Dr Strange review

The title pops up, pumping synths kick in, Dr Strange is about to begin. A demon made out of tinted red lens torches and red crepe paper sends Lucille…sorry Morgan LeFay (Jessica Walter) back to Earth to take out Lindmer (John Mills), the old man she was unable to defeat centuries before. Should he not be found she is under instruction to take another – who she will recognise by the look of his ring (ooh err sailor).

doctor strange 1978 DVD coverBack on Earth Lindmer prepares for Morgan’s arrival with the help of his sidekick Wong. It’s not long before Morgan possesses the body of a beautiful young woman , Clea Lake (Anne-Marie Martin), and pushes Lindmer off the nearest bridge. A few hours later as Lindmer brushes himself off and relates the encounter to Wong we quickly realise this battle may take longer than expected.  There is one thing Lindmer is sure of, they need to find Dr Stephen Strange (Peter Hooten).

Cut to the hospital and Dr Strange has been busy necking with nurses, turning up to work with lipstick on his cheek and offering patients a bed to sleep in over night (in what’s a little inappropriate given the context). 1970s jerry curl and pornstache to match, here is our hero. Although he could brush up on his acting if he hopes to fools us that he doesn't want to screw the blonde nurse at the hospital. As he sleeps – he dreams of Clea. As Clea sleeps, she dreams of Morgan pursuing her, in slow motion of course. Strange dream. When she wakes, Morgan lives and pursues her through the night accompanied by a peculiar ringing sound. She ends up at the hospital and in the presence of Strange, who instantly forms a connection with her. Lindmer turns up at the hospital, twiddling his fingers in order to get past the matron on front desk. So much finger twiddling is there I expected him to say “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” at any moment.

He explains there is a psychic bond between Strange and Clea. He has a wonderful business card by the way when he introduces himself. Watch out for that. Strange recognises the design on his own ring is identical to the one on Lindmer’s business card and window. Pushing Lindmer for details Strange discovers more about his own past, his own origins and his own responsibilities. Without giving too much away, if that’s even possible, it involves sorcery. 50 minutes into the film, Strange is sent off to the astral planes to find Clea’s conscious on the higher planes where evil is holding her captive.

And so, to the astral planes. Everyone looks a damn sight more interesting and camp in this world and the sets look a little more Year 6 primary school end-of-year play. But that’s what we’re looking for right. Now the real action begins. Strange slips in and out battles with Bolthazar the demon and then escapes. Morgan gets a right royal telling off from the Master for being attracted to Strange and letting her guard down. Back on Earth they bang on about homework and studying and the film slows again. Even when Strange turns up at Lindmer’s to chew him out (why, he helped you get the girl back?), the film drags.

While the acting is rough around its wooden edges it’s not so bad it’s terrible. In fact, Walter is a pleasure as always to watch, particularly when playing evil characters such as Morgan. Hooten plays Strange just naively enough to believe this man is truly shocked by the power he holds. The sexual chemistry (or lack thereof) between Strange and Morgan doesn’t hold much water though. Don’t get me wrong, sexuality is bouncing off the walls in this film – every female character in it is either attracted to Strange or already shacking up with him. I imagine there is quite a good porn spin-off out there somewhere, full of elaborate costumes and glowing special effects (discover that by yourselves if you must).

Ultimately if you’re going to use a minimal budget, ropy actors and shoddy set design then you need to play up the camp aspect of the film as much as possible. I don’t care if you offend fans of the comics you need to camp it up. While it does go some way to doing that Dr Strange is just no Flash Gordon in that department. As such, all the elements on earth fall a little flat. If the story could have taken place in the higher planes for the majority of its runtime I think we’d have a much more enjoyable watch on our hands. As it is, there’s a little too much Doctor, and not enough Strange. 

EXTRAS: Nothing, really – only Scene Selection and English Subtitles on are offer, and they're not really "bonus material", are they.

Ben Murray is a Screenjabber contributor

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