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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD Review: The Incredible Hulk - The Complete Fifth Season

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#1 of 13 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted October 13 2008 - 07:38 AM


Studio: Universal
Original Broadcast: 1981-1982
Length: 5 hours 39 mins
Genre: Science Fiction/Drama

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Color/B&W: Color

  • English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono

    Subtitles: English SDH
    Rating: Unrated (TV-safe violence, Multiple Hulkouts)

  • Release Date: October 21, 2008

    1 ½ ½

    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 Fifth Season is the final season DVD set of the series, consisting of seven episodes that were actually filmed during the 4th season. These episodes had been intended to air alongside a host of new episodes, including a 2-hour opener (involving David Banner giving a blood transfusion to his sister and thus creating the She-Hulk for television...) and a series finale. But after the 4th season was completed and aired, CBS executive Harvey Shephard chose instead to simply air the remaining episodes amid a bunch of repeats and preemptions and call that a 5th Season. It’s truly a shame, as it denied series creator Kenneth Johnson the opportunity to finish the story of the series and it left David Banner’s unfortunate condition in a state of permanence. The remaining episodes are mostly unremarkable – only “Veteran” really generates anything beyond the curiosity factor, and none of the seven episodes approaches the depth of the best of this series.

    For those who haven’t seen the series before, it’s probably best to start with the earlier seasons. But to sum it up in short: the series is a dramatic adaptation of the Marvel comic book about a man who transforms into a raging green creature whenever he becomes angry. For the series, almost all the comic book details have been dropped and the story concerns Dr. David Banner, a scientist who accidentally overdoses himself with gamma radiation and winds up wandering the US looking for a way to cure himself or at least stay out of trouble. And typically, he finds trouble wherever he goes, leading to two Hulkouts per episode and a finale each week that finds him hitchhiking down the road again to Joe Harnell’s mournful “Lonely Man” theme.

    As with the earlier season sets, the complete episodes are presented here, in the order of airing. The episodes are presented in full frame and 2.0 mono sound. As I noted in my review of the 3rd and 4th Seasons, the episodes 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. While the earlier season sets had the charm of providing a full year of the show, this set only provides the seven episodes, begging the question of why they could not have been provided alongside the 4th season or presented in another fashion. Calling seven episodes a full season is bad enough during a strike year (such as some of the abbreviated season sets we have seen for last year’s shows), but doing so in a classic television series really leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

    The seven episodes of the fifth season are presented over two discs, with a pair of special features available on the 2nd disc. Those special features are the featurette “Behind the Success: The Story of The Incredible Hulk” and a six minute Gag Reel.

    We’ll go through each disc in order. THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THE EPISODE DESCRIPTIONS HERE.. All seven episodes are presented in full-frame with the aforementioned 2.0 soundtrack. The set comes boxed with a lenticular cover showing two images of the Hulk bursting through a brick wall.


    This disc contains the first four episodes of the season:

    “The Phenom” – This episode was never intended to be the season premiere, but wound up in that position by default. David befriends a young baseball pitcher played by a very young Brett Cullen. Not much else happens, other than David getting punched out once, and “shown the stairs” once. (Meaning he gets tossed down the stairs and through the glass door headfirst. Naturally, the Hulk answers this insult...)

    “Two Godmothers” – David somehow winds up helping in a prison break involving a pregnant prisoner. As part of their adventure, they get caught in a rockslide and David decides to leave his hand exposed while trying to help one of the women. Moments later, the Hulk realizes this was a bad idea, and that David now has a broken hand.

    “Veteran” – In the one remotely memorable episode out of the seven, David tries to stop a political assassination in a situation where the assassin is not quite what he seems to be. David discovers the joys of listening to ultrasonics here, and the Hulk discovers the joys of punishing David’s tormentor.

    “Sanctuary” – Banner somehow winds up impersonating a priest while dealing with a Chicano immigrant on the run from some very bad guys. Diana Muldaur, who previously played Banner’s sister in “Homecoming”, returns in another role as a nun. (Her presence here would have made it very difficult to air this episode anywhere near the proposed season premiere, which would have required her to play David’s sister again...)

    -When this disc is initially put in the player, you can see non-anamorphic trailers for season sets of Battlestar: Galactica, and trailers for the DVDs of 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and The Strangers along with the Universal Blu-ray trailer.

