The Fantastic Four (found unreleased Marvel superhero film; 1994)
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The Fantastic Four is an unreleased low-budget feature film completed in 1994. It was produced by Roger Corman (famous for his low-budget productions) and Bernd Eichinger (who also produced another Fantastic Four movie in 2005 and its 2007 sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer). The film was based on the popular comic book series of the same name by Marvel Comics and featured the origin of the Fantastic Four and their first battle with the evil Doctor Doom and a mysterious Mole Man-like creature.
The film begins with Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom as University friends who decide to use the opportunity of a passing comet to try an experiment; however, the experiment goes wrong, leaving Victor horribly scarred. Sue and Johnny Storm are two children living with their mother, who has a boarding house where Reed lives. Ben Grimm is a family friend and college friend to Reed. The film then fast forwards to the early 1990s, where Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben go up into an experimental spacecraft as again the same comet would pass by the Earth. They are hit by cosmic rays by the same passing comet due to a necessary diamond being exchanged for an imitation of itself. Reed would dedicate this mission for his friend Victor, believing he was dead years before.
Upon crash-landing back to Earth, the four of them soon discover that the cosmic rays gave them special powers: Reed's bodily structure has become elastic; Sue can become invisible; Johnny can generate fire on demand, and Ben has transformed into the Thing. They are later captured by Victor's men, who pose as soldiers of the Marine Corps. After escaping from Doom's men, the four scientists regroup at the Baxter Building, trying to decide what to do now that they gained superpowers. An angry Ben leaves the group to go out on his own, feeling that he has become a freak of nature. Ben would then be found by homeless men and join them in an illicit Jeweller's underground lair.
It is revealed that Victor Von Doom had needed the diamond necessary to capture the comet's powers. The Jeweller would then give the real diamond to the blind artist Alicia who was also kidnapped by homeless henchmen working for the Jeweller. The Jeweller wants Alicia to be his bride, with the diamond as his wedding present to her. However, Doctor Doom and his henchmen locate the Jeweller's lair. Doom's henchmen first try to make a deal with him, but with no luck. Doom, displeased, seizes the diamond by force. Doom threatens to kill Alicia, where Ben, as the Thing, comes into the room, only to revert back to his human form. Pursued by Doom, Ben runs out onto the city streets, frustrated at his helplessness. He then changes into the Thing, where he rescues Alicia.
A gunfight ensues between Doom and the Jeweller’s men. Doom takes the diamond to power a laser cannon that will destroy New York City. Ben returns to his friends; by now, Reed has learned that Victor was the mastermind behind their kidnapping. Realizing that they are the only ones that can stop Doom, the protagonists don on their costumes and travel to Doom's castle. At the castle, the Fantastic Four battle a series of Doom's military. Reed has a final battle with Doom and Doom is defeated and possibly killed. Johnny then becomes the Human Torch to stand between the laser cannon's shot and the city. He survives this, as does the city he wishes to protect. Thereafter, the Four dedicate themselves to fighting evil, and the film ends with Reed and Sue getting married.
- Alex Hyde-White as Reed Richards / Mr. Fantastic
- Rebecca Staab as Sue Storm-Richards / Invisible Woman
- Mercedes McNab as Young Sue Storm
- Jay Underwood as Johnny Storm / Human Torch
- Phillip Van Dyke as Young Johnny Storm
- Michael Bailey Smith as Ben Grimm
- Carl Ciarfalio as The Thing
- Joseph Culp as Victor von Doom / Doctor Doom
- Kat Green as Alicia Masters
- Ian Trigger as The Jeweller
- Annie Gagen as May Storm
Production began on December 28th, 1992, under music video director Oley Sassone. Storyboards were drawn by artist Pete Von Sholly. The 25-day production was shot on the Concorde Pictures soundstage in Venice, California, as well as in Agoura, California for a spacecraft crash scene, the Loyola Marymount campus for a lab explosion scene, and the former Pacific Stock Exchange building in downtown Los Angeles for team meeting scenes.
Release Plans and Cancellation
A 1993 magazine article gave a tentative release date of Labor Day weekend 1993. That summer, trailers ran in theatres and on the VHS tapes of the movie Carnosaur. Cast members promoted the film at a clips-screening at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and at the San Diego Comic-Con International. By this time, the world premiere was announced to take place at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on January 19th, 1994, with proceeds from the event earmarked for the charities Ronald McDonald House and the Children's Miracle Network.
Producer Bernd Eichinger later announced that the film would not be released. Following the announcement of the cancellation of the film's release, a rumor spread that the studio intended this version of the Fantastic Four to be the film equivalent of an ashcan copy: they had the legal rights to create a film based on the Fantastic Four, but they were not ready to produce a big-budget film. However, they needed to produce something or else they would lose the legal right to the characters. Apparently, the studio misled everyone involved in the making of the film by letting them believe it was going to be a genuine release rather than a way to maintain their license on the property. Producer Roger Corman has since confirmed that this was indeed the case.
The film circulated in bootleg VHS form before 2004. It was hypothesized the film was initially copied via telecine a few days before a private screening. If one wants to find the better qualities of the film than currently exist, one would need to identify good quality first or second-generation VHS copies. It is also possible the original telecine transfer was not to VHS, but some other medium, which would likely have better quality than VHS copies.
A VHS-copy transfer was eventually uploaded to MySpleen and has since been mirrored to other video-sharing websites such as YouTube and Dailymotion.
Various bootleg DVD companies have released their own VHS copies, some claiming to be from early generation VHS sources. All current known copies of the film are from VHS, unfortunately.
Despite the film's release being cancelled, the film was featured in a list of the "50 Top Comic Movies of All Time (...and Some So Bad You've Just Got to See Them)," Wizard Magazine ranked this film higher than Batman & Robin, Steel, Virus and Red Sonja, all of which were released in theaters. The film currently has a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Ever since the film was leaked to the internet, it has achieved a cult following.
- The Hollywood Reporter's article on the film's production. Retrieved 12 Aug '18
- Cinefile article on The Fantastic Four. Retrieved 24 Feb '20
- Rotten Tomatoes page on the film. Retrieved 12 Aug '18
- Business Insider's article on how the film became a cult classic. Retrieved 12 Aug '18