Revisiting 1994's unreleased "The Fantastic Four"

Revisiting 1994's unreleased "The Fantastic Four"

Revisiting 1994's unreleased "The Fantastic Four"

With Fox/Marvel's new FF coming to screens in mere months, I decided to revisit the epic cheese that is Roger Corman's low-budget feature. Corny, on the nose and often over acted, it still holds a special place in the history of CBM's getting to where they are today [SPOILERS?].

Having not watched the film in years, I decided to rewatch it after reading a few user comments between dethpillow and DrKinsolving regarding The Fantastic Four. Some good points were brought up and I realized how Corman's FF was an early example of how some rights issues end up getting dealt with in Hollywood (i.e. Spider-Man). I'm just getting into doing articles here and this is my first review, so I want to keep it fun with a smattering of humor throughout.

If you haven't seen the film, first off, shame on you as a CBM fan. Second, serious SPOILERS ahead, so be warned.

*the classic villain finger point, you've been warned

The film starts with Reed and Victor (Doom) as college science bros taking advantage of a passing comet for an experiement. Because science. As you can imagine, it doesn't end well for Victor and Reed is narrowly saved by another college compadre, Ben Grimm. Reed also knows these two brats from a boarding house he rents at and they happen to be named Sue and Johnny - the former having an innocent crush that later gets exploited. Fast forward ten years, Reed grabs Ben, Sue and Johnny to fly up to the same comet in an experimental spaceship. Doesn't matter that they're not qualified, he's Reed Richards. They are, of course, hit with cosmic rays and crash land on earth. After hanging out around a campfire koom-ba-yaing on their survival, they get picked up by Dr. Doom's men posing as the military and are put through a series of experiments. As you can see from the first paragraph, lots of experiments. Scientifically, science scienced it's way throughout this first act accordingly.

After escaping, they organize at the Baxter Building (i.e. a big room reminiscint of an old Star Trek set) - except the Thing, who gets all upset that his dork is made of orange rock and storms out to hang with the homeless people living with a rip off of the Mole-Man called the Jeweler.  Turns out the failed spaceflight that messed up the Four was because of a diamond switcharoo by the Mole-Man Jeweler, who wants to use it to bed Alicia Masters. Doom wants the same diamond to harness the power of the comet, so his flunkies jump into the Jewelers lair to strike up a deal, but end up doing a smash and grab instead. The Thing happens to be there with his newfound bretheren of homeless freaks, only to somehow be magically transformed back to human, for the convenience of the plot, and bravely runs away like Sir Robin. He then gets upset about how he pussed out in front of his blind love and magically changes back into his rock form. It is clearly, Clobberin' Time.

With the diamond, Doom hooks up a wicked huge laser to take out New York, because what the hell else is he gonna do? Around this time Reed, in his brilliance, has pieced together that Victor didn't die and is in fact, the overtly hand expressive Doom fellow. Ben shows back up at the Baxter Building, realizing maybe his true friends were... well, the folks who were his friends all along. Before heading out to stop Dr. Doom though, costumes courtesy of Sue. Because the men can't sew. When they get to Doom's castle, they battle with a slew of name-tagless henchmen until Reed has a chat with Victor out on the balcony. Doom ends up over the railing and falls into a foggy abyss, leaving behind his hand; played by the Thing from Addams Family in a clever Dr. Doom hand costume.

*not this Thing

The diamond powered laser continues pushing toward New York. If the low-budget wasn't apparent at this point, it becomes painfully obvious when we finally see Johnny properly flame on, becoming a lovely reddish computer generated mannequin. He flies past the laser beam, punching it away from the city and into space. Where he can still have his flame on somehow. Alicia feels up Ben (his face, you perv) and is all good with his skin condition as everything wraps up nicely with the wedding of Reed and Sue.


AFTERTHOUGHTS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF RIGHTS

The bulk of performances are caricatures, but we get some genuine moments with Sue and Reed. Doom's two main henchmen are an odd comic relief that works. There are lots of contrived elements in the script, but it's enjoyable. Like I said before, it's been awhile since I'd seen it and while the budget is super low, it's a fun movie and it's great seeing characters I love come to life. I vaguely remember seeing a trailer for this when I was a kid and never understood why it was never on the shelf in the video store. Thankfully we have cons and the interwebs finally came to fruition. For all it's flaws, I would take this version over Tim Story's anyday. The '94 version just has an undeniable charm and a classic story.

I'm sure this is now common geek knowledge; but Neue Constantin used the production of this film to basically hold onto the rights while he shopped it around to bigger studios (eventually purchased by Fox). Not too dissimilar to Sony with the Amazing Spider-Man and Universal with the Hulk - those studios, however, finally reached amicable agreements to use the characters in the greater MCU. The actors, crew and possibly even Roger Corman himself was unaware during the production that the film was never going to be released. The people involved poured their heart into the film and it shows. The strange bedfellows of commerce and art always seems to give way to the business side. Marvel is (mostly) doing it right and hopefully the upcoming DCCU will craft theirs well too. Not to wish ill on the people involved in the upcoming FF, but having this new version fall flat would most likely get the dialogue going to get the characters back where they belong. While I won't be first in line for this new iteration, I will go see it eventually, because spectacles on that scale should be enjoyed in the theater.

Side note: not sure if anyone has reported on this, but in looking up pics for the article I stumbled across "Doomed", much like the "The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?", it's a documentary with the people involved and tells the story of the production. Definitely on my watch list:


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