The Incredible Hulk

Season 1 Episode 2

Death In The Family

Aired Friday 8:00 PM Nov 27, 1977 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
51 votes

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Episode Summary


With the world believing him to be dead, Dr. David Banner is on the run, trying to find a way to be cured of the transformation into the monster he calls The Hulk. Meanwhile, Dr. Banner lands a job at a ranch, where he befriends a young heiress. He notices that the woman is being given a questionable drug by her physician. He then overhears a plot to kill her so that her stepmother could gain an inheritance and learning that the recent death of the young woman's father was no accident.


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  • wonderful series remind me ancient days and good memories

    wonderful series remind me ancient days and good memories
  • On his way to a new radiography unit that may help cure his alter ego, David befriends a crippled young heiress. But he soon becomes suspicious that the girl is deliberately being slowly poisoned. Far better than I remembered, maybe one of the best...moreless

    This review contains spoilers.

    ...Oops, LONG review ahead!

    Before the regular hour-long episodes began broadcast in the U.S., 'Death in the Family' (sometimes known as 'Return of the Incredible Hulk') served as a "second Pilot" of sorts. After the introduction and origins of David and his beastly alter ego (and newspaper reporter Jack McGee determined to prove the Hulk's existence) in the Pilot, this story served as a sort of example of the weekly adventures David / Hulk might have.

    The first thing to be noticed, before we're into the actual story itself, is the different version of the opening credits – very similar to what would become the regular version, but with some extra shots and dialogue, as well as a rather "cut-together" accompanying musical score; seemingly the regular opening orchestral accompaniment wasn't in place by the time of this production.

    As mentioned in my review for the Pilot, whilst I can very vaguely remember seeing a couple of very late 'Hulk' episodes shown on ITV when I was about 4, I was too young to really remember any of the series, especially the early episodes, first time 'round. When ITV repeated the series in the late 1980s, they generally tended to not show the feature-length episodes of this and other such imported shows (bar the Pilots), and so I don't think it was until Channel 5 ran the series circa 1998/9, that I actually saw this story.

    Either way, I have to confess that I didn't actually remember 'Death in the Family' as being a particularly good story at all. Maybe it was due to the episode amateurishly being chopped up into a two-parter by Five themselves, or the generally poor presentation of Five's weekend morning runs of vintage shows at the best of times (or maybe that they started showing 'Hulk' in lieu of the fourth season of 'Knight Rider' (which was previously shown in the slot), which had not been shown on TV since original broadcast), but for whatever reason, I can't really say I took to 'Death...' very much. So when it was the story's turn for me to watch & review on DVD tonight, I wasn't particularly looking forward to it that much. How wrong could I have been – this time I *loved* it; great fun throughout, and a really enthralling tale.

    It is not clear how soon after the events of the Pilot this story takes place – how long David has been "on the road" for, or if this is his first "Hulk out" or near miss with McGee since the Pilot.

    Laurie Prange puts in a likeable guest spot as the young, crippled Juliet who David befriends and quickly becomes a close confidant to. At first I wasn't sure if she was perfectly cast, as Prange appeared to be playing a character much younger than her, but as the plot about slowly poisoning Juliet emerged, I think this can be put down to her dazed state from the bad medication, and once she starts to come off of it later in the yarn, she already starts to act more mature.

    John McLiam puts in a wonderful performance as the kindly, if very untrusting, hermit Michael, who has come to rely on the booze a little too much. As a child, I knew McLiam from his guest role in the rather limp late fifth season 'A-Team' episode 'The Grey Team' (actually the final episode to be produced), but over the years I've come to see many more of his roles – always as the grizzled and / or grouchy old man – and appreciate him as a reliable character actor. (To note is that McLiam is not to be confused with another John, John Anderson, who had a similar appearance and also specialised in such roles).

    The first scene in which we see Michael, cooking his dinner on a spit and the worse the wear from grog, meeting the Hulk, is very well done. To be critical, it does go on for a bit too long, and maybe goes too much for the easy laughs (from both the Hulk, and Michael's "am I imagining this?!" routine), but it is still a very nice sequence.

    Another fun actor spot is William Daniels (the crooked Doctor Bonifant), who's voice would become well-known to fans the world over several years later, as that of K.I.T.T. in 'Knight Rider'.

    The initial "Hulk out" of the tale, in the pickers' quarters, is rather camp and silly, and doesn't really pack the punch it should. However, the Hulk action later in the story lets me pretty much forgive this.

    As I comment on many episodes of such American shows of this vintage, the story-rate and general "tempo" is much slower than we've become accustomed to on today's TV, but this is not always a bad thing, as it allows for much more depth, and I have to say – especially considering that this is an extended, feature-length outing (the likes of which can often be very "padded out"), I felt the whole plot moved along at a very good pace, not really dipping at any point throughout.

