Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


The Thing
THE FANTASTIC FOUR (1994). Director: Oley Sassone.

Roger Corman co-produced the first film adaptation of Marvel's Fantastic Four comic book, but whether it was never meant to see the light of day, or if Corman and others were paid off so that this low-budget treatment wouldn't interfere with a big-budget version from Fox (with Marvel in control, which it wasn't with this production), or both, is debatable. Doomed! is a documentary in which various actors and other participants in the production discuss making the film, as well as the disappointment and betrayal they felt when they learned after all their efforts that the film would never be released. Told by Roger Corman that he had received a check for a couple of million dollars, probably not to release the picture, Alex Hyde White (who played Reed Richards and is the son of Wilfrid Hyde-White) remarks in Doomed! that "Everyone did well except us, the people that made the movie." Two brothers even spent their own money putting together an orchestra to play their ambitious score for The Fantastic Four. Apparently, wisely or not, nearly everyone involved with the film was convinced that the movie would be a big, big break for their careers. Unfortunately, that was not the case. This was a Roger Corman film, and the cost of the production was only a million dollars. Hardly enough to make a super-hero blockbuster. Doomed! is an entertaining, well-done documentary bolstered by interviews from personable actors such as Hyde-White and Joseph Culp (who played Dr. Doom and is the son of Robert Culp) and several crew members and creative types.

As for the film itself, it has surfaced in bootleg tapes and is on youtube. The Fantastic Four is not terrible by any means, but it can't compare to the version that eventually emerged ten years later: Fantastic Four. The acting is a mix of solid and professional (Hyde-White, Rebecca Staab as Sue Storm) and the uneven and amateurish (like a high school play) , and one mistake was to include a silly (if well-acted) character named the Jeweler (Ian Trigger) who is sort of an annoying substitute for old FF foe, the Moleman. The FX are uneven, but there is a nifty enough climax with the Human Torch trying to outrun a devastating light beam in order to save New York City. There are confusing elements in the script, and instead of our heroes gaining powers due to cosmic rays, there's something about a space project called "Colossus" that never makes that much sense. There are also odd moments, such as when after the foursome's spaceship crashes on earth, the boys seem to take forever to wonder where Sue is. Joseph Culp's performance as Dr. Doom is problematic -- he has a great voice, but he over-gesticulates and often speaks over-portentously as if he were playing a character in a cartoon. Perhaps the best thing about the movie is an excellent score by David and Eric Wurst with its attractive theme music. Virtually all of the actors in the film went on to have many more credits.

Meanwhile, the big-budget Fantastic Four had a sequel entitled Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and the series was unsuccessfully rebooted with Fantastic Four in 2015.

Verdict: Doomed! ***.
              The Fantastic Four. **1/2.

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