- Hulk (Doctor David Banner) (First appearance) (Main story and flashback)
- Jack McGee (First appearance)
- Laura Banner (Only in flashback) (First appearance) (Death)
- Jerry (Only appearance)
- Angie (Only appearance)
- Ben (Only appearance)
- Liz (Voice)
- Jessie Maier (Only appearance)
- Bernard "B.J." Maier (Only appearance)
- Mrs. Epstein (Only appearance)
- Martin D. Bram (Only appearance)
- Johnny (Mentioned)
- Scotty (Voice)
- Farrah Fawcett (Mentioned)
- Suzy (Only appearance)
- Suzy's father (Only appearance)
Dr. David Bruce Banner is dreaming about his deceased wife, Laura. The dream starts with his pleasant memories of their lives together, but it ends the same way as all the dreams he has had for the past 11 months, with the memory of her death. They were driving together when the left front tire of the car they were in blew out and flattened, and their vehicle rolled. David was thrown clear, but Laura remained entrapped in the now upside down car. The gas tank started to burn; he tried in vain to free her, but failed--
--just then David wakes up, the space in the bed next to him still empty.
That morning, David Banner arrives at the Culver Institute, the research laboratory where he works, outside Sacramento, California. Before entering, he is waylaid by Jack McGee, a reporter from a newspaper called "The National Register." David refuses to be interviewed, seeing the National Register as an unreliable tabloid paper. Banner explains to McGee that that "newspaper" is, in his words, "only interested in rape, murder, horoscopes, UFOs, and Farrah Fawcett. I don't happen to fit into any of those categories, and I wish NOT to be interviewed." McGee allows Banner to go on his way, warning the scientist once the latter is out of earshot, "...but I don't give up easily."
This dogged relentless persistence on Jack McGee's part, which will in time explode into obsessive monomania, will end up directly destroying FOUR distinct lives, including his own.
His colleague and friend, Dr. Elaina Marks, helps him with his research. They are trying to find our what causes some people to have extraordinary strength during moments of crisis. They are using David's and Laura's accident as the control incident, as he never found that strength.
They interview and examine seventy-eight others who have experienced this strength, as David himself has not:
- The first interview shown is with Jessie Maier and her son Bernard. (He prefers to be called B.J.). Their experience was an automobile accident very much like David's. Jessie was burned in the process, but she was able to lift the car enough to get B.J. out. The interview upsets David because Jessie was able to lift her vehicle and save her son, but he was unable to do the same for Laura.
- They also interview a certain Mrs. Epstein, daughter of two Holocaust victims who had both been executed in gas chambers, who had been pinned during an earthquake. She had bent a steel beam off herself before the ruptured gas line could asphyxiate her.
- Martin D. Bram, another interviewee, knocked down a heavy steel door during a fire.
- And a Vietnam veteran, at the expense of the necessity of amputation of most of his left arm, saved a friend while surviving multiple bullet wounds.
David notes that Ben (presumably Dr. Benjamin Culver, the Institute's Director) has been modifying their equipment for higher output. Elaina notes that he has enhanced their electron microscopes to 1,000,000 times magnification. They examine the DNA of all seventy-eight interviewees and discover that they have an abnormally high adenine-thymine content in their DNA profiles. But they also find the same variant in David's DNA--and it is far higher than those of ALL the others.
When Ben mentions that high solar gamma activity is interfering with a data transmission, the missing element comes to David. He studies a chart showing gamma radiation bombardment levels from the sun over the past year. On the dates of at least three of the incidents, there was high gamma activity. But on the date of David's accident, gamma activity was low. He tries to call Elaina, but she does not answer.
David goes to the Culver Institute's radiology lab. He there tests his strength by trying to lift a gurney, but he is unsuccessful. That test having been flunked, David bombards his own hypothalamus with gamma radiation, adjusting the radiation-event duration timer for 15 seconds and arranging a two-minute countdown to the radiation event. David intends to bombard his hypothalamus with only 300,000 units, but Ben has augmented the gamma injector as well, even though he has not actually calibrated it yet. The red "DANGER" light flashes, with audible alarm, in the control room--but as nobody else is there to hear it and thus abort the radiation event in time, the event proceeds unstopped. David thus ends up instead bombarding his hypothalamus with an accidental overdosage of almost 2,000,000 gamma units, even though nothing immediate happens. He tries to lift the gurney upon which he had tested his strength before the gamma injection, but he still cannot lift it.
