Dr. Strange (1978) Review

Rating: 1 Star

The following review contains spoilers.


Earth’s current Sorcerer Supreme, Thomas Lindmer, has grown old and is looking to choose a successor. At the same time, Morgan Le Fay has returned from her banishment in another realm to kill Lindmer and any protégés he may have, paving the way for Earth to be taken over by her demonic master. She possesses a young woman named Clea, and forces her to push Lindmer off a bridge. Lindmer survives and heads home to plan his next move, and Clea, haunted by visions of what she did, checks herself into a hospital. There she meets Dr. Stephen Strange, psychiatric resident, who recognizes her from a dream.

Lindmer brings Strange to his home, where he explains to him that he was a friend of Strange’s parents, and that Strange himself has the potential to be a great sorcerer. He also tells him the only way to save Clea is to retrieve her spirit from the astral plane. Strange does so, but still feels uncertain about the reality of magic. Later, after going on a (pretty unprofessional) date with Clea, Strange goes back to Lindmer to once again declare his uncertainty, and, while he’s leaving, he decides to grab a random stray cat and put it in Lindmer’s house. The cat is actually Le Fay in disguise, and she blasts Lindmer with magic beams, but can’t seem to kill him.

Back at Clea’s, Strange is approached by Le Fay, who tells him that she will kill Clea if he doesn’t come with Le Fay to another realm. He follows her, and she offers him wealth, power, and herself, if he will simply take off his father’s ring and join her in her conquest of Earth. He refuses, somehow defeats Le Fay, and escapes. With Le Fay gone, Strange agrees to accept Lindmer’s offer and become a sorcerer. Clea has forgotten the painful incidents of the past few days and goes on another first date with her doctor, Stephen Strange. Meanwhile, Le Fay begins appearing on TV as a self-help writer with, I can only assume, sinister plans.

Best Parts:

When Clea pushes Lindmer off a bridge, it’s an exciting and unexpected moment. At first it seems like he’s gone for good, and we’re left wondering how Strange will discover his powers and get involved in the story. Then Lindmer gets up, dusts himself off, and we keep going, which is disappointing.

There’s a moment where Strange is sitting with Lindmer, who is explaining they have to go to the astral plane to save Clea, and Strange says something like, “So when do we begin?” And then, from Strange’s first-person perspective, we see Lindmer say, “Now.” And then we fly backwards down a mystical kaleidoscope tunnel, and the whole thing is a cool effect.

I like that they updated Wong from being a humble manservant to a guy in a nice suit who is a friend and disciple of Lindmer.

That 70s soundtrack is pretty wild.

Worst Parts:

I sat down to watch this 90-minute movie, excited, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and fell asleep twice. It’s interminably boring.

It’s very clearly a TV-pilot and not a movie. It’s not just an origin story that leaves room for more adventures, but entirely set-up for the next episode, which was never produced. We see Morgan Le Fay being punished for her failure and turned into an old hag, to be imprisoned forever in the demon realm, and then five minutes later she’s back on Earth posing as a writer, giving a TV interview, with no connection between these moments.

Dr. Strange, ladies’ man. He’s introduced talking with a nurse about all of his hot dates, before propositioning her. Morgan Le Fay explains to her demon boss that she failed to kill Strange the first time she saw him because she’s attracted to him, and craves his touch. On his first date with Clea he suggests they take a hot bath together. He’s an odd-looking guy with this weird hair and this mustache and it’s all just creepy.

Did I mention how boring it is? It’s too boring to even make fun of it. They took everything magical about the Doctor Strange comics and made it boring. Instead of a brilliant surgeon who loses everything and desperately finds a new way of life in studying magic, Dr. Strange is just a doctor whose dad was apparently magical in some way and Strange inherited his powers. Instead of being the niece of the Dread Dormmamu, Clea is just a random student in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the end of this grind, Strange is still a practicing doctor! Like every episode of whatever this TV show was going to be was still going to involve him going to work and seeing patients and dealing with interoffice rivalries.

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