trailers for the season sets for 30 Rock, Battlestar Galactica, Crossing Jordan, House, Miami Vice, Murder She Wrote, Quantum Leap and the same collective trailer for The A Team, Knight Rider and Magnum PI.
SEASON FOUR DISC TWO:
“Deep Shock” – David develops second sight after the Hulk is electrocuted. (As a change, this one has the Hulkout happen right away rather than at the end of the 2nd act)
“Bring Me The Head of the Hulk” – Bill Bixby directs this episode, in which he and a group of scientists are trapped in a facility by a man hunting the Hulk for a bounty.
“Fast Lane” – David’s rental car turns out to have precious cargo for the mob guys chasing him.
“Goodbye, Eddie Cain” – This episode is told from the point of view of a meddling private investigator who keeps running into the Hulk while figuring out a murder. This episode was directed by Jack Colvin.
“King of the Beach” – David befriends a mostly deaf bodybuilder played by Lou Ferrigno.
SEASON FOUR DISC THREE:
“Wax Museum” – David works at a wax museum and befriends a woman obsessed with her dead father.
“East Winds” – David gets mixed up with Chinese Gangsters. This episode was directed by Jack Colvin.
“The First, Parts 1 & 2” – David encounters Dell Frye, an old man who was cured of David’s problem years ago. The problems begin when Frye repeats the experiment to turn himself back into the creature. And since Frye is capable of killing, so is his creature. This is a particularly memorable and scary episode, with a great climax of both creatures fighting it out.
“The Harder They Fall” – David is paralyzed for the episode and befriends another paralyzed man who is not only bitter but ready to take desperate action.
SEASON FOUR DISC FOUR:
“Interview With the Hulk” – David Banner is caught by a reporter and tells his story.
“Half Nelson” – David befriends a dwarf wrestler who can’t resist telling stories that get him and David into a lot of trouble. For some reason, David climbs into the ring at the climax of the episode, with predictable results.
“Danny” – David gets caught in the situation of a young couple and child who are mixed up with the wrong people. In the middle of this episode, David encounters barbed wire. Then the Hulk deals with it.
“Patterns” – David gets involved with the rag trade, when loan sharks think he’s a business partner of their target.
Special Features on Disc 4 –
Creating an Iconic Character: THE HULK - (9:49, Non-Anamorphic) – This short featurette features the same interview subjects as the one in the 3rd Season set. This time the focus is on Lou Ferrigno and his portrayal of the character. Some time is spent discussing the initial casting of Richard Kiel in the role. And there is some discussion of “King of the Beach”, which was the one time Ferrigno could appear on the show without wearing the green makeup. The producers also discuss their constant efforts to find inventive new reasons and scenarios for the Hulkouts, including one idea of David on skis that never found its way into an episode. (They admit that they would sometimes come up with a particularly interesting or outrageous Hulkout and then build the episode around it.)
Inside an Episode: “Prometheus” Photo Gallery - (2:00, Non-Anamorphic) – This is actually a handful of photos taken on the set of “Prometheus”, mostly during the opening scene of Bill Bixby and Laurie Prange in the water.
A Behind-the-Scenes Look at THE INCREDIBLE HULK featuring an Interview with Edward Norton - (3:54) – This is the same featurette seen in the 3rd Season set.
[img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/1/1a/htf_imgcache_884.gif[/img]VIDEO QUALITY: 3/5 [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img]
The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Third Season and The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Fourth Season are full-frame presentations of the best masters available. As with the earlier season releases, the image here is what you saw when these episodes originally aired. As Kenneth Johnson points out in his “Prometheus” commentary, the picture was great for 20” TV screens in 1980. At the time, nobody was thinking you would watch these episodes on a 60” or 70” HDTV. So the original source materials really show here. Stock footage (of planes, locations, weather, etc.) really looks rough, and the then-current footage being cut in shows its seams. Picture quality varies throughout, but this is to be expected from 30 year old prints made on a television schedule. As far as the transfer itself goes, it is an accurate representation of the series as it was telecast.
[img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/1/1a/htf_imgcache_884.gif[/img]AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5 [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img] [img]http://static.hometheaterforum.com/imgrepo/4/4d/htf_images_smilies_star.gif[/img]
The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Third Season and The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Fourth Season are presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mixes that essentially give us what we heard during the original broadcasts 30 years ago. The dialogue is mostly clear, as is the music and the sound effects of Hulkouts, roars and growls. As with the image, the sound is presented more for archival purposes than to push the capabilities of any home theatre.
IN THE END...
The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Third Season and The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Fourth Season will certainly appeal to fans of the series, as they contain some of the more interesting episodes. The picture and sound aren’t spectacular, but they give an accurate picture of what the series looked like when originally broadcast. The special features are fairly minimal, particularly for the 3rd Season set, which really just has an interview featurette. The 4th Season set at least has the commentary track on “Prometheus” in addition to a quick featurette and a photo gallery. The only other special feature, the sneak peek at the new Edward Norton film, points to the reason for these season sets being released. Fans of the series, and of Bill Bixby, will certainly want to pick these up for completion’s sake. More casual viewers should try a rental first, starting with the fourth season. (There are no major story events after the 2nd season, so you could watch any episode in any order – other than the two-parters, of course.)
May 15, 2008