The Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken us to some pretty strange places so far: a rich arms dealer making a robotic suit of armor to fight international terrorism, a doctor with a serious anger management problem, a frozen soldier awakened fifty years later, an archer who for some reason is expected to keep up with a group of people with actual superpowers. Things are set to get even more odd once they race through the “doorway” into the supernatural parts of the Marvel Universe in the form of Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme.
What many people aren’t aware of, however, is that Strange almost headlined his own movie over 20 years ago. The story goes that Charles Band and the good folks over at Full Moon did a straightforward deal with Marvel Comics to make a film adaptation of its Doctor Strange comics. However, negotiations fell apart at the last minute. And instead of scrapping the project, the script was rewritten to include original characters not directly adapted from the comics property. Thus, Doctor Mordrid was born. The 1992 film was co-directed by Band and his late father, Albert Band, from a script by C. Courtney Joyner.
Doctor Mordrid (played by the great Jeffrey Combs) is a powerful sorcerer who has sworn to keep Earth safe from the powers of darkness throughout the universe. His arch-enemy Kabal (played by Brian Thompson) arrives with plans to use his infinite powers to unleash a horde of hellish demons to devour and destroy humankind. The two clash in an epic battle of good and evil that includes destructive mystical abilities and re-animated prehistoric creatures.
Right off the bat, clearly, some of the distinct weirdness of the ’80 seeped into the early ’90s. Shifting from campy to dark and back at the drop of hat, Doctor Mordrid feels kind of like Clive Barker directing Flash Gordon. If not for one gratuitous (albeit tastefully lit) nude scene, it could be a children’s fantasy movie.
The film is similar in tone to Band’s Trancers, and that’s a good thing. A broad story told on a small scale that allows for character development. Over the years, Full Moon’s output was frequently spotty in quality, but never lacked for goofy ideas and doing whatever it takes to keep audiences entertained.
At a rather short runtime of 74 minutes, including credits, this film gets to the point rather quickly. There is no extra fluff or unnecessary baggage presented. Just straight to the point; magic and sorcery. Jeffrey Combs is terrific as always. Brian Thompson is naturally creepy (chewing the scenery with just the right amount of gusto) and would fit into the “bad guy” role of almost any film he wanted. Rounding out the cast, Yvette Nipar plays the role of Mordrid’s love interest, Samantha. She, too, does a great job, helping to bring the plot back to earth and give us humans something to relate to in this strange world of the black arts.
Doctor Mordrid is one of those rare films that is completely under the radar, but is totally worthwhile. The cinematography may not be that great, and there is certainly a veil of cheapness that hangs over the entire production. Fortunately, the father and son duo of Albert and Charles Band pushed forward with a vision and a story which impresses due to its refusal to be looked down upon. Filling the roles with competent actors and merging the modern day (at the time) with the more fantastical elements is done even more smoothly than many recent big-budget blockbusters. *Cough*… Fant4stic.
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