Monday, February 2, 2009

Dr. Strange - or - How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love this Bomb of a Movie

NOTE: This post could also be titled:

The "Magic" of Video - Part I-C
The Review:

We've all seen bad movies.

However, some bad movies aren't really all that bad. They just have a bad rap (and rep) due to the untold number of poor reviews by others (who either are looking at it too critically, or plain just don't "get it").
Some bad movies are so bad that the develop a core fan-base and cult following.
Some bad movies are so bad that people come up with rules for drinking games to better facilitate their enjoyment of the film.*

Some bad movies are so bad that they're... well,... good!

The 1978 made-for-TV pilot movie of DR. STRANGE is ALL of these things.

It's a bad movie from the respect that it's not a polished feature film, with the budget and all the perks that might permit.
However, it's a great movie when seen in comparison to it's contemporary "made-for-tv" films of the 1970's. Especially when you single out the various super-hero / sci-fi / fantasy offerings of which this is a genre-mate.

Compare this to the TV versions of Captain America or Captain Marvel.
Heck, even compare this to the pilot film for the Wonder Woman series.
While Wonder Woman's series was all kinds of wonderful (although Lynda Carter certainly helped. Nuff said!), it was only after it became a full-fledged series. The pilot movie? Not so much.

This, Dr. Strange flick, was of a different breed altogether; dealing with subjects and calling for effects that the average television film hardly dared approach (and the average television viewer most likely would hardly understand).

Viewed, in that light; while this film is indeed cheesy... it's a well-made cheese.
Neither stinky nor runny, instead fairly tasty and well formed (and perfect with a glass of wine - so sit back and enjoy).

---

What follows is more than a review, but less than a breakdown of the entire film.
I try to point out things that fellow fans might appreciate, and draw attention to elements that casual viewers would find of interest.
It's recommended that you'll also read the supplemental information provided in my previous posts HERE (the swag) and HERE (the film itself).

---

From the opening sequence and the discordant strings playing ominously in the background I got an overall sense for the b-movie about to play before my eyes.

I must confess, that as the Dr. Strange window design and specially designed logo light up the screen, I always get a charge of mild excitement.


DR. STRANGE TV MOVIEI'm telling you. I get chills.

As the opening credits and their assorted backdrop images come into and out of focus, one gets the sensibility of hackneyed mysticism and horror that was at work, like whomever set forth the design specs for every seance-room, or curio shoppe, was at work.
Needless to say, I have a deep affection and affinity for such places, and as such, was ready to soak in the cheesy goodness.

Director Philip DeGuere had me held; a willing captive.

---

The movie's opening scene is, for lack of another name, the "Dark Dimension" and the floating island landscape where the villainous Morgan Le Fay dwells.

The set of "Ditko-Fever"

The broken pathways and islands are akin to Steve Ditko's original designs for the otherworldly planes of existence where many of Doctor Strange's nemeses rule.

The Dark Dimension, as imagined by Steve Ditko. Strange Tales # 126.

The demonic entity who reigns supreme in this otherworld is left nameless.
I will say that as opposed to many other reviewers, I have always found this baddie, a bit of stop motion puppetry, to be nothing short of awesome.
This creature, bathed in mists and smoke and red hues has several sets of eyes (at times, 4 separate pairs of eyes are shown,) glowing and glowering from his/it's shadowy countenance. Burning with baleful brilliance.
The thin slit of a mouth barely moves, but the commanding words (voiced by David Hooks) that emanate from it are enough to give pause to any who hear.
With rough and textured flesh and a head that appears to emit smoke and fire, this entity seems more like a smouldering volcano ready to erupt; a mountain given animus.
Perhaps, it is in this method, that the producers were trying to emulate the basic "feel" of the comic-version of same; Dormammu.


WHERE is the action figure of this?!?

I've read reviews wherein he is likened to being one of the worst special effects ever set to film. To those people I say: "You have no joy in your heart."



The exposition comes pretty fast as we discover that Morgan (played as a sexy succubus, by Jessica Walter) is given a chance to redeem herself, from a failure she suffered 500 years prior, when she could not defeat the primary earthly sorcerer (the "Sorcerer Supreme"?) in order to pave the way for the "Nameless One".

