In preparation for the upcoming release of The Incredible Hulk in theaters on June 13, Universal Home Video has dropped seasons 3 and 4 of the classic television series on DVD. The last season, which was cut short due to an industry strike before it was canceled, presumably will come when the movie hits DVD later this year.
But if you want to relive the show from its seasons in the 80s, you can enjoy Bill Bixby as he hulks out into a painted-green Lou Ferrigno.
Like most of the television shows of its era, these episodes are relatively interchangeable. Before the widespread use of video tape players and long before DVRs and TV-on-DVD, this was necessary to catch a continuing audience.
Consequently, the episodes from “The Incredible Hulk” don’t have a chronology. Instead, they feature David Banner roaming from town to town, finding people to help and inadvertently hulking out to save the day twice an episode.
Season 3 contains 23 episodes while season 4 contains only 18. But unlike some shows that had jumped the shark in their later years, these installments offer some of the most famous stories of the series.
One of the most remembered episodes was a two-parter from season 4 called “The First,” which featured another Hulk that David Banner stumbles upon. When he tries to work with the man to find a cure, Banner soon discovers that this guy isn’t interested in getting better. Sure, the other Hulk looks more like a crazy, child-molesting uncle, but the Hulk-versus-Hulk sequence is really pretty slick.
Another classic episode comes from season 3 in which Banner is lured to a private island and hunted like a game animal. “The Snare” followed a trend in series television (a plot device also used in “Fantasy Island” at the time), but what made this episode most memorable was when the Hulk got involved in the chase.
Another two-parter from season 4 called “Prometheus” featured David Banner in mid-change to the Hulk, opening up some new doors for where the show could go.
Somewhat unlike the comic book and more like “The Fugitive,” “The Incredible Hulk” series focused on issues rather than superpowers. Some of the issues tackled (or smashed, rather) in these two seasons include a drugged-out rock star contemplating suicide (with Mackenzie Phillips playing right to type), gang violence, the protection racket, drug smuggling, crop famine, chemical warfare, teenage runaways, corruption in the prison system, child abuse, blackmail and – believe it or not – midget wrestling.
Even amid all of these socially relevant stories, there’s decent science fiction. Every third episode or so features David Banner coming close to a cure. There’s also the relentless Jack McGee (Jack Colvin), who pursues the Hulk. Depth is added to his character in these seasons as we learn why he’s writing for the paper and his relationship with other reporters.
Sure, the old Hulk from the television show is nothing more than a painted bodybuilder (who actually gets a chance to be on-screen in season 3’s “King of the Beach” episode) who roars and flexes a lot. But he is an icon from my youth. And anyone who loved to watch the old television should enjoy bouncing through these episodes on DVD.
Both Season 3 and Season 4 come with a behind-the-scenes look at the new “Incredible Hulk” movie. However, keep in mind that these were produced before the effects were completed, so it’s pretty much just interviews and some action shots with no monsters in it.
Season 3 includes a retrospective Remembering “The Incredible Hulk”: An American Classic. Season 4 includes audio commentary on “Prometheus” as well as a photo gallery of the episode’s production. It also has the featurette Creating an Iconic Character: The Hulk.
THE UPSIDE: A nice collection of classic television.
THE DOWNSIDE: Gets a bit preachy at times, and the Ferrigno Hulk is a bit cheesy.
ON THE SIDE: Back in 2002, I interviewed Lou Ferrigno. He was none too happy that they were making CGI Hulks from now on.