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Blast from the Past: Dr. Strange TV Movie (Peter Hooten)

blast from the past dr. Strange movie
Peter Hooten as Dr. Strange in 1978.

Everybody knows Marvel is releasing a Dr. Strange movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch next month, but did you know there was a Dr. Strange movie for television way back in 1978? It’s true.

Peter Hooten starred as Dr. Strange, looking more than a little like Gabe Kaplan in the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter. Also, Hooten’s costume was more than a little goofy looking, at one point sporting a giant star and at another showing ancient Egyptian iconography, but it was the 1970s, so what could you expect? Just don’t get me started on that faux silky cape.

Originally appearing on CBS from 8 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, September 6, 1978, the TV movie served as a pilot for a show which never appeared. Keep in mind this was during the height of fame for The Incredible Hulk show and The Amazing Spider-Man TV series, with two Captain America made-for-TV movies coming in 1979, so there were high expectations for Dr. Strange.

Unfortunately, despite Stan Lee acting as a consultant, the Dr. Strange pilot did not get picked up for a regular television series.

blast from the past dr. Strange movie
Would you trust a man dressed like this to perform magic?

The plot for the show was rather complicated and rambling, sometimes making little sense, but again, this was the ’70s. To keep it short, the evil enchantress Morgan LeFey (played by Jessica Walters) seeks to gain ultimate power by slaying the Sorcerer Supreme, Thomas Lindmer, or his apprentice. LeFey possesses one Clea Lake into making an attempt on Lindmer’s life, but the sorcerer pulls through. Meanwhile, Clea is put under the care of a psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen Strange. Strange investigates Clea’s case and eventually stumbles upon the fact that he is the apprentice to the Sorcerer Supreme though his memory has been wiped in order to protect him. The plot is more complex than that, much more, but I would prefer not to give anything away in case you, the reader, manages to find a copy of this TV movie on VHS or DVD, or maybe you can find it online somewhere.

I will warn, however, that you won’t find a lot of magical goings-on in the show. Much of the screen time is filled with Dr. Strange actually performing his tasks as a doctor within a hospital, though here and there a little odd magic makes an appearance.

Despite the goofiness, the TV version of Dr. Strange does have a certain campy charm to it. It’s filled with the expected 1970s overacting and dramatic moments loaded with gangly music, but that in itself can be quite charming, at least from a nostalgic point of view if not from an it’s-so-bad-it’s-good point of view. Whatever your own opinion, this TV movie does still have its own small following to this day.

Blast from the Past: Dr. Strange TV Movie

And by the way, yes, the show was known as Dr. Strange, not Doctor Strange. Stay Nerdy!

Blast from the Past: Dr. Strange TV movie
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Comic Book University: YouTube for the super hero in all of us

The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962). Cover art b...
The Incredible Hulk #1 (May 1962). Cover art by Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t normally do a shout-out for a solitary YouTube channel, especially one that is fairly new, but the channel called Comic Book University has quite impressed me with its depth, number of videos, and its range of subjects.

Headed up by Professor Bill, so far the channel has taken serious, in depth looks at The Incredible Hulk, Doomsday, Killer Croc, and the unforgettable talent of artist Jack Kirby. Besides the series videos on those topics, there have been a handful of individual videos, including a memorial for Kenny Baker, known as R2-D2 from the Star Wars films. Also, Professor Bill’s videos have hinted at more to come, possibly including videos on the X-Men, Captain America, and other characters and topics.

Basically, there’s already a lot of good stuff here, and more should be on the way.

The series about the Hulk includes nine videos, each running from about 10 to 20 minutes, not including an intro video of a minute and a half. The Hulk’s origin as Bruce Banner is covered, as well as the Hulk’s powers, some of which are somewhat rare and not commonly known. For instance, did you know the Hulk could see ethereal or spiritual beings? I did from my early readings of The Defenders comics, but that had been long ago and I’d forgotten it.

The Hulk videos also cover a number of major story lines over the years involving the big green guy. The gray Hulk, Planet Hulk and World War Hulk are covered well, but plenty of other tales are mentioned.

The series of four videos about Jack Kirby are quite educational, going over Kirby’s earliest days as an artist, his time with Marvel, his brief stint with DC, his return to Marvel, and his later works. The final Kirby video features a nice tribute to this famous comic book artist.

Comic Book University isn’t just about the history of comics, however. It also looks to the present and the future in interviews with some of today’s comics creators and others working in the field. So far there have been interviews with Jonathan Miller of Outpouring Comics and Luis Zambrano of The Geek Fortress. More interviews can be expected in the future.

One of the nice details about the Comic Book University channel, and its companion Facebook page, is the sheer love for the topic that Professor Bill brings to his subject material. Not only does he love comics, but he appears to be a long-time fan and is quite knowledgeable of the medium.

There are other YouTube channels related to comic books and the comic book industry, but Comic Book University has quickly become my new favorite. If you have a personal favorite, please let others know about it in the comments section so Professor Bill and the rest of us can check it out.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to Stay Nerdy!