Succubus. heh-heh-heh

Now, charged with the task of defeating that centuries-old sorcerer (named Lindmer) or destroying his chosen successor (Dr. Stephen Strange) she is once again to usher in the age of darkness so that her master can feast upon the souls of man.

However, due to constraints of cosmic alignments (or simply to make it fit within a 95 minute movie) she has only three days in which to do so.

Luckily, the "nameless one" gives her everything but a roadmap in order to locate the old man and his erstwhile disciple.

The rest is up to her to try to succeed, and the "Ancient One" and Dr. Strange to try to defeat her.

---

There are several divergent aspects to this film from it's 4-color source material;

WONG (played by Clyde Kusatsu):

He might not be "one-take" Clyde, but he's certainly "one-expression" Wong.

Wong is an Americanized "Asian-American". Suit-wearing, and well-spoken, without a hint of accent or Chinese cliche. Gone are the green and gold comic-style kung-fu type garments. Also gone is the "man-servant" aspect of the character, with this Wong being a "student and a friend" to the Sorcerer Supreme, not a servant.

That's a good step in the right direction.
Even though I would appreciate having a man-servant, as any good academia-oriented (absent minded professor) type would almost require someone to keep them fed and brought forth from the texts and studies every now and again, there's nothing keeping a "friend and student" from doing those things, avoiding the pitfalls of indentured servitude.

If addressed in an adult manner, it can easily be explained that oftentimes acolytes choose to serve great and holy men, and as such, follow a higher calling.
However, the 1970's, the plight of rights (civil and equal) in the country were an evolving-topic, so the producers (rightly) sidestepped that subject altogether.

The reasoning for which Wongs calls The Ancient One; "Master" is made clear: a sign of respect and deference for what the old sorcerer has taught and shown to him.
Oftentimes, (in times past) a pupil or apprentice would call his superior; "Master".

Another divergent aspect for Wong in this adaptation is that, as a student, he seems to have learned some spells, as he is shown casting spells defending against and attacking Morgan Le Fay.

That he isn't powerful enough to do much against her is proper.

Perhaps, it is here that recent comic writers found inspiration for giving Wong minor spell-casting abilities.
Either way, it's a logical manifestation that a character who serves a Sorcerer would in time learn a thing or two in his service.

Oh... one other minor note; this Wong has a full head of hair and a pencil mustache.


"ANCIENT ONE" aka; Lindmer (masterfully portrayed by Sir John Mills):

Obi-Wan KenWHObi?

The "americanizing" of characters didn't stop at Wong, for here, the "Ancient One" (named Thomas Lindmer in the film) is a British-American (or at least Britisher-living-in-the-US).
This move strikes me as unnecessary, as in the 1970's, with the success of shows like "Kung Fu", the Martial Art's infusion of pop culture and the advent of Yoga being a phenomenon, the Eastern ways and beliefs were all the rage.

Was it seen that American audiences would be more likely to accept a wise old "Merlin"-type, than a yogi? Had the Eastern-fad begun to run it's course by 1978? Might that be why an Anglo-saxon angle was chosen with the film's villainess as well?
Whether or not that is true, the name "Lindmer" is easily seen as a rearrangement of the name "Merlin". Lin [d] Mer / Mer - Lin.

Still, this Ancient One is much the same as the comic-version in that his powers are on the wane, he needs to find a successor and that he is a repository for soft-spoken wisdom.

STEPHEN STRANGE (swaggeringly acted by Peter Hooten):

Certainly NOT the master of his own hair.

This Stephen Strange is a slacker, horn-dog. But a caring, slacker, horn-dog. Constantly on the make, perpetually late, and smooth-talkin', these traits could theoretically be seen as consistent with the pre-Mystic Strange, however the caring aspect is different. Instead of an egotistical, avaricious son-of-a-bitch, this Strange actually cares for the lower-margin patients that he treats in a county hospital.

The biggest change from the comic roots is that in this, Dr. Strange's origin is not hinged upon his having an accident that robs him of his surgeon's skills, forcing him to trek to the mountains of Tibet for a mystic healer.
Neither is he forced to redeem himself in order to become a mystic pupil. Instead, here, he encounters his destiny while chasing down a way to actually help one of the patients (Clea) in his care.

