THE YEAR: 1992
THE DIRECTOR: Charles Band, Albert Band
THE WRITER: C. Courtney Joyner (screenplay), Charles Band (story)
THE CAST: Jeffrey Combs, Yvette Nipar, Brian Thompson
We talk about adaptation a lot here on The Rewind, but what happens when you have to un-adapt your movie? Yes, it’s a word. Work with me here. Originally developed by genre movie icon Charles Band’s production company Full Moon Entertainment as an adaptation of the Marvel Comics character Doctor Strange, the company’s option for the property rights ran out prior to filming. Band was left with the choice to either abandon the film or to rework it into something new. Band obviously chose the latter and Doctor Mordrid was born. But did it work?
Well let’s hit the rewind button and see what was conjured up…
So how did Doctor Mordrid distance itself from being Doctor Strange? Well they removed the moustache.
Okay, I’m kidding, but to casual Strange fans, that could be the perception. The costume did change quite a bit, opting for a simpler royal blue outfit with almost a martial arts feel. No enormous red pointy collar. But those of course are surface things. What about that actual character? Well, Mordrid is a much more subdued hero, even going full sorcerer he’s not very dramatic or over the top. Strange on the other hand is traditional more egotistical and brash. There are certainly some remnants of Doctor Strange, both protecting Earth from otherworldly forces, but for the most part things have changed quite a bit. The back stories of the characters standing out the most. Strange in a man who was taught the mystic arts while searching for a cure for his damaged hands. Mordrid is an inter-dimensional being that was sent as a protector.
It’s been said that during the course of the film’s re-development that Charles Band had gone back to an older abandoned project called Doctor Mortalis and drew story elements from it. Unfortunately without being able to see original scripts for Doctor Strange or Doctor Mortalis, I can only speculate. So let’s focus on the finished product that we saw released.
Jeffrey Combs stars as Doctor Anton Mordrid and that is interesting in itself. For as storied a career that Combs has had, I struggle to think of a time that he had gotten to play a traditional hero like this. Oh, he’s had plenty of lead roles, but often as quirky scientists and other troubled characters. The classic Re-Animator being a prime example. He rarely gets to play charismatic or suave even. That is one of the points that makes this film refreshing.
Brian Thompson, on the other hand, is right at home in his niche of hulking, muscle-bound, deep-voiced, scary villain. Thompson has this uncanny ability to sell the most ridiculous of dialogue. He’s such a larger than life individual that even the craziest things just sound legit. And as the evil sorcerer bent on world domination, he does get ample opportunity to deliver some out-there gems. And on that note, Thompson’s Kabal is another major difference between Doctor Strange and Doctor Mordrid. Strange’s villains were usually more surreal or abstract. Kabal is the same type of being as Mordrid and very much his equal.
As far as the story itself, I would love to say that it’s full of twists and innovations, but it is a straight forward “villain wants to ensave the world, hero saves the day” tale. But the thing is, it’s fun. It’s a good introduction to the character and gives a good indication of what was to come.
Doctor Mordrid was intended as the start of a series, but received a lukewarm reception upon its release that dashed those hopes. I have had a friend or two comment over the years that the sorcery in the actual film wasn’t quite as dazzling as it appeared on the video cover. Maybe that is part of it. I think what stopped the film from truly catching on is that it was a bit too far out of Full Moon’s norm. It lacked the usual gore and horror that fans were used to. Ironically, that’s exactly what I enjoyed about it most. Like the casting of Jeffrey Combs as the heroic lead, Doctor Mordrid saw the company stretching its wings a bit and I could really get behind that.
Sadly, Doctor Mordrid’s mystical adventures didn’t continue past this movie. It most definitely had the makings of a good franchise and franchises are one of the things that Full Moon does best. Believe me, there’s lots of those that we’ll be looking at down the road. But it just wasn’t in the tarot cards for Doctor Mordrid.
The what-if is quite obvious: What if this had been produced as a Doctor Strange movie? Would we have seen a franchise from Full Moon? Would we have seen other movie properties developed by Full Moon? Band and company would likely have had a field day with many of the Midnight Sons properties. Full Moon taking on something like Blade, Ghost Rider or Morbius The Living Vampire in the 90’s would have likely been some very cool stuff.
THE BIG QUESTION:
What other Marvel characters would you have liked to see Full Moon produce?
Let us know in the comments below!
Doctor Mordrid stands out as one of Full Moon’s better efforts and quite enjoyable. As I said, I was personally disappointed that it didn’t become the series it was intended to be. I say give it a look.