The general consensus of comics fans has been that the three (to date) big-budgeted FF films stank, while the Corman production - which was literally shot on sound stages in a condemned building where additional walls of cardboard and quilting were put up to keep the rats out - made up for whatever it may have lacked materially in an abundance of heart. This is something that is only known because a work print of the Corman FANTASTIC FOUR somehow happened to leak out on VHS tape and began trading hands at comics conventions, where the film's stars Alex Hyde-White (Reed Richards, "Mr. Fantastic"), Jay Underwood (Johnny Storm, "The Human Torch"), Rebecca Staab (Susan Storm, "The Invisible Girl"), Michael Bailey-Smith (Ben Grimm, "The Thing") - and Joseph Culp as their adversary Doctor Doom - had made promotional appearances above and beyond the call of duty to enthuse fans about the project they all believed to be forthcoming. The special effects on the print don't appear to be finished, and neither was the post-sync looping of some muddy dialogue, but what matters most is that - after another three tries costing upwards of $300,000,000 in production costs - this scruffy bastard son version (scripted by Craig J. Nevius and Kevin Rock) remains the most faithful adaptation of the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby comic to date.
|Doctor Doom taunts the Fantastic Four.|
While the various component parts of DOOMED! are engrossing, their assembly (Langford also edited) is not as well organized as it might have been. The film launches into its discussion of the film without the sort of basic introductory details that might help to involve viewers who are approaching the film without prior knowledge or interest. The clips used from the film are shown without any discussion of its storyline; I don't recall any mention at all that the group acquired their super powers as a result of a test rocket flight that bombarded them with gamma rays - basically the same set-up as Hammer's THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT (1957, aka THE CREEPING UNKNOWN). It is mentioned that the Mole Man was originally considered as part of the story, but due to conflicting rights, he was replaced with a new character, The Jeweler (Ian Trigger). Thus, despite many points of historical and gossipy interest and amusement, the film becomes a conflation of not always clear references to a movie most people haven't seen, illustrated with murky clips, and extended guesswork concerning the behind-the-scenes factors that brought it down.
|Director Marty Langford with Roger Corman.|
DOOMED! THE UNTOLD STORY OF ROGER CORMAN'S "FANTASTIC FOUR" is now in limited theatrical release and debuts on View On Demand outlets today, with DVD and Blu-ray release following on December 12.
(c) 2016 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved by the author.