Incredible Hulk Returns/Trial Of The Incredible Hulk
Growing up in the late fifties and early sixties the classic comic books were a regular part of life. Of course there were the perennial favorites like Superman and Batman but this was the time when another comic group became famous, Marvel. Unlike the dominate DC universe of superheroes the Marvel characters were more human. They had amazing powers and fought super villains but there was a lot more. They had some of the same everyday problems as the readers. This is the comic group that gave the world such heroes as Spiderman, the Fantastic Four and Iron Man. One of the emotionally deepest characters to come out of the Marvel universe was The Incredible Hulk. He had strength far beyond mortal man; even more than most super heroes. He was also conflicted. Scientist Bruce David Banner bombarded himself an overdose of gamma rays during an experiment and now when he gets angry he turns green, grows huge and becomes almost feral in his understanding of the world. This was a twist of the old Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde but for the young audience it was more. It was about not fitting in to society; alienation. Banner had to suppress his feelings and not let the world see the darker side of his personality. This was not like Clark Kent ducking into a phone booth to change into Superman. This transformation was a loss of control for Banner. The comic was made into a popular television series that lasted from 1977 to 1982. After the series went off the air a few made for TV movies were produced to extend the still beloved franchise. Two of these movies are being re-released, this time as a single disc, by Anchor Bay in a double feature DVD pack. If you are a fan of the comics or the television series this is a must have for your collection.
The two movies presented in this set are ‘The Return of the Incredible Hulk’ and ‘Trial of the Incredible Hulk’. For the most part they retained the quality and emotional impact that was a cornerstone of the series. One major departure did receive mixed reactions from the very loyal fan base. In each of the movies another Marvel character was introduced. This did let fans see more of the characters we grew up with but it diluted the main focus on the dichotomy between Banner and his alter ego. There were a lot of changes from the way the new characters where portrayed here. In some ways this is keeping with the Hulk series since the networks did change his name to David Bruce Banner considering David a better name for a lead character. The films were more than just extended episodes of the series. Most of the core aspects of the series were retained such as the ‘Fugitive’ like nature of Banner’s life on the run and always searching for a cure for his condition. There is sadness inherent to the characters of both Banner and the Hulk. Banner is cursed with his transformation. When he is the Hulk he loses his incredible intellect and all sense of reason. The Hulk is childlike in his view of the world. He often protects the innocent but lashes out with uncontrollable rage at the aggressors. In the comics he served as both hero and villain, something the guys at Marvel really made popular. Here the Hulk is a simply misunderstood creature; hunted by everyone.
Return of the Incredible Hulk
It has been almost two years since the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) has made an appearance but David Banner (Bill Bixby) still lives in constant fear of his return. Banner is now living with another scientist Maggie Shaw (Lee Purcell). They work together in a lab where Banner has built a ‘gamma transponder’ in hopes to rid himself forever of the creature. She doesn’t know the details; Banner told her he went through a period of self destructive behavior which he referred to as the ‘monster’. Maggie thinks the term was meant to be figurative. The owner of the lab where they both work, Joshua Lambert (John Gabriel), along with his son Zach (Jay Baker) are about to go public with the transponder. It is hoped that the device will create a new, unlimited power source. There is also a potential that it would be a powerful weapon. The Lamberts don’t understand why David is so reluctant to take any of the public credit for the invention but he can’t risk having his picture in the news. Just before David can test the device on himself he is interrupted by a former student of his, Dr. Don Blake (Steve Levitt). He recognizes David as Banner. He is there to talk to him about a discovery of his own. During an expedition in Northern Europe Blake found an entombed Viking warrior. When Blake picked up his battle hammer it called the warrior back in the flesh, Thor (Eric Allan Kramer). Now Blake can summon Thor who will do anything he wants as long as it is legal such as a good deed. When Blake makes Thor appear before David the Viking’s rage triggers the appearance of the Hulk. There are people after the device, a kidnapping with Maggie and the usual round of comic book story lines. To get things done the Hulk and Thor have to team up to fight the bad guys.
The Trial of the Incredible Hulk
With this movie Bixby also took a turn as director. As this flick opens David is working digging ditches; something this MD/PhD has gotten used to over the years. When a co-worker starts to pick on him David figures it is time to leave before the Hulk shows up. David moves to the city and stays in a flea bag hotel while he looks for new work. After a robbery of a jewelry store, orchestrated by criminal master mind Wilson Fisk (John Rhys-Davies), better known as the Kingpin, two of the thieves make their getaway on the subway. They get on the same subway car as David. One of them starts to harass a young woman Ellie Mendez (Marta DuBois) and David, always the do-gooder, steps in turning into the Hulk. At the next stop the Hulk runs and the police give chase but by the time they catch up the Hulk has turned back into Banner who is arrested. David is defended by a blind lawyer, Matt Murdock (Rex Smith) who wants to take the case since it may lead to bringing the Kingpin to justice. Murdock is not your average blind attorney he is also a crime fighting vigilante known as Daredevil. Due to radiation exposure that took his sight his other senses have been heighten to levels far above human. He also is expert at sever forms of martial arts so the masked persona works out pretty well for him. He has to defend David by day and hunt the Kingpin by night.
The films are fun to watch. While they do not adhere to the canon of the Marvel universe they are creative enough for an evening of entertainment. Instead of just re-branding the previous release this one is different from the original double feature DVD. Instead of a two disc set with each film on a separate disc with extras there is no only one disc with both movies and no extras. Still, it is a value at the price and worth having for every fan.