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Doctor Mordrid: Master Of The Unknown
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Doctor Mordrid (JEFFREY COMBS; "Re-Animator," "From Beyond," "The Frighteners") has been guarding the gates to the fourth dimension for over a century and now the signs are clear: his eternal foe, Kabal (BRIAN THOMPSON; "Cobra," "Terminator") has crossed over and is about to carry out his threat to destroy humankind. It's a battle between two sorcerers with boundless powers, and only one man will reign in the end.
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THE STORY: A centuries-old battle between two otherworldly sorcerers is set for a final showdown here on our mortal plane. In the no spells-barred confrontation between Good and Evil... who will win?
BACKGROUND: This is a very thinly-veiled re-write of Marvel Comics' Dr. Strange. Back in the 90's, before Marvel was the powerhouse it is today, they were licensing out any characters they could in order to generate money. It may sound hard to believe, but Marvel was close to bankruptcy at that time. Full Moon & Charles Band purchased the rights to Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme and were all set to bring him to the big screen. Band & company wanted to make it as big and splashy as their limited funds would allow, but in the end Full Moon lost the rights to Strange shortly before they were able to begin filming. Not wanting to waste the considerable time & money invested in the movie's preparation, Band simply re-tooled the script (with a few needed changes to keep Marvel's lawyers off his back), and thus Dr. Strange morphed into DR. MORDRID: MASTER OF THE UNKNOWN.
THOUGHTS (contains spoilers): A young, refined-looking Jeffrey Combs gives another excellent performance, as the titular physician. (Not sure just exactly what field he holds a doctorate in, though.) Combs plays the part very straight and restrained, thus his Mordrid is a thoroughly believable character, despite all of the hocus-pocus. Regrettably however, pug-faced lunkhead Brian Thompson churns out yet another in his long career of scenery-chewing offerings as Kabal (the evil Yin to Mordrid's morally-just Yang); sneering at everyone and bellowing like a buffalo. The production design is pretty impressive for a Full Moon picture. Mordrid's "sanctum sanctorum" apartment looks especially cool; lots of busy detail & eye candy to take in. The stop-motion effects from vet animator David Allen are sweet. The museum backdrop at the film's climax allows him & his team to bring skeletons of a T-Rex and a Mastodon(?) to life in bony battle, (representing the magics of Kabal and Mordrid, respectively). The optical effects used for Mordrid's & Kabal's magical powers were nicely realized. The floating castle, apparently some sort of otherworldly magical prison for evildoers, was a cool concept. I also liked Mordrid's friend Gunner, the beefy, brutish castle guardian.
All told, I really only have two gripes with DR. MORDRID. First is how criminally short the film is; barely clocking in at 74 minutes even WITH the credits! The truncated running time hurts the development of the characters, and the big battle between Kabal & Mordrid feels rushed and ends much too soon, which I found very disappointing. I thought their confrontation was a sort of test with the two foes "feeling each other out" for strengths and weaknesses, in order to properly prepare for what I expected would be a much more fully-involved final showdown later. But nope... that's all folks. My other complaint is in regards to the poor decision on the part of the filmmakers to needlessly throw in several instances of rude, abrasive language. These just feel wildly inappropriate, added solely for the shock factor and to justify an R-rating, thus in keeping with the majority of Full Moon's other horror product. (There's also a totally unnecessary female full-frontal nude scene which should have been dropped.) If the swearing & nudity had been eliminated, DR. MORDRID would have been a fine family-friendly fantasy film. As it is, even mature comicbook fans may flinch at the crass F-bombs liberally sprinkled throughout the film's second half. Younger kids should definitely be kept away.
THE BLU-RAY: This Blu-ray release for DR. MORDRID looks good, though none of Full Moon/Empire Pictures' stuff was ever particularly clean or professional-looking even when first released. The transfer is fair but not as stunning as many, much older films that have been adapted for high-def. Video is clean, with no artifacting or pixelation that I could detect. Audio portion is strong, with a well-balanced soundmix. There are several bonus feature supplements that up the value of this release for fans and collectors.
Honestly, the story is just okay. There's a few interesting bits of magic, but no imagination in the spellcasting, and none of the wonder of the the Doctor Strange comics. Also, the special effects, even for the decade, were kind of mediocre.
Still, a decent watch, at least once.