Another obvious divergence is that he is not a surgeon (neuro, brain, general or other such attributed specialty from the comics). In this film he's a Psychiatrist.
Perhaps that is also a by-product of the times, as "shrinks" were far more prominent at the time, with the loosening of society's stigma against any "weak-minded" who might seek out a "head-shrinker", than they had been in prior decades.

One might wonder, like the supposition with Wong's spell-casting, that this film might be where Brian Bendis found the choice of specialty for Stephen for the "recent" House-of-M storyline.

Facially; general bone-structure as well as mustache accoutrement, Hooten looks a bit like his character's comic-book namesake. The mild man-fro he sports, on the other hand... not so much. Hooten also carries the role with a wink and a nod, half cockiness / half 70's tv movie cheesiness.
One thing that he does have going for him is the deep baritone timbre of his voice.
I can certainly imagine his using it to call forth the cosmic entities for power... or hittin' on the ladies.


CLEA LAKE (played by the beautiful Eddie Benton [later Anne-Marie Martin]):

Perfect (pert and perky) performance.

This is the biggest alteration from the comic origins. As opposed to the complicated "princess of another Dimension", Clea is now a normal human young woman. A college student who falls victim to the powers of Morgan Le Fay and is used as a pawn in the battle against Earth's mystic protectors.


---

The plot, such as it is, is the usual basic "mystical barriers are crumbling and the ancient evils are about to cross over" that has been a staple for many mystic-oriented films as well as many Doctor Strange comics.

It's hardly original or thought-provoking, but it gets the general audiences on board fairly easily.

One of my personal gripes with this film, is the oft-repeated "Stephen Strange as the 'Chosen One' ".
As far as I can recall, this film is the first instance of such an origin alteration.
Perhaps, like the Wong-as-magic-user and Doc-as-Psychiatrist aspects, this "chosen one" angle was taken from this film by modern comic writers.

It's unknown if this film is or isn't the direct source for such reinterpretations, and without interviewing many such writers as to the source of their inspiration for said origin, it will most likely remain so.

One of the drawbacks to the film is that the majority of it is "talky" and less action-oriented than a "super-hero" movie would be expected to be. It is heavy on the dialogue to progress the story and reliant upon settings to give any sense of progression of narrative, but that is primarily due to the fact that Universal was trying to produce a Dr. Strange movie with neither the budget nor the state of special effects at the time anywhere near where they would have to be to do it right.

How ironic, that in the medium of comic books, in the 1970's Dr. Strange was at his most phantasmagorical, but his film was stagnant, while today, with all the digital wonders of coloring and art enhancements, the writing of nearly ALL comics (including some where Dr. Strange features) are all too "talky" and less action-oriented (and hopefully, any new film treatment should be a visual treat).
Could this be another case of today's comic writers following this film's lead?
(OK. I doubt it, too. But it is a striking series of similarities, is it not?)

---

All of the actors turn in believable performances, with veterans John Mills and Jessica Walter setting the bar. Eddie Benton as Clea does an excellent job with her wide range of complex mental states and the various moods, emotions and responses that they entail. Peter Hooten, sadly, is the weakest performer of the cast, as he fluctuates from swaggering and smirking Doctor to wooden and stiff Sorcerer. The worst part of his performance (and it is most likely partially Director Philip DeGuere's fault) is that on several occasions, Strange stares with a manic intensity when there's really no cause for him to do so.

The supporting actors do their jobs admirably.
Most especially Philip Sterling as Dr. Frank Taylor and Diana Webster as the Head Nurse. You're not supposed to like these characters, and most assuredly, the performances by these actors made me loathe them.

Dr. Taylor is the prototypical "out-of touch" Department-Head. The boss you have who you know has no business being in charge of anything.
Nurse Webster is that mid-level Administrator every office-environment has, who lords what little power they have over others, and wields it like a barbed-wire garrote.
Both of them, smarmy and disdainful of the plebs subservient to them... pitch perfect performances.

I always feel badly for an actor whose job it is to make the audience despise them.
Hopefully, they can take comfort that my hatred for their characters is a testament to their performances.

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Special note should be given to the voice-actors who portray the demons and gods of the film's mythology:

David Hooks as the evil "Nameless One".