Frustrated and angered, David leaves the Institute, but an electrical storm has struck. He has trouble starting his car, but it finally turns over. On his way home, he runs over some debris in the middle of Crossway Road, and it punctures and flattens his car's right front tire. He gets out, his anger mounting. Taking a lug wrench out of his car's trunk, he wrestles its spare tire out as well. But when he tries to change the tire, the wet lug wrench slips twice, the second time cutting his left hand--
--and then it happens!
His anger reaching its peak, the accidental overdose of gamma radiation with which David Banner had bombarded himself interacts with and alters his unique body chemistry, poisoning it!
As lightning strikes around him, Banner's eyes turn greenish white, his hair and skin turn green, and he grows in physical size to gigantic proportions--in a manner that causes his mental development to regress, leaving him almost mindless as the thick muscles of the super-humanly strong, but INhumanly PRIMAL, creature into whom he has metamorphosed because of his case of gamma-radiation poisoning tear him out of most of his clothing, including his shoes--leaving him barefoot. This creature now stands over the object of David Banner's current troubles, Banner's car. He pulls the wheel completely off, stripping the threads of its lug bolts, and throws it away. The creature then pounds on the vehicle, denting its hood, collapsing its roof, and shattering its (NON-safety glass) windshield; before long, he flips the car off the road, whereupon it explodes and catches fire. The creature, destined to be called "The Incredible HULK" or simply "The HULK," walks away from the scene; over the course of the rest of that night, the storm passes.
The following morning, still wandering in rage but without a destination, the creature stumbles upon a girl at a lake as she is trying to get a worm onto a fish hook. But the girl sees him, becomes terrified, and frantically gets into her boat and rows away. Unfortunately, the boat capsizes and she falls into the water. The Hulk tries to save the girl by knocking a tree down and slowly moving it to her position, but the girl does not understand the Hulk's intentions. Her father hears her scream and shoots twice, the second shot striking the Hulk in the shoulder. The Hulk drops the tree, runs at the man, breaks his rifle, and throws him into the lake as well. The Hulk then flees.
Finally, the Hulk starts to calm down. Looking into the lake, David Banner sees himself revert to his original form.
Disoriented and dehydrated, he reaches Elaina Marks's house, shocking her with his appearance. She removes the bullet and dresses his wound. She is about to call the police, but David suggests that she not till they can figure out what has happened. He explains to Elaina what he has done the previous night.
They go to the Institute's southwest lab, since it is isolated and has a module designed to be placed deep underwater and capable of withstanding excessive pressure. She tells David the results of Ben's calibration of his upgrade to the gamma injector, and David realizes that he may have taken a larger dose than he had intended. David has Elaina lock him in the vault and monitor his vital signs. They attempt to re-create the conditions that existed when it had first happened, opening a water coolant line to simulate the rain and using electrical lines to simulate the lightning by generating an arc--everything David can think of, but nothing works.
He takes a nap...and again has his recurring nightmare about the accident that killed Laura. But now, when it gets to the point of the accident, when the adrenalin rush will usually wake him, this time it does MORE!
David Banner again physically transforms into the Hulk, who tries to pound his way out of the vault. Though it is difficult for him, causing him to cut his hand by breaking through the six-inch-thick glass windows, eventually the Hulk succeeds. Elaina is able to calm him enough to get a blood sample from his wounded hand and gets him to sit down. She then watches as he changes back.
She has recorded a log of everything she has observed, from the point David had started REM sleep to the Hulk's escape from the vault. They look back at the EKG and realize that the anger produced from his dream triggered his transformation, and David also realizes how angry he was during his first change. As Elaina voices her guess that it was David's anger, in addition to his DNA anomaly and the gamma injection, that causes the metamorphosis, David himself realizes and states that this means the process is uncontrollable. David worries about the Hulk's violent nature and the fact that he not only does not have any control over the process but also does not even remember anything that the Hulk does; he expresses his fears that the Hulk might have killed Elaina--and then, frightened, speculates that he might have been injured because he probably tried to kill, indeed probably DID kill, someone the night before. But Elaina disputes this, noting that David Banner is NOT a killer; she explains that the Hulk is essentially a primitive outgrowth of David Banner and embodies his primitive emotions stripped of civilizing restraint. The Hulk may be undisciplined, and he may tear a pressure chamber to pieces, but he "won't kill because David Banner won't kill."
