Early 90’s denizens of comic book and video stores or their unloved cousin the flea market may have recalled coming face to face with promotion of an upcoming live action Fantastic Four adaptation produced by none other than B movie enfant terrrible Roger Corman.
Ridiculous pictures of an ever lovin’ blue eyed Thing realized by practical effects not unlike the ones that brought the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to life in film at the time piqued my imagination, but the movie itself never saw the light of day. Not direct to video, not to cable, not overseas, not anywhere.
Spoken about in hushed tones, copies of the film, alongside various little loved contemporary fare like the early 90’s Flash series, the Star Wars Holiday Special, and Fox’s various failed experiments with putting live action X-Men on TV, were staples of convention tables during the early 2000’s dawn and boom of affordable DVD burning.
But why did it never show up on an official VHS? It couldn’t have possibly been any worse that Spawn, Judge Dredd or *shudder* The Phantom. What was the truth behind the urban legends, inside jokes and bootleg DVDs? “Doomed: The Untold Story Of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four” attempts to shed light on this unfortunate footnote that may have been the unlikely genesis of the current blockbuster comic adaptation landscape.
As stated in the trailer, Roger Corman made hundreds of movies, but only one ever went unreleased. “Doomed” chronicles the 90’s FF’s journey from potentially launching a Clinton era MCU (I had heard about James Cameron’s potential “Spider-Man” film before, but never a Wes Craven led “Doctor Strange”. Watch “The Serpent and the Rainbow” and tell me that couldn’t have been batshit brilliant) to being an unfortunate bargaining chip in the early days of Marvel playing musical chairs with the licensing rights to their characters.
Sometimes you get a snafu like this where a finished film languishes on the shelf because of awful timing. Luckily nowadays we’re more likely to experience the positive ramifications of said phenomena, as in how Fox and Sony’s respective losses of Daredevil and The Punisher resulted in the masterful Netflix incarnations.
The cast and crew here are really easy to root for though, seeming to have genuinely enjoyed working together under the sweatshop like conditions of Corman’s genre film assembly line, and really believed in the characters and material, so much so that they compel the viewer to sympathize with they and the film’s plight regardless of its questionable ultimate quality.
If anything the people who worked on this film can take solace in the fact that even after having a death grip on the rights to the franchise for almost 25 years, 20th Century Fox still hasn’t managed to make a Fantastic Four film worth watching after 3 increasingly misguided attempts.
The cast’s pleas that the film still deserves a proper release hold weight, especially given that the heavily re-dubbed and low quality nature of most versions floating around makes it hard to judge the finished product on its own merits. As for director Oley Sassone’s assertion that the movie deserves a Lucas style Special Edition with remastered CGI… Well, just like Reed Richards’ irradiated, elasticized body: that’s a stretch.