Friday, May 4, 2012

The Incredible Hulk (1977)

So today, May 4, 2012 (the 35th anniversary of the release of "Star Wars" by the way*) is the day that "The Avengers" is finally being released.  I never really read The Avengers comics as a kid (or the comics of the individual members of The Avengers for that matter), but the years-long build-up to this movie's release has certainly gotten me interested.  While many anticipated movies will start releasing teaser trailers a couple years in advance, "The Avengers" actually managed to release a number of highly successful movies that sort of acted like teaser trailers themselves ("Iron Man", "Iron Man 2", "The Incredible Hulk", "Captain America", "Thor"...) leading up to this moment.  Seeing all the neat little Samuel L Jackson bits at the end of these films got me pretty stoked to see what "The Avengers" would be all about.  Early buzz sounds very promising.  Due to the blockbuster status of the film I will most likely wait a while before seeing it.  Last night I went to a 9:40 showing of "The Three Stooges"--mostly to give myself a good laugh during a stressful time.  As I'm not a big fan of big crowds, I enjoy going to late-night, mid-week showings of movies that have been out for a while.  It tends to be a LOT quieter and more enjoyable than going to see a popular movie during its opening weekend.

The interesting thing about going to see "The Three Stooges" last night was that many theaters (including the one I went to) were having midnight showings of "The Avengers".  The one I went to advertised 12:01 and 12:05AM screenings.

I didn't think much of this (other than giving a passing thought about trying to sneak into one of the midnight "Avengers" showings after my film got out).  I'm used to leaving the theater after a late night movie and finding the lobby and parking lot very quiet and deserted.  That wasn't the case last night of course.  The first time I saw "The Three Stooges" a couple weeks ago I left during the end credits and didn't get to see the extra stuff at the end.  Last night I made a point of staying through all the credits.  There were a surprising number of employees waiting for me to leave so they could clean the theater.  I felt a bit rushed, but still remained in my seat until the last credits rolled.  My first indication that something was really different was when I was getting up to leave and Thor (or actually an employee in a Thor costume) wished me a pleasant night as I left.  Then I walked out of the theater and was confronted with a long line of people waiting to get in to the same theater for one of the midnight "Avengers" shows (at about 11:30).  Many of the other theaters had similarly long lines waiting to enter.  It was pretty obvious that my idea to sneak into one of these showings wasn't going to fly.  On the way out I not only saw a LOT of other Avengers fans preparing to see the movie, but I also saw another employee dressed as Captain America leading a group of people toward one of the multiplex's 14 theaters.

With the opening of "The Avengers" being today it seems like a good time to reflect on the one member of the Avengers team that I spent the most time with as a kid--The Incredible Hulk.  As was the case with the other members, I didn't really read Hulk comics as a kid, but I did watch the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno series "The Incredible Hulk" on CBS pretty regularly (in fact, probably just short of "religiously") on Friday nights back then.

There have been a wide range of mixed reviews for the two most recent big screen "Hulk" movies (2003's Ang Lee directed one and the 2008 "re-boot" that starred Edward Norton).  I pretty much hated the 2003 version, and was only slightly more impressed with the 2008 one.  The big problem for me with both of these films was the computer generated character of The Hulk.

2003 Hulk CGI
2008 Hulk CGI
1970s Non-CGI Hulk played by Lou Ferrigno
Well, I think that if I had read the comics as a kid I might have been a bit more forgiving of those CGI effects and would have enjoyed the movies more.  I do have to admit that a CGI Hulk would be much more able to look and act like the character in the comics than any human ever could.  While I have an aversion to CGI effects in general, I think my problem with those recent movies had more to do with the fact that I grew up knowing the character of The Hulk as being played by an actual person (Lou Ferrigno).  There were probably comic book fans who were hugely disappointed with the direction that the 1970s TV show took, but that was pretty much how I got to know The Hulk.

Coincidently, I just recently (within the last week or so) started watching the old "The Incredible Hulk" show again through Netflix streaming.  I've only seen the pilot movie and part of the first episode so far, but am already enjoying this trip back in time.  I saw a few episodes over the past couple of years on the RTV (Retro Television) network when they had them on weeknights, but they stopped showing them in my area a while ago.  It was nice to be able to start at the very beginning with Netflix.  I've always been familiar with the story of how Dr. David Banner was exposed to an accidental overdose of gamma radiation and turned into The Hulk when angered or outraged--by seeing the opening credit sequence for the show week after week.

