The Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno-starring The Incredible Hulk ran for five seasons between 1978 and 1982, and now the entire run of episodes have been given a HD spruce up by the guys at Fabulous Films. But is this a show that’s simply best left as a nostalgic memory, or does this release bring new live to an old favourite?
Plot-wise, we all know the drill by now. Genius scientist Bruce Banner (Bixby) is exposed to gamma radiation, resulting in him turning into the imposing, erratic Hulk (Ferrigno) whenever he gets angry. And remember, you won’t like him when he's angry. For poor, tragic Banner, he has to pretend to be dead as he frantically tries to find a cure for his little issue of transforming into a giant green rage monster. Adding further to his problems, Bruce is regularly pursued by Jack McGee (Jack Colvin), a nosy journalist who wants to find out the truth behind who the Hulk really is.
As was par the course for shows of its time, The Incredible Hulk as a series is largely made up of one-and-done type adventures, although obviously there’s the overarching greater narrative of Banner trying to keep the Hulk at bay. That’s not to say that the show doesn’t hold your attention throughout its episodes, though, for despite there being expected filler episodes from time-to-time, there’s two constants that make each and every outing an engaging one: Bill Bixby’s Bruce Banner and Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk.
Getting the whole trauma of Banner’s battle with his hulking inner demon right is something that’s so hard to get right, but even to this day it’s Bill Bixby that’s the standard bearer when it comes to what we hope to see from the more recent big screen incarnations of the Green Goliath. To his Bruce Banner, Bixby brought a true sense of tragedy as we got to see a man battle his demons in a way that pulled at the heartstrings and brought genuine care and emotion to a series that could so easily just be all about the “Hulk Smash!” element. That’s not to say that seeing the Engine of Mass Destruction popping up to bash the bad guys and save the day at least once per episode isn’t great, and the sight of Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk is likely to reawaken many memories of afternoons spent hiding behind the sofa.
With this new release from Fabulous Films, each and every episode has been given a high-definition makeover and it’s certainly a job well done, for The Incredible Hulk has never looked or sounded – yes, that theme tune is still as memorable – any better. The effects of the show may feel a little dated to new eyes these days, but for those longing to revisit a favourite of yesteryear, this crisp new release will bring an added sense of freshness to a show that’s so fondly remembered by multiple generations.
One slight niggle with The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Collection is that there’s no major new bonus features included – the featurettes and gag reel included here have previously been attached to earlier releases – but that’s certainly not a major put-off, particularly for those who haven’t got any of the previous releases of the series. Also, it would've been nice to have seen the later TV movies that featured Thor (1988's The Incredible Hulk Returns) and Daredevil (1989's The Trial of the Incredible Hulk) - not to mention 1990's The Death of the Incredible Hulk - included in this set as a nice extra.
As a character study, the dynamic between Bruce Banner and his alter-ego has never been better explored than during The Incredible Hulk, and even now Bill Bixby’s Banner stands up as one of the greatest examples of bringing a comic book character to life in a live-action setting. Simply put, this new release of an old favourite is smashing. Hulk smashing.
We'll get our coat...
Special Features: Three featurettes / Audio commentary on three episodes / Two introductions / Gag reel / Photo gallery
THE INCREDIBLE HULK: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION / CERT: 12 / CREATOR: KENNETH JOHNSON / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: BILLY BIXBY, LOU FERRIGNO, JACK COLVIN, CHARLES NAPIER / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 5TH