Marvel’s First Family has trod a difficult cinematic road. The Fantastic Four launched the Super Hero craze for Marvel way back in 1961. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, four adventurers were struck by cosmic rays, which granted them fantastic powers and abilities. Their adventures are the stuff of legends. So naturally, Marvel tried to get the property to translate for the screen. However, the person who held the option for the Fantastic Four had to start production before New Year’s Eve in 1992, or else the rights reverted back to Marvel. He reached out to famed B-film producer Roger Corman and struck a deal to produce the Fantastic Four for $1 million. But it had to be quick. And it had to be cheap.
The documentary Doomed! (2015) slides the curtains back and reveals what really happened during the filming and subsequent post production on Fantastic Four, a film no one at Marvel wanted made. Interviews with the principal cast, the director, editor and casting director shine light on the ill-fated production. No one working on the film knew that the only reason the movie was being made was to fulfill a contractual loophole – even though the signs were there. The cast and crew talk about things that didn’t make sense, but they just kept going with it because surely this would be their big break. It’s unfortunate that they were misled and dropped for corporate whims.
Much of what makes the documentary Doomed! interesting is the lengths Marvel went through to bury Corman’s movie. And yet it rose. Countless bootleg VHS and DVD copies of Corman’s Fantastic Four circulate at the Comic Cons. It’s really taken on a life of its own. The documentary is as interesting as it is informative about the origins of Marvel filmmaking. Surely something like this would never happen these days, but in the 1990s, only Batman prowled the silver screen.
Part of me thinks that the drama of Doomed! has spilled over into the subsequent cinematic debuts of the Fantastic Four. Fox made the first two films (2005 and its sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007) to a varying degree of success. Their most recent reboot (2015) was saddled with controversy, including major re-shoots and the director walking off the project. Also interesting to note is that the 2015 reboot was only made to extend the license option – just like the 1990’s film – and its flop has sparked rumors that the full rights could soon revert back to Marvel/Disney proper.
So until then, dare I say it? The Incredibles is the best Fantastic Four movie made….
But one day I do think we’ll get the Fantastic Four movie we deserve, and I do think that Marvel will actually release the Roger Corman one. Until then, look out for it at Cons (or thanks to the glory of the internet, watch it here; ed.Kaiser).
DOOMED! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four
Directed By: Marty Langford
Writter By: Marty Langford
Starring: Carl Ciarfalio, Roger Corman, Joseph Culp, Jonathan Fernandez Jonathan Fernandez, Glenn Garland, Kat Green, Chris Gore, Sean Howe, Alex Hyde-White, Lloyd Kaufman, Oley Sassone, Mark Sikes, Michael Bailey Smith, Rebecca Staab, Jay Underwood, John Vulich