    When David sneaks into the hospital, both to check on the hot-headed Denny (whom he "Hulked out" on), to eye up the new radiography machine, and to get the solid info on Juliet's real state of health, naturally, villains Dr. Bonifant and mastermind of the scheme, Juliet's stepmother Margaret, arrive on the scene shortly after, allowing David to hide and for them to conveniently (both for David, and for us, the viewer) go through the intricacies of their plot in great detail. It's an old, trusted plot device, and in a wonderfully comic-book series such as this, again I can forgive it.

    The last third or so of the story, sees David / Hulk, carrying Juliet, and accompanied (begrudgingly at first) by Michael, across seven miles of dense woodland and swamp, to get help from the nearby Ranger Station, with Margaret's armed henchmen hot on their tails.

    During this section, comes one of the most unintentionally hilarious, and as such, one of the most memorable, sequences from the show's run – the Hulk must wrestle with a bear. I'm always championing the ingenuity and creativity of shows such as this from an age where what was achievable was limited by a number of factors, but I have to say, the bear sequence is TERRIBLE. Firstly we can see that the bear (in a river) is being secured by a safety rope; when David tries to fend it off, many of the close-up shots of his face / it's arms are of a man in a fur suit; when the Hulk emerges, his green body paint is smearing off all over the bear, and when he finally tosses it away into the distance, we get what looks like a child's bear toy won at the local fair, not convincing us that it is the "real" bear at all!

    As I say at the top, I don't think I ever saw this story as a kid, but if I had, even then I would have laughed myself silly at the whole bear sequence. Actually, no, I'd probably have been worried that the bear was hurt. After assurances from whoever else was in the room, *then* I would have laughed myself silly.

    This "trying to reach the Ranger Station" section is mostly very good, though I did feel that there were too many darting back from-Hulk-to-David-and-back-agains; it didn't feel right that they came so quick, and so soon. Also, the Hulk seemed a little *too calm* for most of the time for my liking (even if it *was* under the calming Juliet's influence); though these are minor quibbles in what is a very enjoyable race to safety.

    Of course, by the end, the Hulk in danger has convinced Juliet that she CAN walk; she reaches the safety of the Ranger Station, and we're into the final scene, where David is back at the hospital secretly trying the radiography machine to see if it will cure him of his Hulk affliction (of course, we know that it won't!). Michael now lives with Juliet, and David must sadly leave the new friends he has made for the first of *many* times in the show's run. It is at this point that the real effect of the "lonely man" kicks in; he can never settle in one place for too long.

    All-in-all, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this story on DVD tonight. I love the theme of the three outcasts (David, Juliet and Michael), and how they are brought together, and the friendship and camaraderie that they strike up. One thing the Pilot definitely lacked, in its second half, was any real "purpose", other than David trying to cure his new alter ego with disastrous results. 'Death in the Family', however, has a real situation for him to try and solve, and the result is all the more better for that.

    This was from an era when such TV was a real spectacle, a real event. Yes some of the effects (*cough*the bear*cough*) are pretty dud, but even so, I find this kind of thing far more engaging than the horrible CGI Hulk of the movies nowadays. It is the terrible bear sequence, and maybe the odd fleeting moment where the tale feels slightly *too* long, that hold 'Death' back from a perfect 10, but even so, this is an excellent 'Hulk' story, and I give it a very strong 9.5 rating. ...How wrong I've been about this one for all these years!!moreless
  • The Hulk battles such colossal enemies as a ferocious bear, a snake, quicksand and a stiff drink, and we ALL want to run run run (just like her and her dad) after meeting JULIE. In short, it's AWESOME and TIH at its best.moreless

    Ok. First of all, spoilers abound. Consider yourself warned.

    Secondly, I cannot begin to exthole the virtues of this fantastic extravaganza of goofy seventies TV without explaining that I am, indeed a HUGE fan of The Incredible Hulk. It's one of my favorite shows, and while my review of this particular movie/ep might appear farsical and overly sarcastic, it is only done with the highest respect.

    The fun begins with Banner doing his hitchhiking thing, walking desperado-like on a forelorn California highway. But this time, he's sporting a snazzy few days growth of beard, and looks quite haggard. In short, it rocks. He wanders into a citrus grove, trying to snatch a few oranges, when he spots a young blondy in a pennifore, walking with the aid of crutches. A funny exchange ensues, including a terrifically funny and out-of-nowhere flashback of her and her late dad jogging in slow-mo. This shot is slipped in upon her mention of their love of running, and will shock you with its absurdity. And it rocks, because it is in now way relative to anything whatsoever.

    Ok, ok, moving right along. The short and skinny of it is she collapses, Banner carries her into the great house, right up the stairs to a room full of family members. Surprisingly (or perhaps not) no one is surprised he is there. Blah blah, yada yada, Myostatin pops out, and Banner, being a smarty, gets it right away that she's being poisoned. It's the wrong color, you see. Ok.

    So, things progress, the guy from Major Dad is a farm hand boss-dude who hates Banner right away. Banner is walking on the grounds one day and spots Julie, the young girl from before. She is not easily liked because of her dreamy, girly girl baby talk and high pitched whine. It's worth it, however, if you can hang on for another shot of her and daddy running slow mo in their matching, snazzy stripped running suits. Oh yes, life is good.

