If you are a fan of Marvel’s Doctor Strange, you might be surprised to learn that the character had his first live-action adaptation in 1978, long before Benedict Cumberbatch donned the Cloak of Levitation. The Doctor Strange Television Movie was a pilot for a potential series that aired on CBS but failed to attract enough viewers to continue. However, the movie is still worth watching for its faithful portrayal of the Sorcerer Supreme and his mystical world.
The movie follows Dr. Stephen Strange (Peter Hooten), a psychiatrist who inherits the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme from Thomas Lindmer (John Mills), a world-weary wizard who has been guarding Earth from evil forces for centuries. Strange must face Morgan le Fay (Jessica Walter), an ancient sorceress who serves the Nameless One, a demonic entity that seeks to conquer humanity. Along the way, Strange learns to use his magical powers and falls in love with Clea Lake (Anne-Marie Martin), a young woman who is possessed by le Fay.
The movie was written and directed by Philip DeGuere, who consulted with Stan Lee, the co-creator of Doctor Strange along with Steve Ditko. DeGuere tried to capture the psychedelic and cerebral aspects of the comic book, using visual effects and music to create a sense of wonder and mystery. The movie also featured some elements from the comic book lore, such as the Eye of Agamotto, the Book of Vishanti, and the Dark Dimension.
One of the highlights of the movie was the casting of Clyde Kusatsu as Wong, Lindmer’s loyal assistant and Strange’s ally. Kusatsu was one of the few Asian-American actors to play a prominent role in a superhero movie at the time, and he brought a sense of dignity and humor to his character. He also had some fighting skills that he showcased in a fight scene against le Fay’s minions.
The Doctor Strange Television Movie from 1978 may not have been a success at the time, but it has since gained a cult following among Marvel fans who appreciate its charm and nostalgia. It is a rare example of a faithful and respectful adaptation of a comic book character that deserves more recognition and appreciation.