The Fantastic Four~ 1994/never, Oley Sassone, USA
In 1994, B-Movie titan Roger Corman served as executive producer on an ultra low budget big screen adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four. The film was so bad that it was never released. This is currently the best Fantastic Four movie ever made.
There are differing accounts of why this film never saw the light of day. Some, Stan Lee among them, state that the film was made by the producers in an attempt to avoid losing the rights to the franchise, and that the studio who created it had no intention of ever releasing it. Others say that Marvel purchased the rights to the film before it’s release and buried it, for fear that such an epic direct to video dud could harm the brand and stymy future Marvel films. I guess that was probably a good call. The market is saturated with super hero movies now, even if one bombs audiences are comfortable enough with the concept that a reboot before the dust settles doesn’t confuse anyone, but back then, the idea of a Comic Book Movie was a more fragile thing. This may have caused some problems in 1994.
Even though it never saw a proper release, bootleg copies of the film are easily obtained online, or in shady tape trading circles like the one Nick Cage goes to in 8MM (This is where I got my copy), and if you manage to get your hands on this thing you’ll quickly understand why a 1994 Marvel would want to disassociate themselves with this cheeseball nightmare. Why they didn’t do the same thing with the 2005 adaptation remains a mystery.
The movie follows the comics quite faithfully, to a fault, in fact. While The Fantastic Four remains one of American comics greatest treasures, significant liberties need to be taken to adapt it for film. For instance, a scientist taking his friends into outer space only to ruin their lives by getting them blasted with space radiation screams “criminal negligence” to the litigation rich sensibilities of today’s audience, but apparently this was all cool back in the 60’s. That’s what happens in The Fantastic Four. Reed Richards, big deal science man, takes his girlfriend, her little brother, and his pal Ben into space and then destroys their lives forever by making monsters of them all. We end up with:
- Mr. Fantastic, who is able to stretch his body like a rubber band, but unable to ever find a practical application for such an ability (The newer movies also seemed to have a hard time making this super power seem cool. I don’t know what the damn problem is, Disney/Pixar’s The Incredibles managed to pull it off pretty well.),
- The Thing, who looks like a Ninja Turtle, sounds like Patrick from Spongebob and hates life more than Biocop
- Invisible Woman who I guess can probably turn invisible
- and the Human Torch, with the power of Earth’s most punchable face. The actor who plays the Human Torch seems to be trying to portray some manner of bleach blonde Corey Haim/Joey Lawrence fushion. He nails it, and you’re going to hate him.
Also in the movie; Doctor Doom, a weird underground thief dude who is probably based on the Moleman, and set designs worthy of the Adam West Batman TV series. Holy shit this movie is campy. And bad. Really, this this isn’t the movie the franchise deserved… But it happened. let’s not be Stalinist about this, the movie exists and is real, and the fact of the matter is, it’s kinda fun. Yes, it sucks like Satan’s Maelstrom, but I think even mainstream America no longer demands that something not be stupid in order for it to be enjoyable. Quite the opposite, all of our most popular stuff is stupid as hell. We appreciate our campy nonsense these days, and I think that, as a people, we are now ready for 1994’s The Fantastic Four. Sadly, rumor has it all original prints of the film have been destroyed, making a proper release all but impossible. A true shame, because I think that 20 years in exile is enough, The Fantastic Four doesn’t hurt anymore.