Monday, February 20, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Incredible Hulk (1977)

The Incredible Hulk is a television series that ran starting in 1977 on CBS. It was on the air for five seasons. This review includes the pilot episode and the second episode, Return of the Incredible Hulk, both of which were originally released as made-for-TV movies.
This series has a very memorable title sequence. Not only does it quickly summarize the basic concept of the Hulk it holds some memorable images. For example, the close up of the "DANGER" button that originally cuts off the "D" to spell "ANGER" and then pulls back to reveal the full word is brilliant. The split screen of Banner and Hulk is iconic.

This series is pretty formulaic but that's not necessarily a bad thing. From episode to episode, David Banner walks from one situation to another unrelated situation. There is very little continuity from one episode to another and the only true ongoing plotline is the reporter Jack McGee who is chasing the Hulk. The Hulk's transformation sequences are a highlight of the series. And, of course, every episode ended with sad piano music and Banner walking down some lonely highway. 

The Hulk is played by Lou Ferrigno, a roll that he played so convincingly that the Hulk is still associated with him after decades have passed. The Hulk's origin is changed from a gamma bomb to a more scientifically based laboratory setting. Visually, the Hulk was fine for its day but the costume shows its age. The wig is bad and some of the facial enhancements are comical. The worst may be the body paint, however, because you can clearly see it often washed or rubbed off in certain areas.

But it was truly Bill Bixby that carried this series. The man was an legendary actor with quite a range. He brought a quiet peacefulness to the Banner character. When he said the famous line, "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry," he managed to sound both friendly and threatening at the same time. Bixby showed true range in his acting and he was able to contort his face in such as to show extreme emotion. 

Of course, as it has been much discussed, the creators of the show changed Banner's name from "Bruce" to "David." Banner is actually the real hero of the series, not the Hulk. Whenever the Hulk does good he is merely doing what Banner was unable to do. When Banner transforms into the Hulk without good intentions, we see a savage beast. 

All in all, although this series seems slowly paced by today's standards it holds up exceptionally well.

1LR Rating - 16 out of 20 - It's a Hit!

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