Marvel’s Mage is now one of the biggest highlights of the MCU in theaters, but he began his trajectory more than four decades earlier on the small screen.
Nearly four decades before Marvel ‘s Sorcerer Supreme was introduced in the MCU with Benedict Cumberbatch , an even stranger Stephen arrived on US TV in his first live-action appearance. And it’s not even multiverse madness, because it happened right here on this Earth, in a delusional reality called the 1970s, with the telefilm Dr. Strange and Peter Hooten ‘s Doctor Strange .
The production, which sought to bring the psychedelic magic of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee ‘s comics to the screen , was conceived as a pilot (test episode shown to broadcasters for approval) for the North American network CBS . At the time, the same network aired the Incredible Hulk series (the same one, with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno ). In the case of Strange , the intention was to go ahead with a complete series, which obviously did not happen.
Even failing in the mission to guarantee a series to the wizard, Dr. Strange has become an object of interest to the most ardent fans of the character, even getting a re-release on Blu-ray this year, with the right to remaster in HD. Before watching Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness , which opens this week in Brazilian cinemas, how about getting to know the lesser-known, but also pioneering, variant of Strange in audiovisual?
Doctor Strange… psychiatrist?
In the plot, Stephen (Hooten) is not a neurosurgeon, nor does he suffer a car accident, as in modern comics and movies. Consequently, the magician does not live the drama of seeking a cure for the injuries on his hands, which prevent him from working and are the trigger for the egocentric doctor’s journey in search of the secrets of ancient magic. Here, Strange, for some reason, is born with powers, he just doesn’t know it yet.
The character leads a peaceful routine working in a hospital. The plot, in fact, takes up much of the film’s duration. An unsuspecting person might even think it’s a medical show, or a kind of Grey’s Anatomy with magic. But things get sinister with the appearance of a villain thirsty for destruction, with a lot of green background, light games and other practical effects – in addition to an old acquaintance for fans of modern sitcoms.
A goddess, a sorceress, she is awesome…
If 2022’s Strange has to deal with Wanda Maximoff ( Elizabeth Olsen ), 1978’s is having a hard time in the hands of sorceress Morgan Le Fay . In the film, the character is played by Jessica Walters , Lucille Bluth of Arrested Development (2003-2019), years before her fame.
Sent by an evil spirit, Le Fay arrives in our world to assassinate or corrupt the Sorcerer Supreme, Lindmer (a somewhat random character, but bearing some resemblance to the Crone from the 2016 movie) and his apprentice (an untrained Stranger) at the same time. dark side. The game of cat and mouse continues until the magician finally finds Stephen and helps the psychiatrist to assume his destiny, although the so-called “heritage of magic” is never objectively explained, with the help of another acquaintance…
an old faithful companion
Even in the first live-action adventure, Strange couldn’t miss the company of his loyal friend Wong . Here, the wizard is also portrayed as a sidekick to Sorcerer Supreme Lindmer, and later to Strange himself.
The character even has a relatively respectful approach, played by Clyde Kusatsu , even more so compared to other depictions of Asian characters in pop culture films from decades past. Wong becomes an important figure in the battle against the sorceress Le Fey, and proves to be a great ally of Strange, with a less subservient posture than in the comics, although he has an inexplicable British accent.
Sign of the Times (and Interrupted Magic)
At the end of the film, Strange assumes the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme, seemingly defeating Morgan Le Fey and swearing to dedicate his life to protecting humanity. The character, of course, gets a stylish uniform that looks pretty imposing to this day (no kidding).
It is also interesting to note how, even in an apparently unpretentious project such as a comic book adaptation clearly aimed at children and teenagers, there is an important social commentary at the end of the film.
The sorceress Le Fey appears again, in disguise, now as a cult leader. 1978, it is worth remembering, was the same year that the cultist Jim Jones provoked the mass suicide of more than 900 followers, in addition to the emergence of other populist leaders and serial killers.
Despite interesting action sequences and visual effects, Dr. Strange , as already said, ended up rejected by CBS , even with several open hooks. Critics of the time highlight precisely the disparity in the rhythm between the medical plot and the magic bits.
Even on home video, the movie didn’t have the same success as the Hulk series, being relegated to a bizarre curiosity in the way of more than 50 years until the character wins a truly faithful version to the comics, with all the visual wonders that computer graphics. modern can provide.
In any case, the film is an interesting portrait of a time when hero productions, despite having been around since the 1940s, were still distant adventures, certainly a far cry from the impressive industry that now dominates the global box office.
Suffice it to say that the production is viewed with affection even by Stan Lee himself , who defined the feature as one of his best experiences in adapting the comics to other media, along with CBS’s Hulk .
In an interview with Comics Feature in 1985, the comic book legend said:
“I had more creative involvement [in Dr. Strange]. I became very good friends with writer and producer Phil DeGuere. I was quite satisfied with Dr. Strange and with The Incredible Hulk. I even think Strange should have done much better in ratings.”
If you were curious to watch the film, you can risk importing a copy of the Blu-ray just released by Shout Factory , or hope that some distributor launches the product in Brazil. Maybe the seventies Strange appears in some new Marvel multiverse on the big screen…