Tuesday, November 8, 2016

What Might've Been: Dr. Strange (1978)

In the wake of the success of adapting The Incredible Hulk to television, Universal and Marvel tried to expand their television universe. Unfortunately, it just didn't work. Two Captain America TV-movies failed to produce a series, if only because the 2nd film was worse than the first.

And, then, there was Dr. Strange.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that this 1978 TV-movie found its way to DVD just in time for the release of the current film. It won't surprise anyone, either that this film was far inferior. CBS didn't pick it up as a series, and the biggest reason why would be in how Dr. Stephen Strange (Peter Hooten) was presented. Instead of a disabled surgeon, Strange is instead a psychiatrist, eliminating the adversity Stan Lee & Steve Ditko gave Strange in the first place. As the film begins, Earth's Sorcerer Supreme is a man named Thomas Lindner (John Mills), whom I don't believe ever appeared in the comics, as he is meant to be an analogue for the Ancient One. Wong (Clyde Kusatsu) is nattily attired in a suit and tie when we first see him. Then again, for Kusatsu, from what I've seen of him in television, this is par for the course.

I couldn't get past 10 minutes of this drivel, and won't even bother with a rating. Suffice it to say that there is a good deal of talent here, including Jessica Walter as Morgan Le Fey. Scope it out for yourselves.

Yes, Clea Lake is meant to be the Clea we know from the books, who would become Strange's protege and, some would believe, soulmate. Seven years after this movie aired, Stan Lee was interviewed, and said he befriended writer-producer-director Philip DeGuere, whom he thought did a good job with the material. Unfortunately, it doesn't hold up as well as you might think. Let's see how fast this turns up on cable, like, for example, on Chiller.

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