DOOMED! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s THE FANTASTIC FOUR (2016)

doomed-promoThis is the story of 1994’s “Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four.”

Adapted from the iconic Marvel Comic, the film iteration was made on a measly budget of a million dollars with a joint venture by Fox, Marvel and Neue Constantin Films. After casting and initial filming was conducted, “The Fantastic Four” was a highly anticipated film covered in major magazines like Wizard and Film Threat. After a long tour of fan meetings and interviews with the press, the cast and crew learned that their hard work would result in a film that was cancelled by the studios and never to be released. Shortly after, the folks that took part in “The Fantastic Four” learned that, much to their horror, the film was never intended to ever be released. Worse, much of the struggles to conceive a fantastic cinematic vision in a decade bereft of epic comic book movies were merely to secure the rights for the comic book property and nothing more.

My first experience with Roger Corman’s “The Fantastic Four” was in the late nineties when I read about how Roger Corman made an unreleased “The Fantastic Four” movie. It was supposedly circulating as a bootleg around comic book conventions across the country, and thankfully in 1998 my cousin came in contact with a copy and showed it to me. Corman’s “The Fantastic Four” watches like a low budget adaptation and for good reason. It is. As a few of the interviewees in “Doomed!” explained, Corman’s film is something of a first draft cut. Were it not for the fan community, we never would have seen 1994’s “The Fantastic Four” a movie that spawned a cult following thanks to its utterly fascinating back story and origins. “Doomed!” is the compelling and entertaining documentary that finally tells that story.

What makes “Doomed!” such a fascinating and engrossing documentary is director Marty Langford tells a classic tale about underdogs trying to put their best foot forward, Hollywood being as deceptive and underhanded as Hollywood is usually known for, along with revealing a labyrinth of hearsay that not even the film can untangle. Much of “Doomed!” is played with a brisk pacing and sharp sense of humor, wherein director Langford interviews every one of cast and crew behind the initial film, including journalist Chris Gore. Gore has a lot of fascinating anecdotes and serves as something of a proxy for the movie buff who was set to watch magic unfold, only to see it dashed so inexplicably. Director Langford leaves no stone unturned, covering every nook and cranny from the conception (which was handed over to Roger Corman’s studio very early on), the production of the film (which often took place in condemned warehouses).

The discussions with the cast account for some of the most interesting material in the film, exploring the mind set of the very professional cast compiled of character actors like Jay Underwood, and Rebecca Staab. There’s even a soft undertone of sadness, as Langford speaks with Joseph Culp who, despite the evident low budget production, took his role of Dr. Doom very seriously. It’s admirable how much he tried to bring his best to the character, and his keen desire to revisit what is an imperfect performance. “Doomed!” is a stellar chronicle of one of the most fascinating and interesting stories of the Hollywood industry. Most importantly, it’s a rousing testament to the power of the fan community and how a potentially lost film made an important statement about Hollywood politics.

Coming to VOD on October 11th and to DVD on December 20th.