Dr. Strange (film)
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|Based on||Doctor Strange
by Steve Ditko
|Written by||Philip DeGuere|
|Directed by||Philip DeGuere|
|Music by||Paul Chihara|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Cinematography||Enzo A. Martinelli|
|Running time||93 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Universal Television|
Dr. Strange is a 1978 television film based on the Marvel Comics fictional character of the same name, created by Steve Ditko. Philip DeGuere directed the film and wrote it specifically for television, joining forces with Alex Beaton and Gregory Hoblit to produce it. Stan Lee served as a consultant on the film, which was created as a pilot for a proposed TV series. The movie aired on September 6, 1978 in a two-hour block from 8pm to 10pm on CBS, the same network that at that time aired The Amazing Spider-Man (which aired its second season premiere the day before Dr. Strange) and The Incredible Hulk. CBS did not pick up Dr. Strange as a series.
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The film opens in Hell, where The Nameless One (David Hooks) discusses with Morgan le Fay (Jessica Walter) her failure five hundred years ago to overcome a wizard to allow the demon access to our world. The demon tells le Fay that the wizard is now old and weak, and must transfer his position and powers to his successor. Le Fay has three days either to defeat the wizard or kill his successor.
Le Fay possesses a young woman named Clea Lake (Anne-Marie Martin, credited as “Eddie Benton”) and uses her as a weapon against Thomas Lindmer (John Mills), the old wizard, who is the “Sorcerer Supreme” of Earth, meaning that he is its primary defender of our world against threats of a magical nature. She pushes him off a bridge, and he appears to die, before slowly getting up and healing an injury with magic. His friend, Wong (Clyde Kusatsu), cares for him and locates Clea Lake for him.
Lake, suffering from the psychic aftereffects of the possession and haunted in her dreams by le Fay, ends up under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Strange (Peter Hooten) at the psychiatric hospital. Strange is the heir to his father's potential to become Lindmer's disciple and the next Sorcerer Supreme. Strange bears his father's magical ring as a sign of this, and he has already sensed something wrong and shared Lake's nightmare about the previous day's events, but does not recognize what is going on.
Lindmer contacts Strange at the hospital and tells him that Clea cannot be helped with only medicine. Strange takes Lindmer's card, but does not take him seriously. He is intrigued by the fact that Lindmer's card bears the same symbol as his ring.
Le Fay possesses a cat and tries to have it enter Lindmer's house, but the magical barriers repel it.
The head of the department sedates Clea against Dr. Strange's directions, causing her to fall asleep, and then seemingly into a coma. Unable to revive her, Dr. Strange goes to visit Lindmer. Le Fay has the chance to kill Strange, but hesitates and he survives.
Lindmer tells Strange that his ignorance is a form of protection, and asks him whether he wants to know the truth or remain in ignorance. Strange demands to know the truth, and Lindmer says that he knows about how Strange's parents died when he was eighteen. He says Strange is special, and that his parents died protecting him. He says there are different realms, and that Lake is trapped in them and only Strange can save her. Strange is dispatched to the astral plane and confronts the demon Balzaroth, who has been sent by Morgan to stop Strange's rescue of Clea and then succeeds in returning her to the physical world.
The demon questions le Fay about sparing Strange. She confesses to being attracted to him, and the demon threatens to make her suffer eternity as an old woman. She vows that she will not fail. Strange checks on Lake, and agrees to dinner with her later. He goes to see Lindmer and refuses to accept the reality of magic despite having seen it himself. As he leaves, he tries to remove the ring and finds he cannot, but he lets the cat into the house. The cat transforms into le Fay and defeats Wong, seemingly killing him. She then defeats Lindmer, but she cannot kill him in the earthly realm, so she summons Asmodeus to transport him to the demon realms.
Dr. Strange visits Clea, but le Fay interrupts. She promises Strange that Clea will be unharmed if he comes with her to the demon realms, and he does. Once there, he appears to be under her command. She offers him love, wealth, power, and knowledge. She attempts to seduce him, and on the verge of doing so, asks him to remove the ring. He says that only Lindmer can remove it, but she insists that he can do it if he tries. He refuses and defies her. She attacks him, but he defeats her, rescuing Lindmer, and returning them both to the earthly realm and reviving Wong. The demon transforms le Fay into an old hag.
Lindmer explains to Dr. Strange that he must choose whether to remain mortal, or to become the Sorcerer Supreme, forgoing ignorance, offspring, or an easy death, but promises that he will have love. Strange chooses to protect humanity, and Lindmer's power is transferred to him. Wong then warns him that, while he now has Lindmer's powers, he does not yet have the knowledge or the wisdom to use them correctly, and that, if he is not extremely careful, he can harm himself or others. Strange then takes Lindmer, rendered unconscious by the transfer, into his arms, and then takes him to his bedroom to recover from the ordeal.
Dr. Strange is then shown at the hospital, where many patients have been discharged, possibly because Strange is intervening magically. He leaves with Clea, who seems to have no memory of what happened, other than as a bad dream. Le Fay is shown on television, young again, posing as a self-help guru. Clea fails to recognize her. Strange agrees to meet Clea later, and the film closes with him playing a trick on a street magician, turning the flowers the magician was going to produce using sleight-of-hand into a dove.
- Peter Hooten as Dr. Stephen Strange
- Clyde Kusatsu as Wong
- Jessica Walter as Morgan Le Fay
- Anne-Marie Martin (credited as “Eddie Benton”) as Clea Lake
- Philip Sterling as Dr. Frank Taylor
- John Mills as Thomas Lindmer
- June Barrett as Sarah
- Sarah Rush as Nurse
- Diana Webster as Head Nurse
- Bob Delegall as Intern
- Larry Anderson as Magician
- Blake Marion as Department Chief
- Lady Rowlands as Mrs. Sullivan
- Inez Pedroza as Announcer
- Michael Clark as Taxi Driver
- Frank Catalano as Orderly
- Michael Ansara as Ancient One (voice, uncredited)
- Ted Cassidy as Demon Balzaroth (voice, uncredited)
- David Hooks as The Nameless One (uncredited)
In an interview found in the January 1985 issue of Comics Feature magazine, Stan Lee recounted largely positive experiences working on Dr. Strange, especially compared with the other live-action Marvel Comics adaptations under the publisher's development deal with CBS and Universal in the late 1970s:
"I probably had the most input into that one. I've become good friends with the writer/producer Phil DeGuere. I was pleased with Dr. Strange and The [Incredible] Hulk. I think that Dr. Strange would have done much better than it did in the ratings except that it aired opposite Roots. Those are the only experiences I've had with live action television. Dr. Strange and the Hulk were fine. Captain America was a bit [of a] disappointment and Spider-Man was a total nightmare."
Home video releases
- "MARVEL IN THE 1970'S: DR STRANGE AND CAPTAIN AMERICA". Twitch Film. Retrieved 2011-10-06.
- "The "Magic" of Video - Part I-A: DR. STRANGE - the 1978 TV Movie Promos, Design Art and Swag". Sanctum Sanctorum Comix. January 25, 2009. Retrieved 2014-01-09.
- Comics Feature. Issue 33A. January 1985. "A Talk With The Man, Stan Lee," pp. 40.