1978: When 'Dr. Strange' Was a TV Movie on CBS

At the time, this long-lost TV movie based on the Marvel Comics hero was supposed to launch a hit show for the network.
Courtesy of Doctor Strange Official Teaser Trailer

On Sept. 6, 1978, Dr. Strange hit the small screen with a TV movie its producers hoped would help launch a hit series for CBS. But the Marvel Comics adaptation faltered in the ratings, where it was trounced by a rerun of Roots — and plans for a TV show were scrapped. The Hollywood Reporter reviewed the two-hour broadcast two days later:

The transition from comic strip to the small screen is rife with conceptual traps and very few projects can bridge that artistic chasm effectively. Dr. Strange didn't. It should be said that part of the challenge was met and mastered, as the film succeeded visually, evoking an aura of otherworldliness that was astutely realized. It failed, however, in the area of presenting a viable threat within its credible atmosphere.

Another serious deficit was in casting Peter Hooten as Dr. Strange. For one thing, Hooten is entirely too young and blandly strolls through the role doing what is generally necessary and nothing more. John Mills, on the other hand, as Hooten's magical mentor, gave everyone a valuable lesson not only in acting with restraint, but with a total commitment to his characterization. Jessica Walter, one of the most underrated and versatile actors extant, endowed her villainous witch with an enthusiasm that went well with her beauty.

Executive producer-director-writer Philip DeGuere understood how to deal with the occult aspect of the assignment but not how to make it all completely fluid; his directing had a nice sense of the unexpected although his writing left something to be desired. Paul Chihara's music helped the show along neatly — Earl Davis, originally published on Sept. 8, 1978.

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