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DVD Review

DVD cover

Dr. Strange (1978)


Starring: Peter Hooten, Jessica Walters, Eddie Benton, Clyde Kusatsu, Philip Sterling and John Mills
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Certificate: U
Release Date: 17 October 2016

The evil Morgan Le Fay is attempting to open the gates from the dimension she serves to the earth. This will unleash evil and chaos. Only the sorcerer supreme, Thomas Lindmer, can stop her, so she targets him individually. After surviving a duel with her, Lindmer realises he is going to need help. So, he acquires the aid of hospital psychiatrist Dr Strange. However, accepting belief in phenomena outside of his experience does not necessarily mean Strange can learn all he needs to in able to combat Le Fay. Lindmer doesn’t select him randomly though; Strange possesses his own mysterious connection to the magical world...

This is the original 1978 version of the comic book adaptation which was a made for television under the guidance of Marvel legend Stan Lee. It stars John Mills as Thomas Lindmer (the mystic tutor to Dr Strange), Jessica Walter as the villainess of the piece (Morgan Le Fay, the immortal witch), and Stephen Hooten as the title character. Particularly for a made for TV piece it would have been quite a coup to acquire John Mills. Here, the part definitely benefits from someone of a certain stature, and the look and character of Stephen Hooton makes him a natural for Dr Strange. Having said that this is undoubtedly a product of the 1970s. Some films seem to survive all decades without ageing, whereas others are grounded in their origins. One of the things which seems to date a film most is the music, and in this one the music is very jazzy, a la The Streets of San Francisco.

Of course, that’s not to say they hadn't done the best they could do with the resources at hand at the time. You have to appreciate the fact that CGI, so commonly in use now, was a long way off being devised. So, what we have instead is an established set for the other dimension location, taken pretty much from the Marvel comic book panels: what appear to be floating rocks in space, and in particular a place where Le Fay can be chastised and generally threatened by the real bad guy. Strange is lured to the ‘dark side’ just a little too easily for anyone other than the most naïve of villainesses to guess his ultimate motive. The aforementioned effects come in the manner of a handful of cosmic bolts thrown around; pretty basic stuff by today’s standards, but remember we are nearly forty years hence.

It’s no coincidence that this film has been released now, with the brand new effects-laden Dr Strange (starring Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch) having just arrived to pretty good critical acclaim. You might call it cashing-in, but there’s a certain nostalgia to these early examples of on-screen Marvel. For example, we’ve had five (and number six is pending) big budget Spider-Man movies, but I still hold a deep regard for the quirky 1970s TV series with Nicholas Hammond.


Ty Power

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