The Incredible Hulk Returns/The Trial of the Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk stands as the most successful of the early Marvel adaptations, making the leap from comics to television with charm and accessibility, pushing it into the pantheon of mainstream popular culture. Finding its tone somewhere between The Rockford Files and Adam West’s Batman, it walked the line between silliness and drama for five seasons before ending in 1982. Now, conveniently preceding the release of the new Edward Norton Hulk film, Anchor Bay is releasing a DVD featuring two made-for-TV Hulk movies. The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988) finds David Banner — Bruce Banner from the comics was renamed by TV executives who thought "Bruce” sounded homosexual — trying to rid himself of the green monster inside him using reverse gamma rays, or something. Along the way, however, Banner (Bill Bixby) is forced to turn into the Hulk (Lou Ferigno) and do battle with Thor, a Norse god trying to reach the afterlife. If you think there isn’t going to be a montage where Thor goes to a bar, gets drunk and picks up women you’d be sorely mistaken. The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989) is marginally better. David Banner is framed for the assault of a young woman and is defended by attorney Matt Murdock (Rex Smith), better known to comic fans as Daredevil. Smith’s performance is kind of wimpy and more than a little dated, a sad introduction to film for Daredevil, though ultimately not as sad as the Ben Affleck feature. One of the main shortcomings of these movies in comparison with the series is that late ’70s ridiculousness is a lot more tolerable than late ’80s ridiculousness. The later era of television, as well as the longer running time, is not as conducive to the litany of awkward edits, poor dialogue and over-the-top performances. However, it is pretty awesome every time Banner transforms into the Hulk and starts throwing objects and people, with Ferigno giving Hulk a sense of humanity the current CGI incarnations lack. (Anchor Bay)