Thirty years ago, today, the television movie The Death of the Incredible Hulk aired on NBC. Created by Kenneth Johnson (The Bionic Woman, Alien Nation Series and “V”) and based on the Hulk character by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, this was the last of three films produced after the end of The Incredible Hulk TV series. Starring Bill Bixby (reprising his role from the series), Lou Ferrigno, Elizabeth Gracen (Black Widow-type character), Philip Sterling (Doctor Strange-type character), Andreas Katsulas, and a bit part for Carla Ferrigno, it was produced (executive) and directed by Bixby. There was an uncredited flashback cameo of Susan Sullivan from the original pilot episode. A fourth film was planned but, was canceled due to disappointing ratings for this movie.
[This was] the finale of the television series about Dr. David Banner, a scientist who transforms into a mighty, larger-than-life creature called the Hulk when he gets angry. Desperately attempting to purge himself of his monster-like alter ego, Banner sneaks into a research laboratory. During the critical experiment to purge him of the Hulk, once and for all, a spy sabotages the laboratory. Banner falls in love with the spy, Jasmin, who performs missions only because her sister is being held hostage by Jasmin’s superiors. Banner and Jasmin attempt to escape from the enemy agents to rebuild their lives together but, the Hulk is never far from them.
From Comics Bulletin:
The Incredible Hulk Returns and The Trial of the Incredible Hulk actually served as backdoor pilots for possible Thor and Daredevil series that never materialized. The third film, The Death of the Incredible Hulk was originally supposed to be the same sort of experiment, introducing She-Hulk, with Iron Man scheduled for the following film.
[However], when it finally came together, it, instead, served as a swan-song for Bill Bixby and focused on one last attempt at a cure for Banner’s Hulk-itis. Unfortunately, even though it wasn’t intended to really be the end of the Hulk on television (the plan was to have him return from the grave with Banner’s mind in the Hulk body), Bill Bixby’s health went south and he died before a proposed Rebirth of the Incredible Hulk film could get underway.
♦ After the ratings failure of this film, NBC decided not to continue the series. CBS already wanted nothing to do with The Incredible Hulk, prior to The Incredible Hulk Returns (1989). [For] the planned next installment, […] Bill Bixby tried to reach an agreement with ABC and they turned him down. [Then], he did the same for the Fox Network, who agreed to air another movie. Bixby and Fox were doing business together until Bixby was diagnosed with prostate cancer, causing production […] [to] shut down.
♦ Brigette Nielsen was due to be cast in the female role [of She-Hulk]. This was due to be made about 1991. [There] are a handful of photos that feature Nielsen in full makeup and costume, offering a glimpse of what might have been.
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