Ted Cassidy (most famously known as "Lurch" on the Addams Family) as the Demon Balzaroth.

and

Michael Ansara as the good godlike entity; "Rael" (although the unofficial credits have him listed as "Ancient One").

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One of the real stars of this film is the Sanctum Sanctorum!
Having a very prominent place as a primary setting, both the interior and exterior are shown to great effect and detail.

Supreme Makeover: Sanctum Edition

With all the bells, books and candles expected of such a mystic's refuge, it had many bold and interesting design choices.
The organic-looking freeform stone archways and wall surfaces, as well as the (quite literally) odd pieces of decor, as if the prop department threw everything they had in their inventory into the place (including the kitchen-cauldron), the Sanctum was a character unto itself.

One of the boldest design elements is the large wood-carving adorning the mantle-piece.

"Perhaps you'd like to see my etchings?"

A gold-leafed representation of William Blake's "Lover's Whirlwind", from his illustrations for Dante's Inferno within the Divine Comedy, it has the custom-added touch of the mystical "symbol of light" within the magical nimbus that is the focal-point of the piece.
Whether it was intended to be so recognizable as Blake's work, or the set designers didn't think anyone would be able to place it is unknown.
It smacked this viewer upside the head with its obvious Blake influence (along with one of the credit-title boards from the opening sequence).
However, since Blake usually portrayed scenes of a magical, mystical or mythological nature, it felt a perfect fit for the film.

The Whirlwind of Lovers (or "Lover's Whirlwind") by William Blake, circa 1826


Here, the Sanctum is on Bleecker Court as opposed to the famed Bleecker Street of NYC, but it still is a multi-level oddity with the prominent upper-floor attic-window, and it's uniquely designed "symbol of light".
It's number had changed, however, from # 177A of the comics to a simple # 22.
Also, the cross-street has been altered from the fictional Fenno Place to the very real Greenwich Street (perhaps as a tip of the hat to the comic book setting of Greenwich Village) which is indeed a street in Greenwich Village.

Interestingly enough, in the real world, Greenwich Street and Bleecker Street never meet.
For awhile, they run parallel to each other, gradually coming closer together. However, just before where they would possibly meet, Bleecker ends and merges with Hudson Street, which continues running parallel to Greenwich.
Eventually, Greenwhich turns into 9th Avenue, as does Hudson, right where they eventually unite.


Why didn't my Realtor show me THIS place?

I think it needless to say that if you're a fan of Doctor Strange, you'd love to live in (or at least pay a visit to) this house.

---

The other interior settings are "dated" and yet not. With beaded curtains and bold patterned prints and ubiquitous beige, brown and blue color schemes (not that the hospital appears dated as even today, every hospital decor I've seen seems to be perpetually frozen in that timeframe), those "classic" touches do nothing to reduce the believability of the settings, as many such design flourishes have returned. Clea's college apartment looks like any college student's apartment today.

Home Decor by the Dollar Store


The exterior scenes are the usual study of having parts of California trying to pass as New York City. The exceptions to these are the few panoramic establishment shots of the New York City skyline. (I still find my mind to be taken aback when seeing the World Trade Center's "Twin Towers" in old shows.)

Some of the winding back streets that surround the Sanctum Sanctorum are very much like a few in the deeper parts of the Greenwich Village / Bowery area, where the older streets are not strictly set in grid-like perfection, but have some twisting and turning to them.

The ONLY place in NYC where you can possibly lose your direction.

The ending sequence takes place in Washington Square park, which is merely a few blocks away from the supposed location of the Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village.


---

One of the film's plot points is the ring of which Strange is the bearer.

My precious... (oh... you'll see... soon enough)

Ring-bearer myths are ubiquitous in mythical fiction. However, in this film the ring isn't the item of power, it merely marks it's bearer as "the chosen one". Having been bequeathed to Stephen from his father, who, it is told, had known Lindmer during his life - as the two shared interests in magic and in Stephen's inherent "talents". It is the ring that marks Strange and protects him. Later in the film, Lindmer imbues the ring with some mystical properties, but even as such, they are minor and rely upon Stephen's innate knowledge to activate them.

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The overall representations of magic in this film are fairly low-end, with one or two possible exceptions.

Wong says: "Spell it to the hand!"

