Ask 411 Movies for 4.21.14: Nether Regions Mash-Up
Posted by Chad Webb on 04.21.2014
Nether Regions invades Ask 411 Movies as the 1978 made-for-TV movie Dr. Strange is reviewed! And we also take a look at the best roles of Cameron Diaz. All that and more in this week's column!
An "Ask 411 Movies" column would be nothing without questions, so please toss them my way. Why should you ask me instead of using Google? Well, perhaps I'll tell you something you can't find there, or maybe you just like my conversation and soothing words. You can post any questions or thoughts below in the comments section, email me at email@example.com, or send me a tweet using the links below:
I haven't seen a lot of movies lately, though that's not out of laziness. There just isn't much in theaters I care to go see at the moment. Right now there are a bunch of movies that might be good, but ones I can wait to see on DVD later. Lately I've been watching 24 and literally tearing through Orphan Black, which is fantastic.
Game of Thrones is still phenomenal. I won't spoil anything, but I dig how the series moving along. However, they are quickly running out of books. George R. R. Martin needs to pick up the pace. Mad Men's final episodes began recently and the premiere was intriguing but certainly not drama-filled. I'm anxious to see how the show ends. I enjoyed the last group of episodes. Not everyone agrees, but I appreciate that Mad Men does its own thing and is unlike any other show on the air.
As for music, I did go to see Sabaton & Iced Earth in concert for all you metal fans out there. Good show. People were just as excited to see Sabaton as they were the headliner. I'll be honest, I was more pumped to see them as well.
If want to know more about my movie tastes, check out my page on Letterboxd by clicking right here. Also, make sure to look at all the great articles and writers at 411, particularly in the Movie-zone because that's where I predominantly am, but all of the zones.
In case I forgot to mention a notable death this week, you can always peruse the list yourself by clicking here.
Dear Greatest Columnist of All-Time,
What is Nether Regions and what can you tell me about the 1978 Dr. Strange movie?
That's a unique name, but I like your question and thank you for the compliment. Nether Regions started as a segment of the Big Screen Bulletin in the movie-zone that meant to showcase films that have been discontinued on DVD, are out of print in the United States, are only available in certain regions outside the United States, or are generally hard to find.
It eventually became a column of its own! Don't remember it? You are one of the 99% of people who visit this site that likely also have no idea what this column was. You might ask, "Why should I care about a film I have no access to?" My goal is to keep these films relevant because some of them genuinely deserve to be recognized. And by the way, the one below is readily available on YouTube.
I had wanted to review the following movie for while via Nether Regions, but when a week rolled by with no questions I struggled to think of a topic to fill the article. Then I thought of doing a mash-up column. Has that ever been done at 411? If not, perhaps I'm the first. Mark that down in the history books Ashish! Anyway, below is a review of the 1978 movie Dr. Strange admist some regular Ask 411 Movies stuff. Enjoy!
Starring: Peter Hooten, John Mills, and Jessica Walter Written & Directed By: Philip DeGuere Original Air Date: September 6, 1978 Running Time: 93 minutes Missing Since: August 11, 1993 Existing Formats:Out of Print VHS & Bootleg DVDs Netflix Status: Not Available Availability: Bootlegs Can be Found at Conventions & YouTube
In the late 1970's, Marvel was eagerly adapting their comics into televisions shows, or at least trying to. We had The Incredible Hulk and The Amazing Spider-Man starting it all in the fall of 1977. Following those, CBS went for Dr. Strange in 1978 and then Captain America and Captain America II: Death Too Soon, both in 1979. This is the true Phase One for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I suppose then that Iron Man, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers are Phase Two and we are currently in Phase Three? Unless you count Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies and the Fantastic Four movies from 2005 and 2007, or the abominable Nick Fury starring David Hasselhoff from 1998, which would mean we're in Phase Four. Oh well, I digress.
Dr. Stephen Strange putting the moves on Clea Lake.
This article is on Dr. Strange, which was intended to be a TV pilot. It aired in a two-hour block from 8pm – 10pm, but drew poor ratings and did not go any further. As a result it would just be considered a made-for-TV movie. Stan Lee served as a consultant on the project and had this to say during an interview in an issue of Comics Feature magazine in January of 1985: "I probably had the most input into that one. I've become good friends with the writer/producer Phil DeGuere. I was pleased with Dr. Strange and The [Incredible] Hulk. I think that Dr. Strange would have done much better than it did in the ratings except that it aired opposite Roots. Those are the only experiences I've had with live action television. Dr. Strange and the Hulk were fine. Captain America was a bit [of a] disappointment and Spider-Man was a total nightmare."
