The very first time Marvel's blind, "street level" superhero Daredevil appeared on celluloid was not the 2003 film starring Ben Affleck. It was fourteen years before that poorly-received superhero flick, in 1989's made-for-TV movie, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk.
After the Bill Bixby TV series ended, Bixby himself organized a revival of the show in a series of TV movies. The second of these was Trial, a movie that was touted as being about Bruce David Banner being put on trial on false charges. But the truth was, there was no trial in it (aside from a brief dream sequence).
The whole thing was basically an excuse to introduce Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil, to television. The movie was intended to serve as a pilot for an ongoing Daredevil TV series.
Kind of amazing that it took 26 years for that idea to become reality.
Actor and singer Rex Smith portrayed Matt Murdock: lawyer by day, vigilante by night. (Smith was something of a heartthrob back in the 80s.)
What's most striking about Rex Smith's take on the role is that he was actually pretty good. But don't take my word for it.
Yeah, the movie has that "cheesy '80s production" quality, and that Olympic gymnastics training montage was ridiculous. But setting that stuff aside — did you see Smith's moves?
Hey, did you see that? That... that actually wasn't bad.
For 1989, that ain't bad at all.
Now that's just showing off.
The next time someone tells you Daredevil isn't cool, just point them to this. Oh, and The Trial of the Incredible Hulk was a big ratings hit, too. The reason Daredevil was never picked up for a series has never been revealed, but we don't think it was because of anything you see in this movie. Did we mention that Daredevil takes down the bad guys at the end of the movie without the help of the Hulk? Banner shows up, but the Hulk sits out the final brawl.
The Trial of the Incredible Hulk has one other claim to Daredevil fame. You probably noticed that Rex Smith's Daredevil costume is not the traditional red-with-horns outfit, but the black ninja costume. This is also how Daredevil first appears in the Netflix series, as well.
The black outfit traces its origins to Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.'s Daredevil: The Man Without Fear comic book. Or does it? The comic is often referenced for introducing the black costume, but the flaw in that logic is that it was published in 1993. The Trial of the Incredible Hulk aired four years before the comic was released.
So Rex Smith's costume in this 1989 movie is the real origin of Daredevil's black ninja outfit.