Welcome back to 1 out of 5 – Would Recommend, which has been awoken from its eldritch slumber to celebrate the impending release of Avengers: Infinity War. Since it’s the second MCU flick in which Dr. Stephen Strange will play a major role (after his solo flick, natch), we’re watching the good doctor’s first feature length outing – 1978’s Doctor Strange telefilm!
What’s The Plot?
Lindmer (John Mills), the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth, is nearing the end of his reign. This has allowed his enemies, exiled to 4th Dimension, a chance to return to our world – so they’ve sent his ancient foe Morgan Le Fay (Jessica Walter) to kill him and/or prevent him from training a successor. That successor is fated to be Dr. Stephen Strange (Peter Hooten), a hospital psychiatrist whose life will soon be bound to that of Clea Lake (Eddie Benton), an innocent young woman whose mind is broken by Morgan’s magics. This sets the forces of good and evil on a collision course that will decide the fate of humanity itself!
Who Made This Beautiful Garbage?
Universal Television, the same studio that brought us the two Captain America telefilms previously discussed in this column, as well as the Incredible Hulk TV series and telefilms. As such, they are responsible for Captain America, Dr. Strange, The Hulk, Thor, and Daredevil’s live action debuts – though only one of those was actually a success.
Five Reasons to See It
- Jessica Walter takes her first turn as a Marvel villain, the evil sorceress Morgan Le Fay, in this flick. Her second was, of course, as Lucille Bluth playing Lucia Von Bardas in Arrested Development season four.
- Peter Hooten looks like he went into his barber and said “give me that John Holmes look”. It makes the scenes in which Stephen Strange is doctoring to pretty young woman look like they’re gonna take a different turn.
- Clea goes from being Dr. Strange’s only ally in the Dark Dimension and a powerful sorceress in her own right to a normal college student used as pawn by Morgan Le Fay.
- Magic is portrayed with the best special effects late 70s had to offer – meaning mostly through smash cuts, quick cuts, voice overs, and Jedi-mind-trick hand gestures. Things do get wilder in the last 30 minutes, though they are still cheesy to modern eyes.
- “Wong, you’re a pupil and a friend, not a servant.”- Even in ’78, they sought to soften Wong’s servant role
The flick is no more or less cheesy than any other Marvel TV movie of the era. It’s fun, but no great shakes for people who weren’t there when it aired. Worth a watch, if you are into such things. We buy movie and tv collectibles for top dollar.
Come Back Next Week For a New Installment of Strange Times & Places!