Produced by Mark Sikes
Written and Directed by Marty Langford
Featuring Alex Hyde-White, Rebecca Staab,
Jay Underwood, Michael Bailey Smith,
Carl Ciarfalio, Joseph Culp, Roger Corman,
Kat Green, Lloyd Kaufman, Oley Sassone,
Mark Sikes, Jonathan Fernandez, John Vulich,
Glenn Garland, Chris Gore, Sean Howe
I remember watching the trailer for the never-released Fantastic Four distinctly.
I was working at Temple University’s film equipment room with my fellow geek, Phil.
I don’t remember what feature was on the VHS that followed (Carnosaur – editor), but I saved my first watch of the trailer until I could watch it with Phil.
We weren’t expecting much, but, oh boy!
It looked just horrendous, from the laughable “stretch” effects of rubbery Reed Richards to the dreadful and annoying villain (I want to say The Jeweler..? Though Dr. Doom didn’t look TOO bad, relatively speaking).
I was quite surprised to read a while later that the film would not be released, even on home video, which was virtually unheard of back then. I mean, there was (and is) Jerry Lewis’ infamous The Day The Clown Cried, but beyond that, there weren’t too many precedents.
I caught up with the film during my bootleg days (shhhhh!!) and was pleasantly surprised that it was entertaining on any level (mostly on the “Point-at-it-and-laugh” level, but still…). But as I’d heard or assumed that everyone involved knew it would never be released, I figured no one’s heart was much in it.
One of the surprises for me in the new documentary, Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s ‘The Fantastic Four’, is that nearly everyone involved fully expected the movie to be released. Not only that, many participants expected the film to be big, and to be of high quality.
Doomed! details the reasoning behind the making of the movie in entertaining fashion, but suffice it to say the movie needed to be made in order to hold on to the rights before they expired. So, a decision was made to do a film version of The Fantastic Four as quickly and cheaply as possible.
So, of course, one turns to Troma! However, after beloved Troma honcho Lloyd Kaufman passed, Roger Corman entered the picture. While the budget was miniscule by most standards, it was substantial for Corman.
A director (Oley Sassone) was hired, and auditions were held. One of the more fascinating revelations in the doc is that some fairly big names tried out for the film – Melora Walters (so good in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia), TV stalwart Titus Welliver and future Incredible Hulk, Mark Ruffalo!
The actual cast that was assembled included the sons of two well-known actors: Alex Hyde-White (son of Wilfred) and Joseph Culp (son of Robert). On a side note, I once worked with Alex Hyde-White and resisted the urge to ask him about The Fantastic Four; seeing here how (justifiably) bitter he is about the experience, I’m glad I did.
The film settles in to become part making-of and part investigative journalistic piece. It’s always interesting, at-times fascinating, and truly illuminates the shady reasoning behind the endeavor and the damage it left in its wake.
The director, the cast, the composer, nearly everyone involved in fact fully expected The Fantastic Four to be their big break. Many of them even made the fan convention rounds and met with great fan anticipation and excitement (this was an era during which there were VERY few comic book films). So the good vibes multiplied.
But it was not to be. Some of the participants seem amused by the turn of events, but most (including the aforementioned Hyde-White) were terribly unhappy and felt betrayed.
Despite the colossal disappointment many involved felt (and display here), Doomed! is not some depressing slog. Sure, one of the lessons here is that ya gotta have thick skin in La-LaWood, and you certainly need to roll with the punches. But the anecdotes here are akin to those of folks involved with good or great films. There were good times and bad times and certainly memorable times.
The end result was unwanted, but hey, that’s Hollywood, and that’s life.
Doomed! arrives on VOD on October 11th and on
DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment on December 20th