The Incredible Hulk-Original TV Series Pilots (1978)

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Released 13-Jun-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Kenneth Johnson (Director)
Featurette-Hulk Sneak Peak
Introduction-Lou Ferrigno
Teaser Trailer-Hulk movie
Trailer-Hulk Superbowl Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 183:45 (Case: 185)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (95:58) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kenneth Johnson
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Bill Bixby
Susan Sullivan
Mariette Hartley
Jack Colvin
Lou Ferrigno
Susan Batson
Charles Siebert
Mario Gallo
Eric Server
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Joseph Harnell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Dr. David Banner (Bill Bixby) is a troubled man, haunted by nightmares of his wife's death in a car crash, and the frustration of not being able to save her. This is established in the first few minutes of the first pilot episode, but don't worry if you miss anything here because you'll see this scene again ... and again, and again before these two episodes are over.

    Working with his friend from college days, Dr. Elaine Marks (Susan Sullivan), Banner is conducting research on cases of "panic power", where people exhibit extraordinary strengths to save loved ones from certain death. He's constantly frustrated at not being able to understand why he couldn't do the same to save his wife, when there's a breakthrough that reveals a mixture of genetic code and gamma radiation combine to give people this super-strength.

    Knowing that he has the genetic code required, Banner bombards his body with gamma radiation one night (inadvertently using a much higher dosage than he planned), but still sees no change in his strength level. However, an incident later that night makes him really angry and triggers a metamorphosis into a certain large, green muscleman with ripped clothing. The rest, as they say, is history.

    The two movie-length pilot episodes on this disc cover the creation of the Hulk, with attempts to bring the good doctor back to normal, and then a trip to Hawaii to find another doctor who can help, using hypnosis treatment (Mariette Hartley). There's a subplot involving a reporter for the "National Register", Jack McGee (Jack Colvin), who's always snooping around trying to find out the scoop on our big green chum.

    This series was very popular in its day, and actually became the longest running comic-book adaptation in TV history (5 years). These first two episodes were designed as the pilot and a second movie-length instalment to help establish the mood of the series. They have dated considerably, but the pilot is still watchable, with the second episode being a little too cheesy and laboured to be entertaining.

    This production is for 1970s TV, so we're in a world where cars burst into flames as soon as they crash, pretty women often have blurred outlines, all dreams are out of focus, true love is demonstrated in short musical montages, and big green monsters are played by Mr. Universe winners (Lou Ferrigno), rather than CGI. If you go into this expecting something like the recent Marvel adaptations to come out of Hollywood, then you'll be very disappointed. There's the occasional bit of Hulk action where he smashes lots of things, flexes his muscles and grunts and groans, but it's mostly in slow motion and isn't really anything that will enthral modern-day viewers.

    These episodes are more about the story, and involve quite a few deep themes and not a little pathos. I noticed that Hulk creator Stan Lee was an advisor for these, so I can see why the stories aren't kiddies' stuff. Lee's characters (and hence stories) have always been known for their complexity, but it's also largely due to the Director's desire to create more of a psychological investigation than a direct comic-book adaptation.

    Both these stories have more than their fair share of failures for our hero. If you thought Bruce Wayne, Matt Murdoch, or Peter Parker had some bad luck with the ladies, then you haven't seen anything yet! (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Every woman Banner seems to take a fancy to ends up dead ... three of them within these first two pilot episodes alone. So, there are certainly some moments that attempt to move the audience. Having said that though, it's all just a bit too over-dramatic most of the time, and some scenes are so drawn out as to be almost painfully long (especially when you know what's going to happen anyway). The over-acting can at times also detract from proceedings, but then it isn't as bad as some examples of television from the 1970s era.

    Bill Bixby himself does a good job in his part, and takes the role as a serious acting exercise rather than a tongue-in-cheek farce. However, some of the support acting leaves a lot to be desired.

    All in all, I'd say this DVD has some novelty interest (especially for Marvel fans), but after watching it once, I don't think I'll be doing so again. Worth a rental at best, and only if you're aware of what you're getting - this isn't anything like Hollywood's Marvel adaptations (but then you might not consider that a bad thing).

    As a final note, I'd just like to add that it's not exactly subtle the way DVDs that are even slightly related to a recent Hollywood movie are released around the same time, often with similar cover art even! Titles that spring to mind are Gone in 60 Seconds, I Spy, Lord of the Rings ("cartoon" version), and now The Hulk can be added to the list. If I didn't know better, I'd say studios were hoping to make a few bucks on purchases based on mistaken identity, but then they wouldn't do something like that now would they?

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This disc offers a much better video transfer than I'd expected for a couple of episodes from a 1970s TV show. It's obvious that they actually spent a bit of time on this transfer.

    The video transfer is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and hence is not 16x9 enhanced.

