Friday, 23 September 2016

The Incredible Hulk TV Series

Considering that it ran in the late seventies and early eighties, I had assumed that the live action TV series, The Incredible Hulk, wouldn’t have aged too well. I recalled a couple of vague images and snippets of scenes from seeing my brother watch it on video as a child and thought I’d take a look and see how it’s done, after all it was always quite popular and is largely fondly remembered.

I’m pleased to say it’s actually aged quite well and is still a very entertaining and highly enjoyable show. The story follows David (no alliterative names here!) Banner and, after his research into amazing feats of strength leads to an accidental gamma overdose, it follows the Hulk too. David couldn’t shift his upturned car following an accident and so his wife died in its wreckage which led David to become obsessed with researching people who successfully completed such feats of strength in similarly arduous circumstances. The pilot ends with him and his research partner believed dead after a fire in their lab. Reporter Jack McGee sees the Hulk fleeing the scene and builds a career from following rumours and sightings of the Hulk across the country.

David drifts from town to town, under various aliases, seeking people and processes to undo the Hulk. You see him meet and help a variety of people, always happy to solve their problems before moving on with his own. Though it is kind of silly that in every place he visits he finds someone to take him in, give him work, and who then is in a sticky situation with some shady and often lethal characters for him to outsmart and defeat, it is a formula that ultimately works. It builds David as a morally rounded and likeable character with a tragic burden. It also provides plenty of pretty awesome Hulk action, where he gleefully tears rooms apart and tosses people around without ever doing any serious, non-TV friendly harm.

The Hulk itself is presented quite cleverly. Shots are stitched together of Lou Ferrigno, painted green, splitting his clothes apart by tensing arm, leg and back muscles. This means you only ever see individual parts of David turn into the Hulk and so don’t have to worry about terrible affects trying to show the whole transform in a body shot. It’s amazing what some crafty camera work, green paint, a wig and some green contacts can achieve. Sure it doesn’t look anywhere near as impressive as modern manifestations of the Hulk but it stands up well enough to not just be laughable. Not too shabby for a seventies show about an enormous green rage monster.

Honestly the worst aged effect is actually the transformation from Hulk to Banner. The same multi-shot approach doesn’t quite hold up as well, David gradually becomes less and less green and you can tell it’s basically a green shade imposed on top of the existing shot. It sticks out like a sore thumb and, though it does do the job, it looks pretty bad.

The acting, though rarely great, isn’t terrible. The core characters of each episode are usually a tad larger than life but largely well written and performed. The issues come from the more minor characters where their lines aren’t delivered in overly believable ways. It’s always passable but it does show the series’ age.

Despite a few signs of wear and tear The Incredible Hulk is a TV series that stands the test of time and is a very enjoyable show, if you’re a fan of the Hulk and are fed up of him being short changed in terms of his number of live action adaptations then I’d certainly recommend giving this a try, it does the character justice.

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