Besides some colorful (and color coded, as RED = EVIL and GOLD = GOOD) mystic bolts, consuming fire, teleportation and transmogrification, most of the so-called magic is spoken word only. The primary one being;
"In the Name of Rael, Scourge of Demons, I command you, Begone!"
This, being quite literal, causes the offending demon to retreat.

The other, more subtle vocal magic, is Lindmer's "Obi-Wan Kenobi"-like "Jedi-mind tricks", wherein he softly speaks, with a minor hand gesture added, what he wants his target to say and do, and they, in turn, say and do it.
It's a minor thing, but, much like Sir Alec Guinness the year prior to him, Mills pulls it off with aplomb. It must be an English "Sir" thing.

The exception to the mystic zaps and basic incantations are the transportation spells; one for teleportation and the other for astral travel and the aforementioned transmogrification.

The one example of transmogrification is a scene wherein Morgan Le Fay, having taken the form of a black cat in order to infiltrate her enemy's place of power, changes back into a woman.

There was a scene in one of the Harry Potter films where a female Professor (McGonagall) transforms via magic into her Animagus form of a cat.
That recent scene had the benefit of enhanced digital effects wizardry.
Morgan Le Fay's transformation here is of a much more basic variety.

Starting off with the cat deeply shrouded in a darkened corner, the camera moved away for a split second, and then back again, so that the cat can be replaced by a shadowy (stuffed animal?) head with glowing eyes on a pole. The pole with the eyes and head are then gradually raised higher and higher into the air, with some kind of drapery flowing behind it, to show that now it is a mixture of cat and woman. Finally the head with the glowing eyes, having been raised up to full height, and as the camera switches it's focus again, when it returns we see the glowing eyes are now Morgan's as she stands before us all in full (and foxy) female form.
A cheesy effect, and one that could have been done better, even for a made-for-tv film on a strict budget.

The transportation spell effects are as diametrically opposed to each other as can be, with the "special" effect for each being on the far sides of the budgetary yardstick.

Teleportation is achieved simply by filming a character standing before a backdrop, stopping film, letting the actor walk off screen, and then resuming filming of the backdrop. In effect, one second they're on-screen, then the next, "poof", they're not. Not even a puff of smoke or lighting change accompanies the "vanishing". Just a quick "shwoosh" of sound.

Astral travel is a much more ambitious visual treat, with a swirling miasma of shadows, lights and colors in a tunnel. The effect that one is traveling down a narrow wormhole between dimensions.
The positioning of the astral traveler on a wire harness in the center of the backlit screen allows for tumbling somersaults to add a sense of falling through space.

No drugs were abused in the making of this special effect.

The additional 1970's funkadelic, synthesizer music that accompanies the effect adds to the overall sense of high-adventure and high-drama (emphasis on "high").

It should be said that the music, by Paul Chihara, is one that adds to the overall mood and tension of the war between the forces of good and evil.
Some of the music does get a bit annoying at times, but it is very much likened to other soundtracks of some shows of the time.

---

Lastly, something should be said of the costuming.
The everyday street clothes are, obviously, average daily clothing for the late 1970's. Nothing out of the ordinary or worth noting here.
The men's suits are all prime examples of their kind for the era, and Clea's flimsy blouses and tight jeans are what I remember many young women wearing back then.


The garb worn by sorcerers (and demonic costuming) on the other hand... are far from run of the mill.

The rubber bodysuits and costumes for the demons; Balzeroth and Azmodeus, however, are less than stellar.

Balzeroth is able to pass by on having his scenes filmed heavily draped in shadow and his being armed with red glowsticks - obfuscating the piecemeal nature of his found-object armor.

Azmodeus isn't so lucky. While his gargoyle-like appearance itself is excellent, sadly, it's the utter lack of mobility with which it (ill) affords that is it's undoing.
The scene wherein he is called forth from the fires of hell is excellent. The bit where he has to bend over to pick up Morgan's fallen foe is laughable. I don't think the director's choice of having it filmed in silhouette helped in any way.

This scene absolutely RIPS me out of the film.


Morgan Le Fay's every outfit is sexy and she wears them well.

Lindmer's sorcerer's cloak is nice, but with the hood up looks a bit ridiculous.

I once caught a Loch-Ness Monster...THIS. BIG.