    During the first five minutes I was dreading having to watch three hours of this video, as it was totally lacking in any sharpness, and colours were washed out. To my relief though, it turns out to be a dream sequence, and when we hit the real world sharpness improves dramatically! For the most part, the image is crisp and clear, with fine details being clearly visible (take for example Banner's face at 58:45). There are exceptions, though, where images are soft or grainy, sometimes for dream sequences, sometimes for soft-focusing a female character, sometimes for old stock/military footage (170:28), but also sometimes just due to bad camerawork (such as 155:17). You can't really blame any of these on the transfer though, since it's source-related. Blacks are solid with no low-level noise, but shadow detail is somewhat lacking, illustrated in most of the dark scenes, such as at 58:44 and 108:36.

    Colour is very good for something from the 1970s where we're used to pale, washed-out colours in a lot of video material. Here they are generally solid and accurate though, with only the occasional changes in tone cropping up in some shots.

    No obvious MPEG artefacts are present, and film to video artefacts are also for the most part absent. There is, however, quite a bit of aliasing visible, which can be distracting at times. Some instances include the blinds at 75:05, as well as at 80:11.

    Film artefacts exist throughout, but mostly consist of tiny specks and marks that will vary in annoyance depending on the size of your screen. There are only very infrequent examples of larger, more obvious artefacts, such as at 24:27.

    There are no subtitle streams available on this disc.

    You'd expect a dual-layered DVD with two episodes on it to have the layer change between the episodes. For some reason though, this disc has the layer change at 95:58 (5:18 into the second episode). It's not disruptive, though, and is during a shot that doesn't have any dialogue to interrupt.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This audio transfer is no more or less that would be expected considering the source.

    There are two audio tracks on this disc; English Dolby Digital 2.0 and English Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0, both encoded at 224 kbps. I listened to both tracks.

    Dialogue was clear and mostly in sync, with a few exceptions where bad ADR was obvious, such as at 43:48. These instances were rare though.

    Music by Joseph Harnell ranged from moving piano pieces, to over-dramatic 1970s style themes (with lots of loud violin), to Magnum P.I-style action music for the relevant scenes. Needless to say it's quite varied, with most of it being not too good, but the theme and aforementioned piano pieces are the exception.

    Your surrounds and subwoofer can take the night off.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    You'll notice the words "quick" and "brief" appear a lot when describing the bulk of the extras on this disc. Besides the commentary there's really not much more than advertising for The Hulk movie.

Menu

    The menus are static, 16x9 enhanced, and include music looping in the background. I should point out that the menu navigation required to get to the special features is rather convoluted. The initial menu gives you the options to play either of the episodes, but to get to any lower level menus you have to hit the "menu" button on your remote. I could imagine some people not even being aware of the fact that there are extras on this disc.

Audio Commentary - Kenneth Johnson (Director)

    This is the most substantial of the extras, and I'm not sure how much of it was written out before the recording, but there is a lot of info being remembered in these (especially considering it's just the one participant). Johnson recalls dozens of facts and anecdotes about the story, the show coming into being, the shooting techniques, the actors, the 1970s, and much more. He explains how he lobbied for a red Hulk, how "Jaws" from the Bond movies was originally cast (and even shot) for the part, why he changed Banner's name to David, and so on.

    The second episode has slightly more silent moments, but these are still pretty infrequent. The director has a lot of enthusiasm and is easy to listen to, making this a worthwhile listen.

Hulk Sneak Peak (3:05)

    Basically an extended trailer for this year's The Hulk movie, with brief interview snippets from Sam Elliot, Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly and Ang Lee, telling us how cool the movie is. Just promotional fluff really.

Introduction - Lou Ferrigno (3:53)

    The Mr. Universe champion gives us a quick rundown on his involvement in the TV series. He's a little hard to understand at times, due to a strong lisp, and the interview segments are very quick cuts, so it really only scratches the surface. Mind you, there may not have been much more of interest that came up in the interviews, since the highlight of what we get is Lou telling us he did his own "stunts".

Teaser Trailer - Hulk movie (0:57)

    Just what it says. This teaser is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, letterboxed and not 16x9 enhanced. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0.

Hulk Superbowl Trailer (1:00)

    The ever-so-slightly longer trailer that was shown at the Superbowl. Again we have Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, with a 1.85:1 letterboxed (non 16x9 enhanced) presentation.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    To all intents and purposes there are no substantial differences between the two versions, and I'd stick with the local copy unless you really want the roller coaster featurette.

Summary

    Stories that are more character driven, and not as shallow as a lot of Hollywood offerings, but it's all a bit laboured and long-winded. Might be of novelty interest to Marvel and Hulk fans, but I wouldn't highly recommend it to anyone else.

    The video is decidedly good for a 1970's TV series.

    Audio is adequate - just.

    Extras are mostly promotional fluff for this year's The Hulk movie, with the commentaries being the exception.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© David L (Only my Mum would have any interest in my bio)
Friday, October 31, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDOmni 3600, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252QM CRT Projector, 250cm custom built 16x9 matte screen. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS797- THX Select
SpeakersAccusound ES-55 Speaker set, Welling WS12 Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
We'd rather watch this than that crappy Ang Lee movie - Charlie & Tex REPLY POSTED
Lou not an Olympia winner - Anonymous REPLY POSTED
kenneth johnston - orangecat (my kingdom for a decent bio) REPLY POSTED
We're in the business, too! - Charlie & Tex REPLY POSTED
Campy stuff. - Noel REPLY POSTED