Revisiting Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four (1994)

Have you ever wondered what happened to the first Fantastic Four movie that was supposed to hit theaters in 1994? The one that was produced by Roger Corman and starred Alex Hyde-White, Jay Underwood, Rebecca Staab and Michael Bailey Smith as the iconic superhero team. The one that was never officially released and only exists as a bootleg copy on the internet.

Comics impresario Stan Lee, center, poses with Lou Ferrigno, right, and Eric Kramer who portray ?The Incredible Hulk? and Thor, respectively, in a special movie for NBC, ?The Incredible Hulk Returns,? May 9, 1988, Los Angeles, Calif. Lee says the secret of successfully transferring comic book characters to television is to avoid making it a carbon copy. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Today we are celebrating that 1994 film by Roger Corman, the Fantastic Four. It gets dumped on, but for what they had to work with it is a fairly faithful adaptation of the source material. This was a movie that apparently wasn’t meant to be seen by the general public. Marvel, supposedly, bought the film out and tried to erase it from history. At least that was the rumor. The truth is that the film was rushed into production, by the studio, in order to retain the rights to the property. This was after the attempt at Thor in the Hulk TV movie, The Incredible Hulk Returns and the poor showing of the first Captain America theatrical release movie. 

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Mr. Corman’s movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and it has a very comic book feel to it. It is like a fan film love letter addressed to all fans, everywhere. I first was exposed to this film via Wizard Magazine, way back when. It seemed like a great idea. I was a bit hung up on the outfits and the Thing. You see, my true fandom for the first family of Marvel comics was in the sixth-grade (1981 – 1982) during John Byrne’s run as the artist and writer of the title. It was incredible. I used to watch the cartoon with the Human Torch replacement robot, H.E.R.B.I.E. As a kid, it was ok. I didn’t see the old Fantastic Four cartoon from the 60’s until later in my sixth-grade year and I really liked that as well. I found out that many of the episodes had their origins in Jack Kirby & Stan Lee stories.

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I digress. Where were we? Ah, yes… Fantastic 1994. Well, it wasn’t until 1998 or 1999 when, at a Comic Book Convention in Sacramento (CA), I purchased my first bootleg copy of this movie on VHS. The quality wasn’t all that great, and the effects were very unpolished. I had the snooty fan-boy blinders on and made my mind up that it was a crappy film. It embarrasses me to think about how shallow I was, instead of celebrating something, that I never thought would be live action for its high points.

This brings me too today. Here, in my living room… err, I mean my Multiverse Mobile Command Unit, watching this movie again for the umpteenth time. It really is the most faithful live-action adaptation of the material. Mr. Corman walks the fine line between presenting his vision and staying true to the spirit of the comics.

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If you have not seen this film yet, I would recommend it. Don’t just dismiss it outright because of the images, rumors or what some angry nerd told you at the comic book shop, once. Sure, the effects are not really the best, Johnny doesn’t go full Torch until the end and when he does… well… it isn’t that bad for 1994. The relationship between an older Reed VERY young Susan Storm could be a bit sus’ in today’s light. The lack of including the Mole-Man which boggles the mind since a near analog is in the film. Ben is in a rubber suit that utilized TMNT tech to animate the face, which isn’t bad at all… in fact, I sort of dig it. Get over all of that, and whatever else because the story is solid. Victor Von Doom is right out of the comics and there are so many other awesome things that this film has to offer. Don’t take my word for it… give it a watch for yourself!

Best Live Action Doctor Doom EVER. Nuff Said.
Best Live Action Doctor Doom EVER. Nuff’ Said.
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