Saturday, January 28, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Dr. Strange (1978)

Dr. Strange is a pilot for a failed TV series that originally aired in 1978.
For this pilot, the origins of Dr. Strange are completely reworked. He's not a surgeon - he's a psychiatrist. He doesn't have an accident that scars his hands, Mordo doesn't make an appearance, and the "Ancient One" doesn't live in an isolated monastery. Instead, the "old man," Thomas Lindmer, lives in the city and has had contacts with Strange's dead father as evidenced by the ring Strange wears. It's actually difficult to tell who anybody is suppose to be. I assumed the "old man" was the Ancient One but I don't believe he's ever called that directly. The character of Clea is simply called, "the girl" for most of the movie so when they finally get around to saying her name you wonder who they're talking about. Strange himself comes across as smug because he always wears a smirk on his face. He's not a likable or even a sympathetic character.

Perhaps the worst thing about this pilot is how slow it is. You really don't see any sorcery until about 50 minutes into this 90 minute film. When you're tuning in to a Dr. Strange film you want to see magical combat and cosmic mysteries. Instead what you're given is a very boring episode of E.R. When magic is used it usually manifests itself in ordinary ways such as manipulating animals and people to do certain things.

But when magic requires special effects they are predictably horrible. I can forgive this because it is 1978 but the sock-puppet demon lord is quite laughable. The "old man" character clearly rips off the Jedi Mind Trick from Star Wars which was released the year prior. Likewise, the journey to the Astral Plane looked like it was ripped off from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Much of the plot doesn't make much sense and the writers seem to rely on the catch-all, "Well, that's just how magic works," far too often.

At one point Dr. Strange picks up a Hulk comic and smiles. It's a nice nod to the 1977 live-action The Incredible Hulk show that surely paved the way for Dr. Strange's own pilot. But clearly the creators of Dr. Strange didn't learn any lessons by watching the Hulk show.

1LR Review - 6 out of 20 - It's a Failure!

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