In truth, Dr. Strange could have been a lot worse as a movie. It's still goofy as hell and laughable in spots, but not cringe-worthy either. Let's break down the plot. Right away we are privy to creepy red text about barriers coming down between two realms or something. Yadda Yadda Yadda. An old sorcerer named Thomas Lindmer (John Mills) needs to transfer his powers to a worthy successor. That man is Dr. Stephen Strange (Peter Hooten), playboy to women, sporting a classic 70's look of curly hair and vintage stache, resembling porn star John Holmes. At the same time, some demon with glowy eyes and perhaps glowy nostrils, or another set of glowy eyes, orders sorceress Morgan Le Fay (Jessica Walter) to defeat the old wizard Lindmer or kill his successor. You see, she failed to do so 500 years ago and is now on thin ice with a monster known as "The Nameless One," which aside from being the name of a great Volbeat song, is a villain we see via eerie red light and cloudy screen. But at least he has glowy eyes. Whatever.
So Morgan brainstorms for a way to take down Lindmer and decides to perform a "psychic assault" on a college student named Clea Lake (Anne-Marie Martin). These mind manipulation tricks are known only because of a sound effect that is reminiscent of annoyingly loud locusts as Morgan stares blankly. At least Lindmer uses the No Holds Barred rip ‘em sign when he takes over a mind. Morgan's secret plan to defeat a wizard centuries old? Get a female student to push him over a bridge. O…k? Lindmer falls, gets up, and walks away with a busted hip at most. This is complex sorcery people! Meanwhile, we watch an extended scene of Dr. Strange treating an elderly alcoholic woman with ulcers. Yay. Anyway, Clea Lake is very ill as a result of Morgan psychically assaulting her, so she ends up at the hospital being examined by…you guessed it, Dr. Seuss. At one point, Lindmer introduces himself to Strange and vaguely explains what is happening to Clea and that Dr. Strange can help if comes over to his house. He also uses chess analogies, which is frightening.
VHS & Bootleg DVDs usually feature this cover.
We learn that Dr. Strange's father used to be acquainted with Lindmer and that now Strange himself possesses the ability to become the master wizard when Lindmer is gone. It is worth noting that Lindmer has an assistant named Wong, who also has sorcerer abilities, but apparently he will be second-fiddle his whole life. Them's the breaks Wong! Strange needs to go through an initiation process to learn the spells, and this process may or may not involve fraternity-esque hazing and Fear Factor trials with Joe Rogan. Just kidding. Before that however, Strange is sent to the astral planes to rescue Clea, whose mind-state is trapped in a higher dimension. Trust me, this is riveting. He does that, which then launches the romance angle between Strange and Clea. He begins wearing turtle necks to woo her. This is accompanied by abrupt smooth jazz. Evidently, Lindmer sent Strange into the astral planes because he is too weak to overcome Morgan at his age. So instead of risking it himself, he sends a rookie who knows nothing (except for one phrase taught to him a minute prior) to get ‘er done. Makes sense.
So, you know, more stuff happens but I don't want to give away the entire story. Morgan has trouble killing Strange because she has the hots for him. To hear a powerful evil sorceress whine about wanting to jump Strange's bones is quite odd indeed considering the mission is otherwordly and all. Seriously there is so much to make fun of in this movie. In one sequence, Morgan tries to convince Strange to join her side by giving him funky robes with Mr. T jewelry. The extent of the abilities any of these people hold remains a mystery throughout. All we know is, they can shoot lazers from their hands, possibly teleport, control minds, and do the glowing hand thing. I know I know, this makes complete sense in the comics.
Actually though, as retarded as Dr. Strange can be, the acting is tolerable. Peter Hooten is our titular character. Hooten doesn't have the lengthiest resume. His biggest claim to fame other than this fiasco, was as Tony in The Inglorious Bastards. He's not horrendous here, but definitely a little stiff and when you combine his hairstyle with his wardrobe, he is a very dated aspect of this movie in retrospect. Morgan is portrayed by, Archer's Mom, Lucille Bluth…Jessica Walter! She is great at…staring longingly in this. She also complains and yells a lot. I love Jessica Waler, but yeah, she's done better than the overacting she unloads as Morgan Le Fay. Thomas Lindmer is played by the great Sir John Mills, Oscar winner. He certainly gives his best in what is a weakly written role for a character that is seemingly essential to the plot. Clyde Kusatsu is Wong, one of those actors you've probably noticed in a zillion things. Strange's love interest is depicted by Anne Marie-Martin, who was once married to Michael Crichton and is famous for getting a huge settlement in the divorce. But while married to him she was in the Tom Selleck vehicle Runaway, a great B-movie, also opposite a lead with a great mustache. She knows what she likes.
