Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dr. Strange (1978) VHS

Fuck you and your leotard
Rating:  -1 out of 5 porn staches

Plot Synopsis:  There’s something about borders becoming weak and a great evil enlists Morgan LeFay to help him eliminate the current sorcerer supreme.  She does this by half-assedly tossing this old man off a bridge (which he emerges totally fine from), falling in love with the protagonist, killing then not killing then banishing said old man’s soul, losing said old man’s soul which allows old man to resurrect, playing an integral part in empowering the protagonist and ultimately failing at everything.  The bulk of the plot revolves around this killing of an old man which no one can apparently do.  Then Dr. Strange is a fucking doctor and the other part of this plot takes place in a hospital where nothing happens.  Nothing happens and nobody grows in this goddamn (Batman) waste of fucking time.

The Good:

-The plot is laid out pretty clearly from the beginning.  We get a text block telling us about the world and then we open with the big bad telling one of his servants what she needs to do, where she needs to go, who she needs to do it to and how much time she has.  It’s a bit clunky but at least it’s SOME plot direction.  Unfortunately it’s all the plot that occurs.

-Peter Hooten’s porn stache is amazing.  His jericurl ain’t bad either.

-Clyde Kusatsu plays Wong and he’s had a pretty awesome career.  I recognized him and couldn’t place him but he’s had a career of being “that guy in the thing”.  He puts in a pretty solid performance as Wong.

-The acting is actually pretty solid.  The main cast all put in pretty good performances, even some of the supporting cast but when you get to the extras things become terrible.

-There’s a hilarious slow motion replay of the old man getting pushing of the bridge with a deep slow motion “Is he dead?”

-Holy shit, rotary phones.  Remember those?  It took like a million years to call someone local.  Add an area code to that or, god forbid, a country calling code, you’d spend a half hour dialing the fucking phone.  And there was no real way to know when you screwed up the dialing.  And they were all made of bakelite or some shit and you could beat hobo to death with one if you needed to.  And every call sounded like you were calling the fucking international space station or some shit.  I remember falling on one and I gashed my head, the phone was fine but it nearly killed me, gave me a black eye and an open wound.

-For being made in ’78 this movie doesn’t have the terrible fashion associated with that decade.  They keep it pretty conservative and low key.

-Ah, the 70’s, when a total stranger could have you committed, you had state run psychiatric facilities and no one had to tell you what medication you were taking or why you were taking it.

-You know, it was an earth tone kind of decade.  Lots of rich browns, forest greens and mustard yellows plastered all over the environment.

-There’s a sign on a clothing store that advertises clothing for “chubbies”.  Awesome.

-Did you know they made a pilot for a Power Pack show?  I haven’t figured out if it was a cartoon or live action but I know it aired as a Saturday Morning Cartoon Special.  I found that out looking on Wikipedia at this movie and it’s in the related pages section.  Turns out it was live action since it’s under “Live Action Television Show’s Developed Based on Marvel Comics”.  I have to do something with my time if the movie isn’t involving me in any significant way.

-What few magic effects we see aren’t terrible.  They are pretty typical for this era of movie, which means it’s all slightly ridiculous and stupid looking but not remarkable in its terribleness.

-It’s s super 70’s psychedelic disco freakout into the astral plane.  The first engaging thing that’s happened in close to 25 minutes.

-“I am Kali goddess of destruction, I am Lilith queen of demons and I am Ishtar bloody Ishtar and I am Morgan!”

-Every time someone says “Doctor Strange” he bursts through the door.  It provides some level of funny.

-In the backgrounds of the city they walk in there are often occult symbols or stores hidden about.

The Bad:

-The opening music score sounds like an orchestra warming up in Silent Hill.

-Okay, there’s like 10 minutes of people just walking around intercut with close ups of people’s faces.  It gets pretty tedious.

-An old man gets pushed off a bridge then hit by a car and the reaction is the most somber, apathetic “Oh no.” ever.  If you’re just dubbing everything do a couple of takes.  Also the driver, who is a large be’afro’ed black man sounds like Woody Allen.

-This movies biggest crime is how boring it is.  It is so hard to keep involved in the story when nothing is happening.  I forgot to reset my VCR counter before starting (I had to rewind the damn thing before starting it) but we have to be close to 30 minutes in and so far the most action we’ve seen is an old man getting thrown off a bridge.  It feels like 30 minutes, the way this movie bends time it’s probably closer to 15.

-The soundtrack is a mix of atmospheric “new agey” music, 70’s porn music and dramatic soap opera stings from the 60’s.

-Our second action scene involved a cat getting shocked by a mystical barrier.

-SOMETHING FUCKING HAPPEN ALREADY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-Marvel at the five minute “walking around looking for an address scene” it’s punctuated by the “bus almost hitting a kid on a bike but not really and, in fact, misses by such a margin that no one reacts and the scene means nothing.”

-I keep slipping into cleaning my apartment or surfing the internet, there’s nothing here to keep my attention.

-There’s a sudden and unexplainable love plot element between Morgan (the female big bad) and Strange.  The reasoning behind this, and keep in mind this is the character herself saying this “I’m just a woman and I was attracted to him.”  Yep.  Then she’s convinced out of this love by the big bad showing her old and wrinkled.  That’s a great message.

