was the ashcan copy of all ashcan copies. It was also the only film Roger
Corman produced that he never released. We were not supposed to see the 1994 Fantastic Four, but where there is a
rabid cult following, there is always a way. The speedy production and
unfortunate fate of the most notorious Marvel movie ever are chronicled in director-editor-screenwriter
Marty Langford’s documentary Doomed: The
Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four (trailer here), which releases
today on VOD.
most fans know by now, Marvel has stringent use-it-or-loose-it clauses in their
film licensing contracts. Bernd Eichinger had acquired the rights to The
Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics’ flagship superhero team, but his hold on the
property was soon to expire. He needed someone who could produce a film quickly
and on the cheap, solely so he could retain control of the property. Naturally,
he thought of Roger Corman. Apparently, he also approached Lloyd Kaufman, who
wisely declined, but the mind reels at the thought of a Troma Fantastic Four.
Langford and company give us reason to suspect the fix was in, right from the
start. However, the cast and crew went into the project with high hopes and the
best of intentions. In fact, they apparently bonded almost immediately and
promoted the film as a team, often on their own dime. Of course, there were
those colorful tell-tale signs that this was a Roger Corman joint, but they had
reason to believe this would be different. Then suddenly, the film was
withdrawn and the rights were transferred to Fox, leaving director Oley Sassone
and his cast feeling confused and betrayed.
scores interviews with all the principal cast and just about every crew member
with a story to tell. He certainly has Corman’s New Horizon’s poverty row
studio covered, but the surviving players at Marvel and Constantin Films were
much more camera shy. Frankly, this might be the only Marvel film Stan Lee
chose not to appear in—but have no fear true believers, we still see him in
some rather illuminating fair use video clips. While Langford is pretty tough
on Lee, one could argue he goes easy on the other icon, Corman, who unflappably
answers questions and apologizes for nothing.
we all know the general upshot, there are a number of genuinely surprising
twists and turns. Doomed is breezy
and comprehensive. However, it rather diplomatically refrains from gloating
over the obvious ironies—despite its cheesy effects and the dubious legality of
bootleg copies, the Sassone Fantastic
Four is still most fans’ favorite. The strange backroom maneuvering also
taught Fox precisely how to deal with Marvel. Hence, all the unwanted sequels
and reboots. Frankly, if Marvel had gotten behind the Corman-Constantin
co-production, the Fantastic Four film rights they now so desperately covet
would have safely reverted years ago. That’s karma.
Langford lucidly explains every strange legalistic detail, shaping the
assembled testimony into a highly compelling narrative. More than just a “making
of” film, Langford exposes some real Hollywood sausage-making, but it leaves
viewers’ fanboy enthusiasm undiminished. Highly recommended for Marvel and cult
cinema fans, Doomed is now available
on VOD platforms.
Labels: Documentary, Roger Corman, Superhero movies, VOD