Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four 2016
In the superhero movie world there’s one big secret out there that’s very poorly kept, the fact that there was a Fantastic Four movie fully produced, completed, and then shelved never to be released back in 1994. It’s also fairly widely known to those with any hint of an interest that the film was made merely to extend a deadline for the filmmaking rights to the characters. The only problem was that everyone below the line was never aware of this, from the director to the actors, and all of the crew. This documentary tries to tell the rest of their story and is able to fill in quite a few gaps in this story, though the entirety may never be fully known since the executives who know the other side of the story aren’t exactly keen on sharing. But regardless, this doc paints a fascinating picture through the eyes of people who were passionate about making this little movie that could despite a low budget, a rushed schedule, and a practically non-existent post production. This is an early review and the film will be released digitally on October 11th and available on Blu-Ray and DVD on December 20th through distribution by Uncork’d Entertainment.
It’s difficult to review this film without comparing it to a very similar film that came out just last year about a similar superhero movie that spent much more time being made, but didn’t ever make it past pre-production, The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? When looking at the two films side by side, there are similarities with many of the people involved with the film who did it were passionate about their respective films, but the biggest difference was that this film decided not to include the filmmaker in any way and just let those involved tell their stories. The supplemental material for this film also consists solely of existing materials, such as clips from the film as well as clips from other work from those interviewed and discussed without any additional material created for the film. This also helps to give this film a more ingenuous feel to it, and even just the story behind the film is more interesting here.
It really helps that there is a sense of warmth and passion that comes from everybody involved in this film. They got nearly the entire main cast aside from the Jeweler who had passed away, and they also had the director, producer, editor, and a few others. Unfortunately, all of the main players involved on the other end of the business deal declined to be interviewed, including Stan Lee, Avi Arad who was dealing with the business side of Marvel at the time, and anyone from Constantin Films who still owns the film rights to the characters, and the head of the company at the time Bernd Eichinger who had since passed away. So while we do get a fair amount of well informed speculation, there’s never going to be that definitive answer to why this film was finished only to be shelved.
While it is pretty well known in the comics world about how this movie was made just to hang onto the rights for another ten years, what wasn’t known was that there’s a bit more to it than that. Like one of the actresses said during the film, if all they needed was to start production, then they just had to get far enough into production to satisfy the contract and then pull the plug. But they allowed the film to be finished. Or technically they didn’t stop the director and editor from completing the film or stop the cast from promoting it. At least not at first. That’s really the greatest story behind this film, even though it wasn’t a great piece of art, it was the best they could have done with what they were given and they were proud of what they had accomplished. So much so that the director Oley Sassone would secretly bring the unfinished reels of film to the editing bays of his next project and secretly work on editing the Fantastic Four afterwards. Even the actor who played Victor Von Doom has enough pride in his work to care about some of the sound issues and offer to redub his lines so they can be heard more clearly. Everyone who worked on this film just wants to see it get a proper release, even if it’s just straight to DVD, as long as it’s better than the current poor transfer that has been floating around as a copy of a copy. No one who worked on the film is under the delusion that it’s a great film, they joke about how the sets were re-used, or some of the special effects looked incredibly cheap, like the fake arm poking out of the limousine after the wedding. But there’s enough there to latch onto that fans of the Fantastic Four can appreciate and see what it took to make this film on such a tight schedule and a tight budget, and that’s exactly the kind of heart and soul that comes through while watching these people talk about this project. I’ve seen the copy of a copy transfer version of Corman’s Fantastic Four and while I wasn’t a fan of it, there were still moments here and there that I appreciated, and I could tell that it wasn’t just a paycheck for nearly everyone involved, and for that alone, it’s worth being seen, and I do hope that this documentary is successful enough that Constantin Films actually digs up their copy of the film to allow for a new transfer, even if it doesn’t include updated special effects shots that Sassone would love to get done, and just allow more people to see this version of the film. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.