June 3, 2008

Reviewed by Jason Davis

As with the opportunistic release of The Incredible Hulk pilot backed with the second season premiere “Married” in June 2003, Universal Home Video is quick to promote their forthcoming theatrical re-launch of the Hulk franchise by issuing more of the television series that first brought the character to a mainstream American audience in the late 1970s. Together with season three (and a re-released season two graced with a new lenticular cover to match the all the others — you can even apply for an upgrade if you have the original edition), season four brings aficionados to the brink of completing the character’s live-action TV exploits on DVD.

Season four of the CBS series sees showrunner Kenneth Johnson exploring science fiction tropes more in keeping with the comic book source material than the more grounded exploits of earlier years. The two-part premiere, “Prometheus,” finds Dr. David Banner (Bill Bixby) trapped between his human form and that of the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) by radiation emitted from a meteorite. With the army out hunting aliens, it’s exactly the wrong time for a green-skinned man to be shacking up with a misanthropic blind girl (Laurie Prange). Furthering the science fiction agenda for the season, Banner’s quest for a cure to his volatile condition releases a more dangerous version of the Hulk in “Dark Side” and leads the hero to another man (Harry Townes) seemingly afflicted with his own version of the Hulk (Swamp Thing’s Dick Durrock) in the two-part story “The First.”

While the writers play up the science fiction angle of the series, antagonist Jack McGee (Jack Colvin) gets several stories to highlight his relentless pursuit of the Hulk for the Daily Register tabloid while actor Colvin steps behind the camera to direct two episodes. Bixby also steps behind the camera for “Bring Me the Head of the Hulk,” one of the aforementioned stories showcasing Colvin‘s character. Like cast mates Bixby and Colvin, Ferrigno also gets a chance to expand his horizons in the fourth season as he essays the role of a deaf body-builder hoping to open his own restaurant with the prize money from a muscle contest in “King of the Beach.”

Despite the new narrative arenas opened by embracing The Incredible Hulk’s comic book roots, season four starts to show the fatigue that eventually overtakes all successful television series. With only 18 episodes compared to 23 in each of the prior seasons, the Hulk seems to be tiring and the CBS-mandated two Hulk-outs per episode become more forced with each subsequent installment. Despite these shortcomings, Universal Home Video continues to up the ante in terms of supplemental material with a featurette devoted to the Hulk’s presentation in the TV series as well as a repeat of the movie sneak peak seen on the previous season set. Best of all, Johnson provides one of his excellent and informative commentaries for the two-part season opener and one is left wondering if the man has a photographic memory or merely an exceptionally detailed log of his activities nearly 30 years ago. As with season three, audio and video are on par for a filmed TV series of this vintage.

Need more Hulk? Click here forJason’s season three DVD review.

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