November 22, 2016 DOOMED! The Untold Story Of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four (Movie Review)
Before Marvel Studios was breaking the blockbuster office with $100,000,000+ opening weekends, before superheros retook their stake in the hearts of this generation’s youngsters and their parents alike, before all the stores were stocking their shelves with the now commonplace faces of Avengers and Spiderman as well as various X-men figurines, before comic-cons were popping up like wildfire through the country’s major cities, and before there was 2005’s Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four 2 Rise of The Silver Surfer, and 2015’s reboot of Fantastic Four, there was a movie that started it all. That movie was in fact 1991’s executively produced, Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four. An often forgotten piece of Comic Book cinema history, the movie itself was, well.. doomed.
Telling this misplaced time in history, Marty Langford’s documentary DOOMED! The Untold Story Of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four is a vivid behind the scenes look at Corman’s brain child; a low budget Superhero movie before Superhero movies were in mass production. The superhero group in focus was The Fantastic Four; a group whose biological make up had been altered in an experimental space mission to give them superhuman-like abilities to stretch, fly, turn invisible, light themselves ablaze, and turn to solid rock. The idea of the Fantastic Four movie and the concept of producing a film extenuating Superheros was as far-fetched at the time as were superpowers themselves.
At the time, Tim Burton’s 1989 hit Batman, starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, was the only name brand Superhero movie Americans could refer to by name. Films such as 1989’s The Punisher, staring Dolph Lundgren and directed by Mark Goldblatt, as well as 1990’s Captain America, staring Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty, were campy, unsuccessful attempts at recreating characters from Jack Kirby and Joe Johnson, made popular by Comic guru Stan Lee. The cinematic portrayal of Superheros was one that was weak, fading, and showed not much promise in a mainstream market. Television series such The Incredible Hulk , featuring Bill Bixby as the mild-mannered scientist Bruce Banner and his raging green monstrous counterpart The Hulk, played by bodybuilder/actor Lou Ferrigno, was only mildly recognizable by the public, with iconic ending credits played over the soundtrack The Lonely Man. Prior to live action film cinema, youngsters had cartoon renditions of their favorite Comic Book crusaders usually running out after a few poultry seasons.
DOOMED! The Untold Story Of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four shows what it took to tackle the iconic vision of Corman on a soup and salad budget to create a movie that would be visually appealing as well as telling a story of a hero team known as The Fantastic Four. Lloyd Kaufman, CEO for Troma Films and creator of The Toxic Avenger ,was approached to make the perspective FF film with a million dollar budget. He had difficulty accepting the job as he was friends with Comic creator Stan Lee and knew it would be a social faux pas to take on a job. Eventually, the movie was produced by Corman on a marginal budget, and sadly it never took off.
Approximately an hour and a half running time, DOOMED! The Untold Story Of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four was released on VOD as of October 11, 2016 via Uncork’d Entertainment. Overall, it is a great behind-the-scenes look at what it was to pioneer into a new territory in an early age of Action movies. It is an in-depth look at how actors on the rise worked together and interacted on and off screen to eventually deliver what was the genesis of a Superhero film known today. Featuring commentary and interviews with Roger Corman, Actors Alex Hyde-White (Reed Richards), Jay Underwood (Johnny Storm), Rebecca Staab (Sue Storm), Michael Bailey Smith as Ben Grimm, and his monstrous alter ego The Thing played by Carl Ciarfalio, as well as Joseph Culp, the antagonist Dr Doom, there is plenty to learn.
Recommend for every Comic Book scholar who is intrigued and interested in seeing the “story before the story” and how a failing genre of B-side movie paved the way and christened the market in the modern day, this is one fun film to watch. CrypticRock gives this documentary 3 out of 5 stars.