shit film sunday: the strange tale of doctor mordrid

So, uh… it’s been quite a while without a blog post until now despite my promises to post regularly. I guess I’ll have to work on that…

I have a passion for bad movies. Give me a choice between one of the newest CGI-laced blockbusters, or an obscure sci-fi flick from the 80s with terrible claymation effects and acting that make The Room look like the greatest drama ever made, chances are I’ll pick the obscure sci-fi flick. Why? I guess I find that the objectively “terrible” flick will have more soul, and you can see that while the end result was of inferior quality if you’re looking for legitimately excellent entertainment, there’s often things you can appreciate about the film such as the dodgy effects, or the earnest acting of the stars who seem to have really gotten into their characters.

Youtube is full of shit films, most of which have been abandoned it would seem by their copyright holders, so I love this, and I figure that I’m going to try and find a film every Sunday to review as I like writing reviews of things. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get good at it!

Up this Sunday is the 1992 film Doctor Strange … sorry, Doctor Mordrid.

As I’m sure has been told time and again, before Marvel realised that there was a market for superhero films that were basically just like the comics, rather than being “grounded” and “real” and totally not like the comics, they sold off the cinematic rights to all of their characters which lead to some rather bad movies, like the 1990 Captain America, and various 70s live action Spider-Man films where most of Spidey’s enemies were dudes in leisure suits.

Marvel, of course, got their act together and became the modern day template for a successful movie franchise after regaining the rights to characters who failed to emerge from development hell. Mordrid is quite an odd story, though…

Doctor Mordrid started out life as a Doctor Strange movie, however it seems that at some point Marvel had a falling out with the producers, or their option on Doctor Strange ran out, and they found themselves without a character to make a movie about. Rather than just abandon the thing, they went and made a Doctor Strange movie where the character is close enough to Doctor Strange so that fans of the character will want to watch it, but far enough away from Doctor Strange so that Marvel can’t use lawyer-fu on them.

So Doctor Strange Mordrid (Jeffrey Combs) is a sorcerer sent to Earth by The Ancient One Monitor to protect Earth from evil, which is sealed away in an alternate dimension and guarded by a dude from the Deep South called Gunner (Ritch Brinkley). He also appears to have bought a building filled with comedy residents who quarrel about dogs barking and other nonsense, as well as Samantha Hunt (Yvette Nipar), a police consultant who is into weird, spooky cases and thinks something is up with Mordrid.

Mordrid doesn’t have a Cloak of Levitation, rather a blue cloak and natty blue pajamas!

The “evil” in another dimension is Kabal(Brian Thompson aka the Alien Bounty Hunter in The X-Files), a rival sorcerer who escapes and comes to Earth in order to… well, we’re not entirely sure. His plan seems to involve releasing claymation demons to do something or other, but he sure seems excited about it.

Wallace and vomit

While I’m trying to make this sound as exciting as possible, large chunks of Doctor Mordrid involve people talking about things. Mordrid spends a large chunk of the movie in an interrogation room after the meathead cop Hunt works with decides to arrest Mordrid over murders committed by Kabal while carrying out his plan to release the Plasticine peril, and then just talks a lot. Kabal also has some punk minions who don’t really do much either, and the middle of the film is a bit of a dud.

Finally, Mordrid escapes with the help of Hunt, and then goes on to have his final confrontation with Kabal in a scene where they obviously blew most of the budget: a duel between a Mastodon skeleton and a T-Rex skeleton, the highlight of the film as can be seen below:

Yeah, it’s not exactly Jurassic Park but it is where the film finally has some action, and I actually enjoyed the scene as the animation is adorably naff, and Thompson’s acting reaches new levels of high camp as Kabal yells that his plan to release the plasticine monsters from their imprisonment is going well. Kabal is finally skewered by the mastodon, Hunt kicks the punk minion trying to kill her in the balls, and the world is saved from claymation terror.

So, do I think the 70 minutes I spent watching Doctor Mordrid were a waste? Not really. Jeffrey Combs is enjoyable in anything he’s in, and he makes the most of the role of Mordrid – it’s a real shame they didn’t get the chance to make a proper Doctor Strange film as while the tech in 1992 could never have brought the psychedelic world of Strange to life in convincing fashion, I think Combs could have made a good Sorcerer Supreme.

Brian Thompson also tries his best with Kabal, and during the end fight his campy acting combined with the claymation dinosaur fight makes the most enjoyable scene of the film. It’s the one moment where the film actually has some action and fun, even if it’s only a few minutes.

Doctor Mordrid obviously suffered from the withdrawal of the Doctor Strange rights from the production, as without the mythology of Strange behind it (Mordrid has a “magic amulet” rather than the Eye of Agamotto) the characters just don’t feel that substantial, despite the best attempts of the cast. It’s quite clear they had ambition, but perhaps not the means to fulfil it.

Of course, given the appearance of the real thing now, Doctor Mordrid is now out on Blu-ray and DVD. It’s worth checking out, just for the what-if factor.

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