Dr. Strange (1978) — Ugly, clunky, and magically delicious

“I am several hundred years too old to be alright.”

Flinthart’s rating: But probably the not the one you think.

Flinthart’s review: Look — Doctor Strange is one of Marvel’s more interesting characters, and I’m as pleased as anybody that Benedict Cumberbatch played the Sorcerer Supreme on the big screen. But the truth is simple: Old Cumberbunny isn’t the first.

Back in the dim, dark ages of superhero movies, Marvel took a crack at bringing Stephen Strange to the screen in the form of a movie released direct to TV. So in the spirit of Cumberpalooza, I managed to track down a copy of the old film via the ‘Net, and I watched it last night in the company of some slightly drunk and very tolerant friends.

Dear. Cthulhu. About fifteen minutes into the film, my friend pinned the vibe when he said, “This is just like an old porn film. Except nobody’s nuding it up.”

He nailed it. He really nailed it. I mean… look at that publicity shot up there, will you? That guy… come on! Admit it: you can’t look at him and not think “porn star.”

This film had the whole show: Daggy clothes. Bad lighting. Stupid use of soft focus. Clunky dialogue. Chest hair. Gold chains. Moustaches. Shitful, static direction. Incomprehensible and largely irrelevant plot. Acting performances that give ‘wooden’ a bad name. Except a porn flick would have had the saving grace of some occasional on-screen rumpy-pumpy to break up the pain and the monotony. Hell — even the soundtrack was an aimless synth-and-guitar pornucopia.

The weird thing was that the film was even sort of paced properly for porn. The actor playing Stephen Strange (a chap by the name of Peter Hooten — a boofy-haired moustache life-support system) was evidently told to play the role of lounge-lizard/lothario, and he hammed it up every time a cleavage crossed the screen. And of course, there were cleavages a-plenty. So you’d get this weird vibe wherein Doctor Strange would get in close and comfortable with a pneumatic blonde nurse, and the synth and guitar would drop into a little of the old bow-chicka-wow-wow… and then we’d cut to another scene, with everybody clothed and busy like it meant something to the movie.

It honestly felt like a porn flick that had been ruthlessly cut for TV release.

This film… wow. We watched it with as much ironic tolerance as we and our alcoholic beverages could muster, but by the time we were halfway through we resorted to muting the sound and providing our own voice-overs. And that was a hell of a lot more entertaining, I can tell you. There is nothing at all worth noticing or remembering from this film, from effects so pedestrian that it would be a crime to use the word ‘special’ (my thirteen-year-old kid does more convincing SFX with his iPhone) to a cast list of complete anonymemes. Seriously, there is nobody here you’ve ever heard of, or seen, nor will again.

We survived. And we agreed that the bar had been set sufficiently low: When the Cumberbotty arrived on the screen, there’s no possible way we would be disappointed. I just hope that I haven’t wasted too many synapses and neurones on this little gem.

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