Shout! Factory revealed today that it’s bringing the first Doctor Strange film adaptation to Blu-Ray, and it’s not the one you’re thinking about. In 1978, long before Benedict Cumberbatch took over the mantle of the Sorcerer Supreme, Peter Hooten starred in a TV movie that was supposed to serve as a pilot for a new Dr. Strange TV show on CBS. That’s the movie Shout! Factory is rescuing from Marvel’s vault and giving a high-definition restoration.
While superheroes have been trending for the last decade, there was a time when producers had to fight against micro-budgets to translate the crazy comic book action onto screens. And when the superhero in question is an all-powerful wizard, the lack of money becomes even more evident. Despite that, CBS tried to turn Dr. Strange into a TV show in 1978, releasing a TV film to test the waters and see if there were an audience craving for peculiar special effects. Not surprisingly, Dr. Strange was deemed a complete failure, the series project died, and the original TV film became almost an urban legend. Until now.
With the new high-definition restoration, Shout! Factory will surely attract many MCU fans who did not know the Master of Mystic Arts had a 70s live-action adaptation. And, of course, it will be interesting to watch the limited visual effects of 1978’s Dr. Strange right before going to the movies for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The experience might also give fans a renewed appreciation for everything Marvel Studios did for comic book adaptations.
A word of warning, though: it’s not only the special effects from Dr. Strange that aged poorly. There are a lot of questionable story points in the film, especially regarding its female characters. Even so, Dr. Strange remains one of the weirdest relics from a time before superheroes were popular, and with a new restoration, more people will be witnessing the low bar the 70s set for comic book adaptations. Also, to sweeten the deal, the new Blu-Ray comes with a new audio commentary by pop culture historian Russell Dyball spirit The Panel Jumper harvest Cole Hornaday.
Dr. Strange is available for pre-order right now on Shout! Factory’s official website. The Blu-ray will become available on April 29, just a week before Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness comes to theaters on May 6.
Here’s the official synopsis for 1978’s Dr. Strange:
A modern hospital may seem worlds apart from the days of ancient sorcerers. But for psychiatrist Stephen Strange (Peter Hooten, Orca) and his patient Clea Lake (Eddie Benton, Sledge Hammer!), This is where those worlds collide … and the nightmare begins! Nothing Stephen Strange learned in medical school could prepare him for an attack by an evil sorceress from the “fourth dimension,” Morgan le Fay (Jessica Walter, Arrested Development), a villainess who plans an invasion of unimaginable evil on Earth. Chosen by an ancient guardian of the spirit world to learn the mystic arts to defeat Morgan and safeguard the Earth, Stephen Strange must take the place of the Earth’s last sorcerer. Come along for a fantastic adventure into the “fourth dimension” with … Dr. Strange!
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