Anyone keeping score knows news of Mark Ruffalo’s playing the Incredible Hulk in the Avengers makes three actors for the Green Goliath in the last seven years. But anyone keeping score will also know there’s really only one Incredible Hulk – the late, great Bill Bixby.
The Incredible Hulk Double Feature
“The Incredible Hulk Returns” takes place six years after the end of the 1978 series. Bill Bixby’s David Banner (changed from Bruce Banner because censors thought the name Bruce was too sexy) hasn’t Hulked out in years, and is back to working with gamma rays (because that ended so well the first time), when a former student of his returns – and claims to summon the Norse God of Thunder. It seems whenever Donald Blake (Steve Levitt) yells “Odin”, Thor (not Odin) appears wielding a really big hammer. Donald shows David this nifty trick, but the god’s appearance causes Banner to change into the Hulk, and soon the musclebound Thor and the raging Hulk are duking it out (because it’s a rule superheroes must beat the snot out of one another when they first meet.) Formalities aside, Banner’s project soon finds itself under siege by criminals with an inside stake on his work.
“The Trial of the Incredible Hulk” finds Banner returning to his nomadic ways, only to be arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. His lawyer is the blind Matt Murdock (Rex Smith), who moonlights as Daredevil sans the red leather (imagine a ninja costumes without any eye-holes). Eventually, Banner learns his public defender’s not-so-public secret, just as Murdock learns Banner turns into Lou Ferrigno when angered. The two team up to battle the Kingpin, with John Rhys-Davies of “Lord of the Rings” fame playing the Michael Clarke Duncan crime-lord role (complete with getaway hovercraft. All crime bosses have them.) Banner finally learns that being the Incredible Hulk can actually be a good thing every once and a while, after whining about his curse for five straight seasons, while Murdock learns that with heightened senses comes heightened weaknesses.
Conspicuously missing is the third feature, “The Death of the Incredible Hulk”, but you can guess what happens there. Bill Bixby’s untimely death scuttled a fourth movie-of-the-week, to be entitled “The Revenge of Incredible Hulk.” The Hulk would return, aided by his cousin She-Hulk. Publicity shots exist showing former Red Sonja Bridgette Nielsen posing as the Jade Giantess for a spin-off that never was. Even more appetizing is the rumor Iron Man would also make an appearance in the fourth film. According to urban legend, he would be played – not by Robert Downey Jr. – but by Tom Selleck.
Since we may never get Magnum P.I. donning the Armored Avenger’s costume, this double feature will have to do. Though devoid of any special features, this bargain pick features the only Thor we’ll see until next May as well as a Daredevil who isn’t played by Ben Affleck. What more could you ask for?