The robe's hood comes to a point on top and makes him appear more gnome-like and less regal and powerful than he should.

Dr. Strange wears two different examples of mystic raiment in the film;

-The first; a lush, black cloak with red accents over a deep red (so dark it's almost black) turtleneck shirt/ pants with gold accessories and adornment. However, it is given to him by Morgan and is much more "regal" than what a humble servant of mankind would wear (instead looking to all like the garb of a ruler of all he surveys) and as such is not something that he'd be permitted to retain.

I would wear this to social gatherings. I most certainly would.

However, I wonder why, with all of the costume changes that Strange has undergone in the comics, no one has tried to replicate this one. It's a dynamite look! Although, without any definitive chest-symbol could be considered less "super-hero" and more generic mystic.

- His final costume is, sadly, lame.
A purple tunic with a metallic silver "star-burst" emblem on the chest, over bright blue baggie pants and a yellow, mid-length cape, replete with "runes" appliqued along the edging.

Each garment - by themselves - are cool. But, as an ensemble are a fashion disaster.
Except for that belt. It's perfect!

The best part of the costume is the belt; a complexly designed series of gold interlocking shapes with the "ancient symbol of light" as the buckle.
Needless to say; I want that belt and would wear it daily.

---

I'll readily admit; it's far from a perfect film. It'll never win any awards (unless they're ironic in nature). It's not without a few forced-looking, oddly staged scenes and a couple of plot-holes (which would most likely have been addressed if it were made into a series), but it holds it's own against much of it's contemporaries.

Sadly, it never made it to series, and I can only be saddened that a world wherein a special television event (or even an episode of "Battle of the Network Stars") where Dr. Strange could team up with the TV Hulk, Wonder Woman, Six-Million Dollar Man and "The Greatest American Hero" will never be.

All in all, I find the film to be fun and thoroughly enjoyable as light-hearted fare.
Young kiddies might find the "Nameless One" to be a bit scary (and his talk of torture and wishing to devour the souls of men certainly gives him some beefing-up in the scary department), but overall it's an all-ages bit of escapism.


As I said; it's cheese. But it's good cheese.

~fin!~

* (If anyone wants to go in and help work up a drinking game for this, I'm on board. Let's knock some back in the comments.)

If interested, original VHS tapes can be obtained HERE.

Join me NEXT TIME as I wrap up my series on the TV movie AND start an ALL-NEW direction at the same time with some very special pieces from my Sanctum Sanctorum collection!

9 comments:

Holly said...

Haha, good cheese is true.

I have a drinking game idea! Every time someone stares really, really hard to indicate that they're "doing some form of mystical mind-warping magic spell" take a drink. I think it happens quite a few times...

Howard said...

A very committed review. Almost a thesis there, Sanctum!

Didn't the Doctor Strange pilot premiere on the same night as the finale for Roots? It got obliterated in the ratings. Imagine what could have been if the show had made its debut on a better viewing night, had slightly higher production values and someone like Tom Selleck on board?

A few notes on the cast:

Anne Marie Martin, who played Clea, went on to co-star in wacky 80's cop shitcom "Sledge Hammer!", which actually spawned a Marvel Comics adaptation. (Hey Sanctum, do these comics count as a Clea appearance?) She later got married (and famously divorced) to Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton.

Peter Hooten (Dr. Strange) disappeared from movies and TV, with his last IMDB credit being an Italian horror movie in 1990 with a "working title" of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3". Wonder what he's doing now. Theater? Wall Mart greeter?

As for the costume, the final star emblem tunic exudes cheese. Thank goodness Hollywood execs finally started to get it. You kind of HAVE to "goth it up" to make superhero suits that don't look ridiculous. The blue pants with it make him look like my pal Timothy Leary if he were to guest star on The Love Boat.

OK, the belt is all sorts of awesome. I agree with you there 100%... and I would love a replica of that ring as well. Don't think I haven't thought about having one made. It blows me away that you did Sanctum. Kudos to you again!

As for the Sanctum Sanctorum... I'll bet you a Wand of Watoomb that was on the Universal lot, and that the window is long gone...

Finally, it's funny that you mention the TV show Kung Fu. My friend's dad happens to be David Carradine, and we had dinner with him at the Magic Castle in Hollywood one night. He had heard about my love for Doctor Strange and told me Doc was his favorite character and he had approached Marvel in the early 70's about starring in a movie based on the character.