"Why the hell did I ever agree to this role?"
Philip DeGuere wrote and directed Dr. Strange. His sense of direction was ambitious for the period, considering this was also for television, but the writing is absolutely the glaring flaw. It is saturated with clichés, plot holes, a lack of explanation, and minimal energy. The special effects might have been cool in the 70's, but they are beyond cheesy when viewed today. Dr. Strange's journey into the astral planes is akin to a trippy kaleidoscope on acid or shrooms. The music is also atrocious. When it doesn't sound like Daft Punk on crack, it strikes the ears like a poor guitar player who won't stop the irritating solos in his garage. And I'm sorry, but as hard as the cast tries, they look silly in the costumes. These folks do not shock and awe you as wizards. They rattle off incantations with clothes in the vein of a high school play.
Obviously Dr. Strange has his fans, but this is a really bizarre character and to me, it will be extremely difficult to pull off on the big screen in the same universe as the current Marvel superheroes. I'm not saying it can't be done, but this is one nutty m'fer. I do not know a lot about his history, but I did review the 2007 animated film back years ago for my long retired "Straight-to-Video Nightmares" segment (This column is plugging all of my old shit). You can peruse that by clicking here. That was passable, though hardly perfect and that was a cartoon! Obviously the material is suited better for animation, but still, this is not my favorite Marvel personality.
As I said before, this is not an agonizing experience, but it's still bad I would say. DeGuere spends so much time setting up the scenario and by the time we get to the good stuff, the movie is over. I can forgive a bit since this was meant as a pilot, but hey, you have to judge what you see right? Since you don't have to pay for it, I would check this out only if you are a comic book movie completist or a fan of Dr. Strange. You might like it more than I. And now that Stephen Strange was mentioned in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we know that he exists in that universe and we could see him in a film of his own down the road. I heard rumors of Johnny Depp being desired for the lead? They'll need more than a compelling actor to pull this character off. I didn't really care about him here, or in the '07 flick, but maybe that will change. In any event, a hearty thumbs down for Philip DeGuere's Dr. Strange: Electric Boogaloo.
Final Rating: 4.5/10.0
An advertisement for the TV special from 1978
Ladies and gentlemen…your Avengers in 1979!
Dr. Strange Trivia From IMDB
*"The star-burst on Dr. Strange's costume is not on his comic book outfit. While it is indeed similar to one that ordains the costume of another Marvel Comics hero; Captain Mar-Vell, this particular TV movie costume star-burst design is a tell-tale "signature" of this production's costume-design consultant (and former Dr. Strange comic book artist); Frank Brunner. Brunner uses that star-burst on many different design projects and incorporated it, as a more TV-friendly replacement to the "demon" symbol usually worn by the comic-book Dr. Strange. Although not named, the creature that Morgan serves is visually inspired by Dr. Strange's comic book arch-nemesis, Dormammu, while Morgan herself could be seen as being inspired by Dormammu's sister (and Strange's foe), Umar."
*"Morgan Le Fay appears as Doctor Strange's foe in this TV movie. Oddly enough, Morgan Le Fay was introduced to the modern era of MVL comics in Spider-Woman#2 (after an appearance in a dream in Son of Satan#8), just a few months before the air date of this TV movie, and did not encounter Doctor Strange until Avengers#240-241, published in 1984, six years after this TV movie came out."
*"Morgan Le Fay was the first Marvel foe to be adapted to live action. She was later joined by the Kingpin in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk(1989) and the Red Skull in Captain America (1990)."
*"Thomas Lindmer is a replacement for Dr. Strange's comic book mentor, the Ancient One, a native Tibetan who was the former sorcerer supreme."
For a list of all the previous installments of Nether Regions, click here!
Quick Shot: Cameron Diaz
We have The Other Woman hitting theaters this Friday, starring Leslie Mann, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and of course Cameron Diaz. And so here are 5 Diaz performances that you absolutely must familiarize yourself with before checking out the upcoming film.
1) Being John Malkovich
2) There's Something About Mary
3) Gangs of New York
5) Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her
--Thanks to Misty for my banner.
"The plural of Chad is Chad?"
--From the movie Recount