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January 9, 2017

Movie Review: Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman's Fantastic Four (2016)

Comic book films are ALL the rage right now. Superheroes are coming at us from all angles: comics, film, TV novelizations… everywhere. Arguably, Marvel Comics has been the most successful. The Avengers, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Captain America, Spider-man… all of these titles are in the vernacular of American conversations. The family that started the Marvel Comics Universe the 1960s has had their share of film versions. The Fantastic Four: Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Girl (now Woman), The Thing and The Human Torch have had multiple animated television shows and, to date, four feature films. The most recent, from Fox, have been critical and financial failures. It was a 1990s production by Roger Corman that has been called the BEST Fantastic Four film made to date and on a very low budget. That film has never been released. In Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four, we finally learn what happened to the film that never saw the light of day.

In the early 1990s, Roger Corman’s production company was tasked with filming Marvel Comic’s first family of superheroes on a budget that was very, very low. The Fantastic Four, a cosmic-powered team of costumed heroes consisted of Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic (Alex Hyde White), Susan Storm-Richards aka Invisible Girl (Rebecca Staab), Johnny Storm aka The Human Torch (Jay Underwood) and Ben Grimm aka The Thing (Michael Bailey Smith and Carl Ciarfalio). Men that can stretch themselves to great lengths or become living fire or turn into hulking, rocky creatures, was not a cheap endeavor. Roger Corman wasn’t known for spending a great deal of money so the end result being a fun, action-filled homage to the cheesy stories from the 1960s was a pleasant surprise.

What wasn’t a pleasant surprise was how the film was shelved immediately. Corman and company, including all cast and crew, had no idea that the film was ONLY being made to secure the option of the Fantastic Four property. The money folks had absolutely no plan on releasing this film. They wanted to own the rights and make a much higher budget version in the future. That never happened and Doomed is an incredibly entertaining documentary on just what happened.

The best part of this documentary, unlike similar pieces like The Death of Superman Lives, is that the cast and crew are still, uniformly, pleased about the film. They are not bitter, resignation had long set in, but the way these people discuss their time on the film is positively inspiring.

So, learn about The Fantastic Four that never was. The film itself has long been available as a bootleg (see below), but Doomed is well worth your time.

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