Marvel went so far as to give him a bunch of old Doc comic books which he told me he cut up and ripped apart attempting to put together a mock up storyline. I was slightly horrified by this, but there's still enough of them around right now to not hold it against him.

I guess the idea fell through, but what wonders how that might have turned out if anything had been filmed... And if it would have been better or worse than the results of the TV Pilot.

~P~ said...

Holly,
Staring is a good start-off point, as there's a lot of that.

We need to add a few other items, like "jedi mind trick shots" or when Strange's voice seems dubbed - take a drink.

Of course, one's blood-alcohol-level would be pretty wrecked by then.

;-)

---

Howard,

I did indeed know about Eddie Benton's continuing career and marriage situation.
I briefly entertained adding that stuff (as well as short bios for other actors in the flick), but opted against it, since all that stuff is available elsewhere (imdb.com, of course, among many others), and wanted to TRY to keep this down to "thesis" size.

Hmmm... Sledgehammer comics = Clea appearance?
I don't think even I'd go that far.
But I know that YOU have more of an infatuation with the silver-haired sorceress...so... sure. Why not.
"6-degrees of Clea".

That David Carradine story I HAVE heard before. He mentions his comic affection (I'm pretty sure he specifically speaks of Dr. Strange) and the comic-tearing thing, in the special features of one of his movies (or was it the Kung-Fu boxed sets? I forget.)
That YOU know him, is an AWESOME thing, as he's long been a HUGE fave of mine.

I taught myself to play the KUNG-FU theme on the flute because of my love of the show.

In the Kill Bill flicks, he totally gripped me with his ease and ability to tell a story - really making the words play thru your mind.


Hey! Speaking of the Universal lot... you had said (in the comments for the Jiggler figure) that you had gone to the Universal Studios TOUR in the very early 80's, right?

I read something another guy had written online, and he had stated that when HE went on the tour, at that timeframe, they had the DR STRANGE "dark dimension" sets hanging on display.

Did you see them?
Would you have known what they were then?

There are many times I wish I could be on the left-coast.

~P~ said...

OOH!
I just thought of a good rule:

Every time you SEE the "ancient symbol" = drink.

It's on the ring, the Sanctum, the Business card, the floor of the Sanctum, the golden wood-carving on the mantle... everywhere.

I have to think about this.

Anonymous said...

Excellent and comprehensive review! As someone who didn't know of the comics, and whose first exposure to Dr. Strange was the movie, I'd say one of the problems was similar to one Batman had about 10 years previously. Jessica Walter is so gorgeous and captivating and charismatic as Morgan Le Fay, and Peter Hooten is so wooden, that I couldn't help rooting for evil in this movie! Batman, IMO, had a similar vibe, with women such as Joan Collins as the Siren and Julie Newmar as Catwoman. Of course, the difference is that show was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, and Dr. Strange was very serious.
Had the pilot been picked up, I wonder if Walter would've been THE villainess or if Strange would've been battling different male and female villains.

Anonymous said...

Movie THE SPIRIT used the window/house set in their movie. A stupid way to open a movie.

~P~ said...

It would make some sense that they would use the window design in the Spirit movie, seeing as how the Spirit (comics) had it first.
Steve Ditko (who used to work for Will Eisner - the creator of the Spirit) basically "lifted" the design from there and used it in his Doctor Strange work and also used it in his DC work for SHADE the Changing Man.

Cool, right?

"Tamam Shud!"
~P~

Anonymous said...

Absolutely amazing!

I watched a few minutes of this movie back (the astral travel scene) in 1978 and I was mesmerized. I never forgot that scene, but I didn't know the name of the movie! All I could remember was "In the name of ? I command you begone!" I did a lot of google searching on that line, but came up with very little. Eventually I made it to this website. Finally, thanks to this website and youtube, I got to watch it in its entirety. Thanks very much. Anyone know where I can buy this movie on DVD?

Anonymous said...

Peter Hooten is still appearing in schlocky films. House of Blood (2013) and Soul Eater (currently in post production). He was in a long term relationship with the poet James Merrill until Merrill's death in 1995. He currently resides in Sarasota, FL.

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