DOOMED! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s missing 1994 production of The Fantastic Four.
Marvel Studios has had unprecedented success with it series of films ever since the run started with Iron Man released in 2008. As the films were released, the world in which these stories took place, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has grown and allows the different characters to cross over and interact with each other. This is only set to expand further with plans to release yet more films in the future.
However, it wasn’t always like this for Marvel. Starting in the late 1970’s, Marvel licensed their characters for films that were made for television. Unfortunately, they didn’t keep hold of any form of creative control with these deals. The resulting films weren’t often of a high standard.
Starting with a made for television movie in 1977, Spider-Man was supposed to lead into a television series. Stan Lee was quoted as saying the adaptation was, “too juvenile”.
However, Marvel still licensed out characters and more films followed. There was Dr. Strange (1978), three adaptations of Captain America (two in 1979, again in 1990), Howard The Duck (1986), The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988), The Trial of the The Incredible Hulk (1989), The Punisher (1989), and finally The Death of the Incredible Hulk (1990).
During the midst of all the television/movie licensing deals in 1985, producer Bernd Eichinger and his company Neue Constantin purchased the rights to create a film adaptation of The Fantastic Four.
Later in 1992, Eichinger teamed up with B-movie producer Roger Corman to create a Fantastic Four feature film on a limited budget of just $1 million. The film was shot and due to be released in 1994.
If you’ve never seen or heard of this film then I wouldn’t blame you as officially it was never released. This was allegedly so that 20th Century Fox could keep hold of the Fantastic Four film rights and create their own big budget release further down the line. Of course, this finally happened but not until the big budget version that was released a little over a decade later in 2005.
So we have the beginning of the story and a possible ending but what about the space in between?
A new documentary, DOOMED! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four, tries to unearth the story behind this mythical lost film. This film speaks with cast and crew and you’ll hear stories of what happened from their perspective.
The cast reveal there was no rehearsal for the film. Everything was filmed on a tight schedule, almost as if it had to be completed by a certain date or else. Stan Lee visited the set several times giving his praise for their work. Even the composers put their heart into the project and stumped up $6000 of their own money to give the film a proper orchestral score!
The film was promoted at several comic conventions across the US. Then finally, The Fantastic Four was set to have its premiere at The Mall of America before the film was taken out of their hands at the last moment.
DOOMED! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four talks to the Fantastic Four themselves, Alex Hyde-White (Reed Richards), Jay Underwood (Johnny Storm), Rebecca Staab (Sue Storm), Michael Bailey Smith (Ben Grimm), Carl Ciarfalio (The Thing),As well as Joseph Culp (Victor Von Doom) and Kat Green (Alicia Masters).
From behind the camera there we hear from Oley Sassone (director), Glen Garland (editor), Mark Sykes (casting assistant) and more including people from practical effects, marketing, on set journalists and finally Roger Corman himself.
There are two people who are missing from this documentary. Unfortunately, despite requests to appear in the documentary, Stan Lee only appears in a short home movie video clip from a comic convention in 1993.
The other, Avi Arad, a Marvel executive at this time, never responded to any request to appear. Without Lee or Arad unfortunately, we don’t get an answer as to why the film was pulled but that doesn’t mean DOOMED! is a lesser documentary because of it.
DOOMED! is a great documentary that uncovers some of the truths of this classic tale of a lost film. Whilst it doesn’t provide us with any definitive final answers, the journey to end is still very interesting and informative.
The documentary features many clips from the film, which are sourced from a digital bootleg. You’ll also see never before seen footage from behind the scenes at the production of the film, which as a film nerd, I loved.
Today you can watch Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four for yourself via sites such as YouTube and Vimeo as the film somehow managed to escape, there’s a theory on how that happened in the documentary as well.
I’d recommend it to any fan eager to find out about this almost legendary tale of Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four, or even those just interested in the strange tales of Hollywood itself.
Uncork’d Entertainment will release DOOMED! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four on VOD October 11th. The DVD will arrive 20th December.