    There is also a “Previews” menu, which brings up non-anamorphic trailers for the season sets for 30 Rock, Coach, Heroes, Life, Miami Vice, The Office, psych, Saturday Night Live and a collective trailer for The A Team, Knight Rider and Magnum P.I..


    “Triangle” – David inexplicably makes the mistake of falling for a local girl that has the interest of a very powerful man. Result: David gets repeatedly beaten up by the man’s thugs, including Charles Napier. (Napier is also known for doing the voiceover roars of the Hulk after the passing of Ted Cassidy.)

    “Slaves” – David is caught along with a few others by an angry ex-con and turned into a slave. Or at least, he winds up getting beaten up and then trapped in a cave-in. One of the other prisoners is played by Faye Grant, who would wind up on V the following year.

    “A Minor Problem” – In the series’ final episode, David winds up in a deserted town that has seen an outbreak of bacteria.

    Special Features on Disc 2 –

    Behind The Success: The Story of “The Incredible Hulk” - (18:18, Non-anamorphic) – This featurette contains the rest of the material compiled for the featurettes seen on the 3rd and 4th season sets. As with the prior featurettes, it includes interviews with Kenneth Johnson, Ruben Leder, Karen Harris, Jill Sherman and Robert Bennett Steinhauer intercut with stock footage from the series. Here, they discuss Leder, Harris and Sherman’s beginnings as writers on the series, along with Johnson’s hiring of John McPherson to be the cinematographer for the series. There is also a brief discussion of the work of Joe Harnell, who wrote the music for both pilots and scored many of the best episodes, with special attention to the “Lonely Man” theme. (As a special bonus, one of the writers provides her never-before heard lyrics for the theme. They go like this: “I am the Hulk. I rip my clothes.” And they go downhill from there...) Johnson discusses the end of the series, and how his attempts to make a finale were rebuffed, along with his interest in doing the “She-Hulk” opener for the final season. One odd part of this featurette is that the principals all discuss working for five years on the series. Except that the show only ran for 4 seasons. I can only think that they’re adding in the time for the two pilots.

    Gag Reel - (6:02) – This is actually a nice little bonus. It’s a series of bits of Bixby or Jack Colvin blowing their lines or their cues. Bixby’s usual lament if no other dialogue comes to mind: “You fool around?”. Best moment: Bixby opens the door to Colvin before Colvin turns away. Bixby’s response: “Oh Hi. Um, End of Series.”


    The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Fifth Season, like the earlier sets, offers 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. 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.


    The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Fifth Season is presented in an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix that essentially gives us what we heard during the original broadcasts 27 years ago. The dialogue is mostly clear, as is the music and the sound effects of Hulkouts, roars and growls.

    IN THE END...

    The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Fifth Season is a very hard DVD set to recommend, even for completion’s sake. The featurette and the gag reel are interesting and fun, but the seven episodes on display here are far from the series’ best, and it’s being more than generous to refer to them as a complete season. I can only say that fans of the series will want to at least rent this set to get to see the featurette and the gag reel, and then decide whether it’s worth it to pick up the episodes just to have the whole series. I understand that a complete series set is also being made available, so those fans that have never picked up the season sets or the episode collections could just grab that and have everything at once.

    Kevin Koster
    October 13, 2008

    #2 of 13 OFFLINE   Dave Scarpa

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    Posted October 14 2008 - 06:19 AM

    These should Have been released with version 4. Is this set full retail? If So I guess I'll Netflix them.
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    #3 of 13 OFFLINE   Ron68


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    Posted October 14 2008 - 04:37 PM

    I agree that these episodes should have been included with Season 4 but I'm still going to buy them. This is one of my all time favourite shows and I want to complete the series. I found the weaker episodes to be enjoyable. It's too bad the series ended the way it did. I would have liked David to have found a cure, thus giving the series a ending that ties everything up. The She-hulk idea sounds interesting, would have been cool to see. Great review, Kevin.

    #4 of 13 OFFLINE   Mark Talmadge

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    Posted October 14 2008 - 09:51 PM

    Since Best Buy has the final set priced at $22.99 and maytbe even cheaper than that, I'll still pick up the final season ...

