This is the fifteenth installment in a series of articles tracing the complete history of superheroes in film and television, from the first superhero serial all the way to the current Marvel and DC cinematic universes. For the previous installment click here, for the first installment click here.
With the successes of “Wonder Woman,” “The Incredible Hulk,” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” CBS decided to explore even more Marvel Comics properties that could be suitable for television series. The first such television film produced was “Dr. Strange” in 1978.
As with Spider-Man and the Hulk, CBS decided to go in a more grounded direction with Dr. Strange, although the mystical elements were definitely present. Unlike “The Incredible Hulk,” however, “Dr. Strange” wasn’t afraid to use characters from the comic book. Dr. Strange’s pupil/love interest Clea is present, as his Morgan Le Fey. Much of the fidelity Dr. Strange had to the source material came from Stan Lee having much more input with this film than with any of the other Marvel television adaptations at the time.
“I probably had the most input into that one,” Stan Lee told “Comics Feature” magazine in 1985. “I’ve become good friends with the writer/producer Phil DeGuere. I was pleased with Dr. Strange and The 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.”
“Dr. Strange” was intended as the pilot for a television series, however CBS ultimately passed on the property as a series but aired it as a made-for-television movie on September 6, 1978.
“Dr. Strange” makes for a unique television watching experience, as the film retained many of the psychedelic elements the comic book had been known for. Once the film really starts to get into more of the mystical elements of the property, it begins to watch like an acid trip on the screen.
“Doctor Strange” has been mostly lost to posterity, however with Marvel Studios currently developing the property as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there may soon be a new life for this film in home video formats.
“MARVEL IN THE 1970’S: DR STRANGE AND CAPTAIN AMERICA”. Twitch Film
“The “Magic” of Video – Part I-A: DR. STRANGE – the 1978 TV Movie Promos, Design Art and Swag”. Sanctum Sanctorum Comix. January 25, 2009.