But, I don't know if I ever actually ever saw the original pilot movie for the show or not.  If I did, I can't say I remember it.  A lot of it did feel familiar because of the fact that the regular opening of the series is made up of footage from the pilot ("Mr. McGee Don't make me angry.  You wouldn't like me when I'm angry").

I was originally going to look for the ads and listings of the pilot movie and early episodes of "The Incredible Hulk" in my TV Guide collection and post this entry in my TV Guide Time Machine blog instead of here, but it turns out that I don't have the issues from November 1977, when the show premiered, in my collection.  The pilot aired on Friday, November 4, 1977 and the first regular episode was on a few weeks later on Sunday, November 27th.

I don't know exactly when I started watching "The Incredible Hulk" (I was only 8 when it first aired), but I know that once I did it was a staple of my Friday nights for what seemed like a long time.  I had a nephew who slept over most Friday nights for a while and we'd always watch "Doctor Who" (the Tom Baker era) at 7:00 PM on PBS and then "The Incredible Hulk" at 8:00 and "The Dukes of Hazzard" at 9:00.  Around the time of the whole "Who shot J.R.?" phenomenon we also started watching "Dallas" at 10:00 too.  The TV schedules changed from year to year of course, but that's the lineup which I remember best.

I've introduced my older daughter (The Little Monster) to a lot of the stuff I lived watching and reading about as a kid.  We even watched a few episodes of "The Incredible Hulk" on RTV when the show was broadcast there.   But I started my recent re-watching of the show by myself.  At least I intended to watch it by myself anyway.  Interestingly enough, my younger daughter (The Insane Beast) started watching it with me.  She's about to turn three and I was a little surprised to find her so interested in the show.  She seems to understand that David Banner and The Hulk are the same person.  She refers to the show as either "David" or "Scary" (meaning David Banner and The Hulk), or "David and Scary".  She will say "I wanna watch Scary" or "I wanna watch David" when she wants to see the show.  It's amazing that something so old and not-really-for-kids-that-young like "The Incredible Hulk" would hold her interest so well.  I also started showing Tom Baker "Doctor Who" episodes to The Little Monster a few months ago and was surprised that they both really enjoy watching that show too.  I guess good entertainment is good entertainment--regardless of how old it is and whether it was shown on TV 30-35 years ago or whether it was just on Nickelodeon or The Disney Channel today!  Since we don't have cable, my Little Monsters seem very susceptible to the charms of old cartoons and TV shows I enjoyed when I was a tyke.  Now I feel a little guilty about not having The Little Monster watch "The Incredible Hulk" with The Insane Beast and myself.  But in a way it does seem appropriate for the little one to be watching the show--as she tends to be a pretty destructive creature who can get pretty danged Hulk-like at times.

*Oh, and by the way...

1 comment:

  1. MonsterDad:

    I too grew up watching the 1970-80's version of the Incredible Hulk on T.V.. I also recently discovered the series again on Netflix. I originally got a chuckle when I saw it in the queue, and figured it'd be good for a laugh. Most of what I grew up watching was pretty hokey (Munsters, I dream of Jeanie, etc..) So, admittedly the bar was quite low.

    I was completely blown away by the pilot. It was nothing like I remembered the series to be, and nothing like I expected. The quality of that two part pilot got me going on what would eventually become a journey through the entire series. Some were better than others, and I did eventually hit some pretty bad episodes. But I was amazed at the quality of the series overall.

    The attempt to make it about David Banner's "condition" and treat him like a real character and not a comic book was, I think, the genius of the show.

    I know a lot of the comic book fans hate the show because the Hulk was played by Ferrigno and just not comic book enough. I think they hate the fundamental concept of the story being about Dr. David Banner trying to find a cure, and the effects of his transformation on his life.

    Personally, I think there's room enough in the universe for the Bixby-Johnson interpretation and the big budget marvel movies. They're just so different that it's easy to accept each for what it is.

    Anyway, great blog and thanks for letting me share my story.

    Also, I'd be interested to hear what you think of my impressions on some of the better episodes. I wrote about them here: