|Written by||Philip DeGuere|
|Directed by||Philip DeGuere|
|Music by||Paul Chihara|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Cinematography||Enzo A. Martinelli|
|Running time||93 minutes|
|Production company||Universal Television|
Dr. Strange is a 1978 American superhero television film based on the Marvel Comics fictional character of the same name, co-created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. Philip DeGuere directed the film and wrote it specifically for television, and produced the film along with Alex Beaton and Gregory Hoblit. Stan Lee served as a consultant on the film, which was created as a pilot for a proposed television series. Dr. Strange stars Peter Hooten in the title role, along with Jessica Walter, Eddie Benton, Clyde Kusatsu, Philip Sterling, and John Mills. The film aired on September 6, 1978, in a two-hour block from 8pm to 10pm on CBS, the same network that, at that time, aired The Amazing Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk; CBS did not pick up Dr. Strange as a series.
An evil entity tells Morgan le Fay she has been prevented from breaking through to the earthly realm by a great wizard, and that she has three days to defeat the wizard and win over his successor to her master's side.
Le Fay possesses a young woman named Clea Lake and uses her as a weapon against Thomas Lindmer, the "Sorcerer Supreme". She pushes him off a bridge to his death, but he magically heals himself. His friend, Wong, looks after him and locates Lake. Suffering from nightmares of le Fay, Lake is under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Strange at a psychiatric hospital. Strange has the potential to become Lindmer's successor through inherited items from his father, including a signet ring. Strange intuitively senses something wrong, sharing Lake's nightmares.
Lindmer contacts Strange at the hospital and tells him Lake needs more help than can be offered by medical science. Strange takes Lindmer's card, which bears the same symbol as his ring. Meanwhile, le Fay possesses a cat and tries to enter Lindmer's house, but magical barriers repel it.
At the hospital, the head of Strange's department sedates Lake, and she slips into a coma. Strange visits Lindmer, and Le Fay declines an opportunity to kill him.
Lindmer tells Strange that his ignorance is a form of protection, and asks him whether he wants to know the truth. Strange demands the truth, and Lindmer says he knows about Strange's parents dying when he was eighteen. He says there are different realms, and that Lake is trapped in them and only Strange can save her. Strange is dispatched to the astral plane and confronts the demon Balzaroth sent by le Fay. Strange and Lake return to the physical world.
The evil entity asks le Fay why she spared Strange. She confesses to being attracted to him, and the demon threatens to turn her into an elderly woman. Strange checks on Lake, and agrees to dinner with her. He goes to see Lindmer and rejects magic. As he leaves, he tries to remove his father's ring and finds he cannot. He accidentally lets the possessed cat in, which allows le Fay to best Wong. She defeats Lindmer, and summons Asmodeus to take him to the demon realms.
Strange visits Lake, but le Fay interrupts, promising not to harm Lake if he comes with her to the demon realm. Once there, he appears to be under her command. She attempts to seduce him, and asks him to remove his ring, claiming he can do it. He refuses and defeats her, rescues Lindmer, and returns them to the earthly realm, where he also revives Wong. The evil entity transforms le Fay into an old hag.
Lindmer explains that Strange must choose between remaining mortal or becoming the Sorcerer Supreme, forgoing ignorance, offspring, and a painless death. Strange decides to protect humanity, and Lindmer's power is transferred to him. Wong then warns him that, while he now has Lindmer's powers, he does not yet have the knowledge or wisdom to use them correctly, and can harm himself or others.
Strange is then shown at the hospital, where many patients have been discharged. He leaves with Lake, who seems to have no memory of what happened. Le Fay is shown on television, young again, posing as a self-help guru. The film closes with Strange playing a trick on a street magician, turning the flowers the magician was going to produce using sleight-of-hand into a dove.
Philip DeGuere was given an ample budget for Dr. Strange, which he wrote, directed, and produced. The film was shot on Universal sets in Los Angeles, going over-schedule by several days because of the special effects, which included a lot of the era's green screen. DeGuere's friend, composer Paul Chiraha, was encouraged to produce an electronic score. Chihara, interviewed in 2016, said that DeGuere had high hopes for the film, and that he was crushed when it "tanked" in the Nielsen ratings.
In March 1985, Stan Lee recounted the largely positive experience of working on Dr. Strange, compared with the other live-action Marvel Comics adaptations under the publisher's development deal with CBS and Universal in the late 1970s:
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 Incredible Hulk were fine. Captain America was a bit [of a] disappointment, and Spider-Man was a total nightmare.
Dr. Strange got very low Nielsen ratings and, from critics, generally negative reviews:
The film was released twice on VHS in the United States, in 1987 and 1995, and also had multiple foreign releases. Dr. Strange was released on DVD for the first time in the United States and Canada on November 1, 2016, and on Blu-ray on April 26, 2022, by Shout! Factory.