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Dr. Strange movie from 1978

Dr. Strange movie from 1978
by Billy Ingram

Earth’s last sorcerer, Dr. Strange, battles his female foe from the comic books Morgan LeFay in this TV movie starrring Peter Hooten as Dr. Strange, Jessica Walters as Morgan LeFay and Anne-Marie Martin as Clea Lake. Micheal Ansara (Mr. Freeze in Batman Beyond) was the voice of The Ancient One while Ted Cassidy (Lurch on The Addams Family) provided the voice of Demon Balzaroth.

Written and directed by Phillip DeGuere Jr., known for Simon & Simon (1981), Black Sheep Squadron (1976) and JAG (1995).

Dr. Strange was part of a package deal Universal secured from Marvel Comics giving the studio the TV rights to Spider-Man, The Human Torch, Captain America, Sub-Mariner, Daredevil, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk. First to make it to the screen was Spider-Man in the fall of 1977 starring Nicholas Hammond as the web slinger. Ratings were so strong for that CBS TV movie a series was tentatively launched.

Human Torch and Sub-Mariner storylines were developed but never filmed. There were 2 other Marvel TV movies produced, one starring Captain America and another fronted by The Incredible Hulk, or more accurately, David (Bruce) Banner who got most of the screen time. The series' two-hour pilot film established the Hulk's origins, it aired on November 4, 1977 on CBS.

Captain America (1979) was abysmal but the Hulk tele-film did so well it led to a long-running weekly hourlong series in 1978. After the Incredible Hulk series ended in 1982 there were 3 Incredible Hulk TV movies, this time on NBC. The first was The Incredible Hulk Returns in 1988 featuring The Mighty Thor depicted as a surfer dude. The Incredible Hulk Returns turned out to be a major ratings success.

The third telefilm, The Trial of The Incredible Hulk, introduced Matt Murdock (Daredevil) to the live action Marvel universe. IMDB: When Banner is held as a witness to a violent crime linked to the Kingpin, the fugitive is helped by lawyer Matt Murdock who is also the superhero, Daredevil.

About Dr. Strange, The Hollywood Reporter opined: “The transition from comic strip to the small screen is rife with conceptual traps and very few projects can bridge that artistic chasm effectively. Dr. Strange didn’t.” The reviewer did concede that, “The film succeeded visually, evoking an aura of otherworldliness that was astutely realized.”

HR also believed the title character was mis-cast however, “Jessica Walter, one of the most underrated and versatile actors extant, endowed her villainous witch with an enthusiasm that went well with her beauty.”

As for the Dr. Strange 1978 pilot, there are newly mastered DVDs available if you’re curious but you may discover that too much of the production resembled a typical 1970s hospital drama, way too much talking.


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Dr. Strange TV movie from 1978

 


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