-I want to take a nap.

-There is no apparent characterization.  People do shit and as far as I can tell they are all totally interchangeable.  Dr. Strange tells the old wizard that he can’t bow his head to any man and call him master but at no point earlier in the film do we see any real display of arrogance or pride.  There’s nothing to inform that decision.  There’s nothing that makes me think “Yes, that’s what that character would do in that situation.”  For as long as this movie is and for as much focus as it puts on anything but magic happening or conflict there is still no emphasis on character development.  This movie would probably feel less boring if there was at least a focus on growing the characters, even if nothing action oriented was happening we’d at least get to know the characters well.  It would at least be a good character piece and a shitty action movie but as it is its just shitty.  Shitty and boring.  Morgan’s love revelation also has nothing to do with the character.  It just comes out of nowhere.  The character doesn’t even share a scene with Strange before she confesses her love.  Up until that point those actors aren’t even on the same screen together and she loves him to such a degree that she’s willing to betray her master.  Why?  Why does anyone do anything?  Nothing makes sense and nothing is happening.

-Fucking everyone loves Dr. Strange and it’s never explained why.  I suppose it’s the sick stache/jericurl combo.

-What the fuck?  In one scene we see Morgan LeFay get aged and depowered and left in the demon realm and literally 5 minutes later we see her as the revolutionary head of the LeFay method of psychology.  How did she get back to the real world?  How did she establish herself as the news worthy creator of this new form of psychology?  What is going on?

-This fucking movie ends with Dr. Strange using magic to mess with a street magician’s performance (causing a pigeon to appear instead of a bouquet of flowers).  Seriously?  That’s it?  Our climax was 15 minutes before in a shitty little battle on the astral plane then we have 15 minutes of meandering denouement that goes nowhere and accomplishes nothing before the movie finally limps to a conclusion that answers none of the questions posed by the movie and foretells nothing happening in the future.  That’s it?  Fuck you movie, fuck you.

The Ugly:

-I’m pretty sure this thing was either filmed with no sound or the sound just wasn’t recorded well because it looks and sounds like the whole thing was dubbed from front to back.  Voices occasionally don’t match up to mouth movements and sound effects occasionally don’t match up to actions.

-When they travel to the astral plane they use this watery, soft, blurry focus and it does nothing but give me a headache.

Final Thoughts:  This movie is a black hole, a black hole of entertainment, a black hole larger than Elektra.  The movie stretches time making seconds feel like hours, excruciating hours of nothingness.  This VHS is the shitty pot trip of movies.  It sucks out everything colorful and dynamic and fills your world with a bland, boring, boiled potato like substance and seductive porn staches.  It draws you in thinking there will be some kind of battle of good versus evil, some kind of magical fighting and what you get is 45 minutes of the shittiest hospital soap opera ever crammed into 30 minutes of confused magical narrative.  Nothing can be this boring or could ever be this boring again.

            You know, when I first learned that this movie existed, for real existed, I had heard about it but assumed it was lost to time, but when I learned I could buy this thing and watch it I was actually really excited.  I thought: “This looks like total shit, it looks like a terrible movie and I want to see it.” So I bought the thing for super cheap and then I sat on it.  Once I had it the daunting task of actually watching it was too much of a burden, especially when there was all these other things I knew I liked that I WANTED to watch.  But finally I sat down to consume this damn thing because it has been sitting in my VCR player for months now and I knew if I removed it I’d never attempt it again. 

I was totally right, this movie is terrible.  But it’s not terrible in all the usual ways, the ways I was hoping.  The acting is competent, the cinematography is good (I haven’t caught any obvious boom mic’s in the shot, everything is framed well), the special effects are decent for the time period.  The costuming, sets and cast are all fine.  Technically it is a fine movie but that’s just not enough to keep any interest.  If you were a film student in 1979 and wanted to know how to make a technically competent movie, something to use as a base that you could build something interesting on, then I would recommend this.  But there is no substance beneath this technical achievement. 

All that is why this movie is bad in all the wrong ways.  There’s nothing to make fun of, there’s nothing that makes it that great popcorn movie that you can riff on with your friends.  It’s the kind of bad that makes you want to vacuum your living space.  It’s the kind of boring that makes groups of people reminisce about better times while ignoring this thing in the background.  It’s there to fill gaps in the conversation but no one talks about it.  It’s a shiny nickel of a movie and not in the exaggerated “Oh a shiny nickel, I love shiny things” way but in the way that it, in fact, possess the distraction ability and entertainment value that staring at an actual shiny nickel provides.  But the nickel is more entertaining because you can at least imagine an interesting story about how the nickel got there.

Elektra was inexplicably boring.  That movie is boring and I don’t understand why.  That movie has plenty of action, a small level of characterization, interesting characters even and is competently made.  Yet that movie is boring.  This movie makes Elektra look like a rollercoaster thrill ride of emotion and action.  This movie has nothing for anybody.  It’s the half erect premature ejaculating penis of movies.  It just looks sad and sickly before suddenly and without warning dribbling out a pathetic climax that leaves no one satisfied. 

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