Jack McGee, along with an officer of the local sheriff's office, arrive at the lab. Banner's car was found crashed and burned, along with large footprints; the officer notes that there is no authoritative proof that the footprints are real and wants no panics there. Jack also mentions having interviewed the man and his daughter about the creature they had seen. David explains that he thought a friend borrowed his car. Elaina asks if the father and girl were hurt, and Jack says they are not. The officer leaves. Jack wants to come in and ask about the creature, but Elaina tries to ward him off, saying they have a potentially dangerous bacterial culture inside. He seems to leave, but instead hides and observes the lab till they both leave.
At the main lab, they look at David's blood again and see what has happened to him. While Elaina and David are using the X-ray (Roentgen radiation) injector in the radiology lab to try--unsuccessfully!--to restore David to normal, Jack enters the southwest lab and sees the damage inside. He there sees footprints matching those of the Hulk.
When David and Elaina return, he hides in a closet. He hears them talk about going to a facility with multiple layered walls, so if their "friend" does come back, he then will not escape. Attempting to obtain some paper at Elaina's request, David goes into the closet--and there finds McGee hiding there. Startled, McGee knocks over a jug of acid. While Banner tries to get McGee to leave, the acid reaches some explosives in the same closet. An explosion is triggered and the lab bursts into flames with Marks trapped inside. "ELAINA! My God, Elaina!" hollers Banner; thereupon he runs to the side of the building, where he sees her unconscious on the floor--
--and he is horror-stricken and enraged!
Banner is quickly transformed. The Hulk clears the debris from Marks's body as another explosion erupts from the Lab; McGee, in irritation, calls out, "Banner! Banner!" But then, horror-stricken, he blurts, "My God, BANNER!!!"
That is when McGee sees the Hulk carrying Marks out of the building in front of him.
The Hulk and Marks stop in the woods. Marks recovers consciousness to see herself cradled in the Hulk's arms. She admits that she has loved David Banner for such a very long time...
"...and I always will."
With that, Elaina Marks dies in the Hulk's arms. He roars in rage and leaves her body in the woods.
A memorial service is held for Elaina Harding Marks and David Bruce Banner. Ben (Dr. Culver) is upset that McGee, who is also at the service with a broken leg, has written the National Register's headline story, titled INCREDIBLE "HULK" KILLS 2.
"Well, it's the truth; it's what happened," McGee explains. At least, it is what he believes happened, since he never actually saw David Banner and the Hulk together, and has no idea that it is physically impossible for David Bruce Banner and the Hulk ever to exist together at the same time!!!
Ben retorts, "And it sells papers."
McGee explains that he has seen what the Hulk had done to a steel chamber, and that he heard Marks and Banner talking, in what he has misinterpreted as fear that the Hulk will return. Asked by Ben whether he has actually seen the Hulk, McGee explains, "You're damn right I did. I gave a description to all the law-enforcement agencies; they've got a-a warrant for murder out on it!" He hopes, when the Hulk is captured, to be on the verge of one of the "great stories of the 20th Century," at which expression of which hope Ben leaves him in disgust.
Long after the mourners have left the cemetery, David Banner arrives and looks at his grave and that of Elaina Marks. He there admits to her that he loves her, and that he thought she loved him too...although she never said it. Ironically, she said it to him as the Hulk.
Because Elaina Marks's actual, and his own apparent, deaths in the accidental explosion of the Culver Institute's Southwestern Laboratory have resulted in the Hulk being wanted for a double murder which he himself will never be able to prove he or the Hulk had never actually committed, David Banner has been forced to judge it safer to allow the general public to go on believing that he too is dead--at least, until he can find a way to control the raging spirit that now dwells within him...
...the spirit that manifests itself in times of extreme stress by transforming him into The Incredible HULK!
- Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner
- Susan Sullivan as Dr. Elaina Harding Marks
- Jack Colvin as Jack McGee
- Susan Batson as Jessie Maier
- Mario Gallo as Martin Bram
- Eric Server as Policeman
- Charles Siebert as Ben
- Terrence Locke as Young Man
- June Whitley Taylor as Woman
- George Brenlin as Man at Lake
- Jake Mitchell as Jerry
- William Larsen as Minister
- Olivia Barash as Girl at Lake
- Eric Deon as Bernard "B.J." Maier
- Kenneth Johnson as Scotty
- Lara Parker as Laura Banner
- This television movie serves as the two-part premiere to the television series The Incredible Hulk.
- The Incredible Hulk was partially well received by fans or critics, scoring a 57% at Rotten Tomattoes, a reviewing movie site.
- Characters from The Incredible Hulk (1977 film)
- Other things related to The Incredible Hulk (1977 film)
- Film Gallery: The Incredible Hulk (1977 film)
- Images from the film