    #5 of 13 OFFLINE   Sam Favate

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    Posted October 15 2008 - 12:20 AM

    I know there are rights issues involved, but if the studio was going to put out the final 7 episodes as a "season," they should have included the TV films that followed the show's cancellation, and a documentary on what was to be the final movie, before Bixby's untimely death.

    #6 of 13 OFFLINE   TV_Fan


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    Posted October 15 2008 - 01:06 AM

    If I remember correctly the TV movies were not produced by Universal. I have the two movie set DVDs and they were released by Anchor Bay & 20th Century Fox. At any rate I will be buying this set to complete my collection. I don't remember the episodes and at around $23 I really can't go wrong. I'm most interested to see the gag reel.

    #7 of 13 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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    Posted October 15 2008 - 07:17 PM

    The TV movies had very little to do with the original series aside from continuing Bixby as Banner and Ferrigno as the Hulk. (I believe the first one also has Colvin make an appearance, but the other two don't.) The first two movies were clearly intended to promote other Marvel heroes (Thor in the first, Daredevil in the second). But the plots were completely outlandish when compared to the more sensitive material usually on display in the series. The final movie eschewed that for a more conventional tale of Banner again trying to find a cure and/or romance only to find evil terrorists and more Hulkouts. None of these were anything like what Kenneth Johnson had in mind, or would have made if anyone would have given him the opportunity - as he did get to do with Alien Nation years later.

    #8 of 13 OFFLINE   TV_Fan


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    Posted October 16 2008 - 02:02 AM

    I agree, especially about the outlandish plots of the first two movies. They made the Hulk story seem even more improbable in my opinion. I think the Death of the Incredile Hulk was the best, although it did have a sad ending. I know they would have continued to produce movies if Bixby didn't die. If I remember correctly on one the DVDs someone said they planned to continue the story with the Hulk having Banner's brain and being able to talk. In a sense I guess it's good the way the story ended because they would have beaten a dead horse too many times. Bixby directed The Trial of the Incredible Hulk & The Death of the Incredible Hulk and in my opinion did a much better job on the final movie. It's too bad Jack Colvin wasn't in the final movie.

    #9 of 13 OFFLINE   Brian Himes

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    Posted October 22 2008 - 04:28 AM

    I pikced up the final season. I'm glad to have finished the series. What bothers me is that Universal should have put these discs in two slim cases instead of two standard cases. It just takes up unnecessary space on the shelf.

    The music does matter.

    #10 of 13 OFFLINE   MattHR



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    Posted October 22 2008 - 05:27 AM

    It's another lame attempt by Uni to make the set appear to be more than it actually is, thus "justifying" its high MSRP. This set's episodes average $4.28 per -- which is about double the previous sets'. I picked mine up at Target for $15.99. Does anyone have the complete series set? I'm curious to see the interior configuration.

    #11 of 13 OFFLINE   MattHR



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    Posted October 23 2008 - 02:00 PM

    Kenneth Johnson showed this same gag-reel to fans at the 2006 Bionicon convention (which Lou Ferrigno also attended.) I asked him why there weren't any bloopers of Lou, and he said, "Louie wouldn't give us clearance to show them." I assume that reason also applied to the DVD release. Too bad, since KJ said there was some pretty funny stuff of Lou and prop mishaps, tripping/slipping/falling, wig malfunctions, green make-up smears, and more.

    #12 of 13 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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    Posted November 02 2008 - 01:19 PM

    I have seen the complete gag reel. It goes on a bit longer, including blown lines by guest characters (the episode "Babalau" seems to get lots of attention here...) and it also includes an endless series of shots from "Married" of the crew trying to break down the loft set for the mid-episode Hulkout. According to Kenny, this scene (simply staged to have the Hulk take apart the set while punishing the guys who beat up David) was murder to film because the loft simply would not collapse. There are shots of guys jumping up and down on it, and it still won't go. And this footage just goes on and on and on. I find it pretty funny in its outrageousness, but I understand why it didn't make it onto the DVD cut.

    #13 of 13 OFFLINE   WaveCrest



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    Posted November 05 2008 - 10:08 AM

    I'm waiting for the R1 boxset to come down a lot in price before buying it. I thought somewhere around $15 is a good price for just 7 episodes.

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