Doctor Mordrid (1992)
AKA Rexosaurus (Germany), Invasori dalla IV dimensione (Italy)
Starring Jeffrey Combs, Yvette Nipar, Brian Thompson, Jay Acovone, Keith Coulouris, Ritch Brinkley, Pearl Shear, Murray Rubin, Jeff Austin
Directed by Albert Band & Charles Band
Expectations: High. This one should be a load of fun.
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
If anyone reads the teasers I put at the end of these series reviews, I have a redaction to make. Last week I claimed that I’d be reviewing Doctor Mordrid, “the closest the world has ever come to an actual Doctor Strange movie!” This is actually untrue, as it seems there was a real, sanctioned TV movie in 1978. Maybe at some point I’ll get around to tracking that one down, but for now you’re stuck with the Full Moon rip-off. What’s interesting about this film, though, is that Charles Band held the license to the Marvel character while in pre-production for the film. The license expired before actual production could begin, and the rights reverted back to Marvel, but Band being the ever resourceful filmmaker decided he could switch everything around and still crank out a fun intergalactic sorcery movie. He fulfills every promise except the fun, so while Doctor Mordrid is a total disappointment to me, it still manages to be marginally enjoyable due to a whole host of impressive practical FX work.
You might ask, “How did Full Moon ever get the license to produce a Marvel Comics film?” Well, this was 1992 and Marvel was still in the period of finding how best to bring their stable of characters to the cinema. While DC was making popular movies based on Superman and Batman, Marvel licensed out Captain America to notable low-budget filmmaker Albert Pyun who made a bunch of Full Moon movies, some films starring Ice T, and a more recent film titled Bulletface. Anyway, also around this time Roger Corman got the license for the Fantastic Four, and apparently Band got the Dr. Strange rights. For some reason, Marvel bet hard on low-budget, whimsical takes on their characters and boy, did that pay off! As I’m inclined to connect unrelated things that may have influenced one another, I’d love to believe that this period of Marvel’s cinematic history led them immediately to shelve any attempts at filming their characters until they could pull it off right. Enter Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and the rest is history. But enough about Marvel’s misguided licensing practices of the early ’90s…
The story is really Doctor Mordrid‘s major failing point, and its nuances were easily lost on the viewer who was trying to take a note about the giant celestial eyes talking to Jeffrey Combs in the opening minutes of the film. I regrouped and did my best to follow the story, but even paying close attention I still found it to be a struggle. Halfway through the movie, I gave up and read the beginning of the Wikipedia entry and immediately the film made sense. So that’s what was going on! Anyway, the gist is that Kabal (AKA Death’s Head) has escaped from his dimensional prison castle in space and he’s come to Earth, fulfilling a prophecy that he will gather very specific materials before assembling them into something, causing all sorts of damage and mayhem. Standing watch is our hero Doctor Mordrid (played with style by Jeffrey Combs), and the two forces do a little cat and mouse thingie throughout the film before coming together fo’ realz during the final act.
Now while most of the movie is talking that goes nowhere, bridged together by fun magic FX work, the final 15 minutes are awesome. When I saw Dave Allen’s name in the credits I knew stop-motion would make an appearance somewhere, and as soon as I noticed that the grand museum hall scene was actually a couple of fantastic models shot in forced perspective, I hoped that they would soon come to life. And they do. And it’s awesome. I’m biased because I’m an incredibly huge fan of stop-motion FX, but these dinos looked fantastic. And they fight each other! And one of them drives his tusk through a man’s torso! Say what you will about the languid pacing of this 74 minute film, the ending delivers a climactic duel that’s definitely got the magical goods.
Part of my struggle to stay awake through Doctor Mordrid can be explained by my starting the movie much later than I normally do, and the splitting headache that filled my cranium for a few hours before the Full Moon logo graced my TV screen, but even giving the film the benefit of the doubt it’s still pretty boring. While many things happen, so many of them leave no lasting impression, or they’re bookended by overly talky scenes that drag on much too long. Sure, when Mordrid uses his magic to heal his friend’s gouged out eyes, it’s a great moment of FX, but I was nearly numb from the dialogue exchange that both preceded and followed it. This is par for the course in later Full Moon offerings, but seeing as 1992 was still the heyday, I always assume that this era will be more movie than stretched out, needless scenes. I should have known better, as I knew the story of the film’s troubled production in regards to Dr. Strange long before I watched the film.
In any case, it could be a lot worse. Doctor Mordrid is well made, and features a whole mess of great FX work. It’s just rather tiresome to sit through despite its just barely feature-length runtime. I’d cautiously recommend it if you’re a huge magic fan, or if you know enough about Dr. Strange to spot where they might have repurposed something from the failed production of the film when it was based on Marvel’s character. I honestly don’t know a lot about him other than he’s got a lot of cool books and he’s powerful as fuck… which pretty much sums up Doctor Mordrid too. It’s a hard one to gauge as I enjoyed elements of it a ton, while the rest was just pure tar, pulling me under with my every move to fight against it.
Next week on Full Moon Tuesday, I’m finally gonna get my head out of my ass and watch Head of the Family!