Thursday, March 08, 2007

Geeks, A Sorcerer and an Asshole.

A couple of years ago, myself, Chris Cooke and Tim Cunningham had the opportunity to go and film an interview with Alex Cox. We were showing his film 'Three Businessmen' at the Broadway cinema - the result of having won the 10th anniversary film quiz in the bar (I fully appreciate that the preceding statement bathes us head to toe in the glow of Geekhood). We went to Liverpool for the day and spent a good long time in the pub with him and his partner Tod Davies talking about Bunuel (the main influence on 'Three Businessmen'), his next film 'The Revenger's Tragedy' and, inevitably, the state of the British film industry. Cox was witty, serious and passionate about film and we had a great time, all told.

However, at that point, I was unaware that Cox had once written, in collaboration with Stan Lee, the screenplay for a proposed 'Doctor Strange' film. If I had known that, I would have steered Cunningham (who was conducting the interview while myself and Cooke were Camera Monkeys) away from the politics of globalization and towards the Wand of Watoomb.

Doctor Strange is a Marvel comics character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (who also co-created Spider-Man) in the early Sixties. An arrogant, cold and callous surgeon, Stephen Strange's hands (and career in surgery) were ruined in a car crash. Seeking a way to rebuild his life, he sought out a Himalayan hermit called The Ancient One, who then taught him in the ways of magic, leading Strange to become the planet Earths' Sorcerer Supreme.

Here's the Lee/Ditko version:

And here's a more recent incarnation:

Doctor Strange is the David Niven of superheroes - suave, mustachioed, unruffled, but still steely enough to take on interdimensional monsters and flame-headed demons. He lives in his 'sanctum sanctorum' in New York's Greenwich Village with his 'manservant' Wong (who contemporary writers have to find new ways of not depicting as a stereotype and anachronism, whilst simultaneously trying to avoid the inevitable gay subtext...). Also, he has an entire lexicon of absurd sounding oaths:

"By the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak!"
"By the Deathless Vishanti!"
"By the Demons of Denak!"
"By the Dread Dormammu!"
"By the Eternal Vishanti!"
"By the Eye of Agamotto!"
"By the Fangs of Farallah!"
"By the Fires of Ikthalon!"
"By the Flames of the Faltine!"
"By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!"
"By the Images of Ikonn!"
"By the Mystic Moons of Munnopor!"
"By the Many Moons of Munnopor
"By the Omnipotent Oshtur!"
"By the Ruby Rings of Raggadorr!"
"By the Shades of the Seraphim!"
"By the Shield of the Seraphim!"
"By the Sons of Satannish!"
"By the Vapors of Valtorr!"
"By the Vapors of the Vishanti!"
"By the Wondrous Wand of Watoomb!"
"By the Wondrous Winds of Watoomb!"

Try fitting one (or more) of those into your conversations today.

The idea of a Cox/Lee Strange film is great - and Cox, on his great site, even offers the opportunity to buy the script, along with a whole host of others.

I've often thought that the films that filmmakers never make are some of the most interesting, maybe because they only exist as unfettered imagination rather than as concrete/celluloid fact, and the list of Cox's unproduced scripts is a great read in itself, from 'GRINGO BALLS' (1978) "Attempt at a surrealist Western! An early HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER full of dopey religious symbolism. Had I just seen EL TOPO and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN? Yes, I had.", through 'THE ASSHOLE' (1990) "Co-written with Dick Rude, for him to direct. Otherwise known as MR NICE GUY. Faustian story of a malevolent pool hustler and his miserable world, which is transformed by his acquisition of a Magical Pool Cue." and, more recently, 'HELLTOWN' (2002) "A man has until sundown to save a baby from satanists. And he's hungry."

By the Deathless Vishanti, it's a good read!

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