The Trial of the Incredible Hulk

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The Trial of the Incredible Hulk
Created byKenneth Johnson
Based on
Written byGerald Di Pego
Directed byBill Bixby
Theme music composer
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producers
  • Robert Ewing
  • Hugh Spencer-Phillips
Production locations
CinematographyChuck Colwell
EditorJanet Ashikaga
Running time95 minutes
Production companies
Original release
  • May 7, 1989 (1989-05-07)
The Incredible Hulk Returns
The Death of the Incredible Hulk

The Trial of the Incredible Hulk is a 1989 American television superhero film based on the 1978–1982 television series The Incredible Hulk featuring both the Hulk and fellow Marvel Comics character Daredevil, who team up to defeat Wilson Fisk. As was the case with The Incredible Hulk Returns, this television film also acted as a backdoor television pilot for a series, in this case, for Daredevil (which was not produced).[1][2] It was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Trial of the Incredible Hulk was directed by and stars Bill Bixby. Also starring are Lou Ferrigno, Rex Smith and John Rhys-Davies.[3] Despite the film's title, writer/executive producer Gerald Di Pego has stated that the idea of having the Hulk actually go on trial was never even discussed.[4]


On the run again after the events of the previous TV film, David Banner is working under the name David Belson. A bully pushes him around and David is tempted to fight him, but, knowing he will turn into the Hulk again, he walks away.

Later, David makes his way toward a large city with the hopes of staying incognito. Unbeknownst to him, the city is under the control of a powerful underworld crime boss named Wilson Fisk but is also protected by a mysterious black-clad crimefighter known as Daredevil. When two of Fisk's men come onto the commuter subway train after committing a jewel robbery, one of them takes an interest in a woman also riding the train, and attacks her. David witnesses the assault and transforms into the Hulk, which results in disruption and chaos. David is arrested by the police and wrongfully charged with the attack.

While he is awaiting trial, blind defense attorney Matt Murdock is assigned to David's case. David is uncooperative, but Murdock has faith that he is innocent. Meanwhile, Fisk has the victim from the subway, Ellie Mendez, abducted from protective custody. Fisk plans a meeting of underworld crime bosses in order to propose the consolidation of their operations into a syndicate, with himself as chairman. In jail, David has a nightmare about his trial and dreams about transforming into the Hulk on the witness stand. The stress causes him to transform in reality, and the Hulk breaks out of prison.

David teams up with Daredevil, who reveals his identity as Matt Murdock. Matt tells David about his origins and reveals that he has an ally on the police force who provides him with information relating to criminal activity. Daredevil goes to investigate a tip provided by his informant, but the tip was planted by Wilson Fisk, using Ellie Mendez as bait in a trap. Daredevil is badly injured in an ambush by Fisk's men before David rushes to save Matt. Matt traces the Hulk's face as he transforms back to David, thus learning David's secret.

Using his training as a medical doctor, David treats Matt and spreads a cover story about his injuries being the result of falling down stairs. While Matt's self-confidence is seriously shaken, David's confidence has been restored by seeing how Matt has embraced his unique gifts, which are also caused by exposure to radiation. Matt begins to recover and retrain his body. Soon, the two return to work and go to save Ellie with assistance from Fisk's sympathetic right hand Edgar. The two engage Fisk and his men and best him without the Hulk appearing. Fisk and Edgar escape, and Ellie is freed.

David and Matt part as friends. David continues his search for a cure for himself, and Matt remains in the city to protect it.



Filming took place in Vancouver, Canada for a month beginning on February 15, 1989.[5]

Stan Lee's debut cameo appearance[edit]

The Trial of the Incredible Hulk began the long history of discreet live-action cameo appearances by Stan Lee, co-creator of the Hulk. He is the jury foreman in the dream sequence. It is not, however, the first cameo appearance by a Marvel creator. Jack Kirby had already made an uncredited cameo appearance in the 1979 Incredible Hulk episode "No Escape".


Though it did not succeed in giving birth to a Daredevil television series, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk garnered very high ratings.[4]

Viewers were less enthusiastic about it than The Incredible Hulk Returns. The most common criticisms were the absence of the Hulk himself from the final act and the misleading title (the "trial" only takes place in a dream sequence).[4]

In a retrospective review for the Radio Times Guide to Films, film critic Narinder Flora awarded the film two stars out of five, calling it "tame action fare" with "all the hallmarks of an idea that has run out of steam".[6]

Home media[edit]

This television film was released on VHS by Starmaker Videos in December 1992.[7] It was re-released by Image Entertainment on October 11, 2011.


  1. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (1988-10-11). "Superheroes' Battleground: Prime Time". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
  2. ^ "F.O.O.M. (Flashbacks of Ol' Marvel) #16: "I'm Free Now – The Incredible Hulk (1988-1990)"". Comic Bulletin. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2010-09-09.
  3. ^ "The Trial of the Incredible Hulk". Turner Classic Movies. Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Glenn, Greenberg (February 2014). "The Televised Hulk". Back Issue!. TwoMorrows Publishing (70): 25.
  5. ^ Caroll, Liz (5 February 1989), "Hulk to take the stand", The Sunday News, New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, p. 11
  6. ^ Flora, Narinder (2014). 'The Trial of the Incredible Hulk', The Radio Times Guide to Films 2015, ed. Radio Times Film Unit, p. 1263. Immediate Media Company Ltd., London.
  7. ^ Mangels, Andy (January 1993). "Hollywood Heroes". Wizard. Wizard Entertainment (17): 39.

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