Dr. Strange (1978 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Dr. Strange
Doctor Strange film.jpg
1987 VHS cover art
GenreSuperhero
Based on
Written byPhilip DeGuere
Directed byPhilip DeGuere
Starring
Music byPaul Chihara
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Production
Producers
  • Alex Beaton
  • Philip DeGuere
  • Gregory Hoblit
CinematographyEnzo A. Martinelli
EditorChristopher Nelson
Running time93 minutes[1]
Production companyUniversal Television
DistributorNBCUniversal Syndication Studios
Release
Original networkCBS
Picture formatColor
Audio formatMono
Original release
  • September 6, 1978 (1978-09-06)

Dr. Strange is a 1978 American superhero television film based on the Marvel Comics fictional character of the same name, co-created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. Philip DeGuere directed the film and wrote it specifically for television, and produced the film along with Alex Beaton and Gregory Hoblit.[1] Stan Lee served as a consultant on the film, which was created as a pilot for a proposed television series.[2] Dr. Strange stars Peter Hooten in the title role, along with Jessica Walter, Eddie Benton, Clyde Kusatsu, Philip Sterling, and John Mills. The film aired on September 6, 1978, in a two-hour block from 8pm to 10pm on CBS,[3] the same network that, at that time, aired The Amazing Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk; CBS did not pick up Dr. Strange as a series.

Plot[edit]

An evil entity tells Morgan le Fay she has been prevented from breaking through to the earthly realm by a great wizard, and that she has three days to defeat the wizard and win over his successor to her master's side.

Le Fay possesses a young woman named Clea Lake and uses her as a weapon against Thomas Lindmer, the "Sorcerer Supreme". She pushes him off a bridge to his death, but he magically heals himself. His friend, Wong, looks after him and locates Lake. Suffering from nightmares of le Fay, Lake is under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Strange at a psychiatric hospital. Strange has the potential to become Lindmer's successor through inherited items from his father, including a signet ring. Strange intuitively senses something wrong, sharing Lake's nightmares.

Lindmer contacts Strange at the hospital and tells him Lake needs more help than can be offered by medical science. Strange takes Lindmer's card, which bears the same symbol as his ring. Meanwhile, le Fay possesses a cat and tries to enter Lindmer's house, but magical barriers repel it.

At the hospital, the head of Strange's department sedates Lake, and she slips into a coma. Strange visits Lindmer, and Le Fay declines an opportunity to kill him.

Lindmer tells Strange that his ignorance is a form of protection, and asks him whether he wants to know the truth. Strange demands the truth, and Lindmer says he knows about Strange's parents dying when he was eighteen. 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 sent by le Fay. Strange and Lake return to the physical world.

The evil entity asks le Fay why she spared Strange. She confesses to being attracted to him, and the demon threatens to turn her into an elderly woman. Strange checks on Lake, and agrees to dinner with her. He goes to see Lindmer and rejects magic. As he leaves, he tries to remove his father's ring and finds he cannot. He accidentally lets the possessed cat in, which allows le Fay to best Wong. She defeats Lindmer, and summons Asmodeus to take him to the demon realms.

Strange visits Lake, but le Fay interrupts, promising not to harm Lake if he comes with her to the demon realm. Once there, he appears to be under her command. She attempts to seduce him, and asks him to remove his ring, claiming he can do it. He refuses and defeats her, rescues Lindmer, and returns them to the earthly realm, where he also revives Wong. The evil entity transforms le Fay into an old hag.

Lindmer explains that Strange must choose between remaining mortal or becoming the Sorcerer Supreme, forgoing ignorance, offspring, and a painless death. Strange decides 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 wisdom to use them correctly, and can harm himself or others.

Strange is then shown at the hospital, where many patients have been discharged. He leaves with Lake, who seems to have no memory of what happened. Le Fay is shown on television, young again, posing as a self-help guru. The film closes with Strange playing a trick on a street magician, turning the flowers the magician was going to produce using sleight-of-hand into a dove.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Philip DeGuere was given an ample budget for Dr. Strange, which he wrote, directed, and produced. The film was shot on Universal sets in Los Angeles, going over-schedule by several days because of the special effects, which included a lot of the era's green screen. DeGuere's friend, composer Paul Chiraha, was encouraged to produce an electronic score. Chihara, interviewed in 2016, said that DeGuere had high hopes for the film, and that he was crushed when it "tanked"[4] in the Nielsen ratings.

In March 1985, Stan Lee recounted the largely positive experience of working on Dr. Strange, 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 Incredible Hulk were fine. Captain America was a bit [of a] disappointment, and Spider-Man was a total nightmare".[5]

Reception[edit]

Dr. Strange got very low Nielsen ratings and, from critics, generally negative reviews:

  • Kieran Shiach and Elle Collins called it a bad film and suggested that this was the reason CBS did not pick up the series, saying that "it struggles under its origins, and not much happens over the course of ninety minutes".[6]
  • Mike Ryan found the film "boring", complaining that the first two-thirds of the film played like a medical procedural.[7]
  • Scott Beggs defended the film but conceded that it was slow-moving, lacking any sense of urgency, or indeed much going for the titular character, as Strange was a bit of a "Gary Stu" in the film: "He's instantly good at everything without any training, only fails once before miraculously being awesome immediately afterwards, and he's just generally an idiot. He's also barely there as a figure".[8]
  • Aaron Couch called the film an "ambitious shoot" whose effects were "campy by today's standards", but described the acting as "wonderfully committed performances".[9]

Home media[edit]

The film was released twice on VHS in the United States, in 1987 and 1995, and also had multiple foreign releases.[3] Dr. Strange was released on DVD for the first time in the United States and Canada on November 1, 2016 and on Blu-ray on April 26, 2022 by Shout! Factory.[1][10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Dr. Strange". Shout! Factory. Archived from the original on September 11, 2016. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  2. ^ "MARVEL IN THE 1970'S: DR STRANGE AND CAPTAIN AMERICA". Twitch Film. Archived from the original on October 6, 2011. Retrieved October 6, 2011.
  3. ^ a b "The "Magic" of Video - Part I-A: DR. STRANGE - the 1978 TV Movie Promos, Design Art and Swag". Sanctum Sanctorum Comix. January 25, 2009. Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  4. ^ Couch, Aaron (November 1, 2016). "'Dr. Strange': The Untold Story of the 1978 TV Movie Everyone "Had Great Hopes For"". The Hollywood Reporter.
  5. ^ "A Talk With The Man, Stan Lee". Comics Feature (33A): 40. January 1985.
  6. ^ Shiach, Kieran. "Strange Visions: ComicsAlliance Reviews The 1978 Made-For-TV 'Doctor Strange' Movie". Comics Alliance. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
  7. ^ Ryan, Mike. "The Bizarre Case of the 1978 'Doctor Strange' Movie". Screen Crush. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
  8. ^ Beggs, Scott. "DR. STRANGE, the 1978 TV Pilot, Was a Camp Treat Ahead of Its Time". The Nerdist. Archived from the original on December 22, 2016. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
  9. ^ Couch, Aaron (November 1, 2016). "'Dr. Strange': The Untold Story of the 1978 TV Movie Everyone 'Had Great Hopes For'". The Hollywood Reporter.
  10. ^ "Shout Factory Is Releasing 1978's Dr. Strange TV Movie on Blu-ray". Retrieved April 20, 2022.

External links[edit]