    Alright, so anyway, let's skp ahead a bit. Banner tried to convince Julie that her Bo-derek-ish step mommy and Mr. Feenye/Kit from Knightrider doctor are trying to poison her. Long story short, Banner goes green and carried Julie away.

    They hook up with some derelict homeless guy living in the woods outside the property and go on the lam. The dynamic duo end up lugging the hapless, drugged up Julie through some marsh land (there's a lot of that in California) and that's when things start getting fun.

    In the water up ahead, there is a grizzly bear. That's right, a bear. A BEAR. I'll let that sink in for a minute. Of course, Banner goes up to the bear and takes him on. They tussle in hand-to-hand combat until Banner goes under the water. We all know who's coming up though...the Hulk ascends and continues to battle the VISCIOUS FOAMING BEAR. What ensues is too funny to describe really, but suffice it to say you won't soon forget it. At the end of this great match up, the bear is smeared in green grease paint and the Hulk a little more than fired up. Our green friend hefts the bear over his head, and yes, this really happened, hurls him through the air to land on the other side of the marsh. It. is. AWESOME.

    Ok. So if you've recovered from that, congratulations. If you have the Hulk Ulitmate Collection on DVD, I suggest you rewind and review a couple of times, and freeze frame, and really have fun with it.

    So anyway, things go forward as best they can...there's a snake that the hulk must dispose of, and then some sticky situations involving quicksand during which young Julie discovers she can, indeed, use her legs, despite the Myostatin poisoning, etc, etc.

    Alright, let's end this one. Things come to the forefront, Mr. McGee makes an appearance, and all is well in an unknown California town. At the end, Julie slips DB some cash, Cue sad music. Banner slings his well-worn leather duffle over his shoulder and continues his sad quest down a lonely highway. Julie and the hobo hook up in some sort of father-daughter relationship, that seems like it might work for them. Maybe he'll even take up jogging.

Laurie Prange

Laurie Prange

Juliet Griffith

Guest Star

Dorothy Tristan

Dorothy Tristan

Margaret Griffith

Guest Star

John McLiam

John McLiam


Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (5)

    • Near the climax, the Hulk pulls out a tree stump and throws it at the overhead helicopter, smashing its tail rotor and sending it out of control. However, in the very next shot, as the chopper spirals around, the tail rotor can clearly be seen intact.

    • When Jack McGee arrives at the hospital and introduces himself, Jack Colvin's lines are noticeably dubbed in post-production, as they were in the Pilot, to change the name of the newspaper he works for to the National Register. Later, when he goes to the Sheriff's office, again his dialogue is dubbed in post-production (though less noticeably). However, his ID that he shows to the Sheriff does have National Register written on it, in a shot most likely filmed (as many close-up shots are) in post-production.

    • Alias: David Benton
      Job: Fruit Picker
      City/State: Everett, CA

    • In the close-up shots of the Hulk wrestling with the bear, you can see that the bear has green makeup smudged on its fur. Furthermore, prior to David "Hulking out" in the scene, although not explicitly shown, many of the close-up shots of David's face and the bear's arms, are quite clearly Bill Bixby wrestling with a man in a fur suit. And the "bear" that the Hulk throws through the air seems to be nothing more than a cheap child's toy, not even matching the build of the bear that the Hulk was wrestling with.

    • After Michael crosses the pond, watch carefully when Lou Ferrigno then leaps across the same pond with Julie in his arms. He and Julie are actually covered with quicksand from the scene that comes toward the end of the episode, and the Hulk is suddenly missing David's ripped shirt that he is seen "wearing" through the rest of the sequence. Furthermore, this is obviously a stand in double for the Hulk and Julie, and the Hulk's green body paint is visibly patchy and worn off over much of his torso.

  • QUOTES (18)

  • NOTES (6)

    • This episode is also known as "The Return Of The Incredible Hulk."

    • In this second pilot, there was a slightly different intro than in the regular series run:
      "... an accidental explosion took the life of a fellow scientist and supposedly David Banner as well. The reporter thinks the creature is responsible (McGee: I gave a description to all the law enforcement agencies, they've got a warrant for murder out!) A murder David Banner can never prove he or the creature didn't commit; so he must let the world go on thinking that he too is dead until he can find a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him".

    • Lou Ferrigno once commented that the main reason he likes this episode is because of his chance to wrestle with a bear. The scene, however, was reportedly too difficult to shoot, as the bear kept knocking his Hulk wig off, and getting green makeup smudged on itself.

    • As with the Pilot, official feature-length and two-part versions of this story exist.

    • Fans of similar action-adventure shows will no doubt recognise William Daniels (Dr. Bonifant)'s voice being that of K.I.T.T. in 'Knight Rider' (1982-86).

    • Originally a 2 hour TV movie, but shown as 2 part episode in syndication.