Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four, Part 1: The Production Legend
After decades of waiting and a chance posting on Facebook, this madman finally got to see one of the most elusive comic book motion picture holy grails- Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four.
The Fantastic Four (1994)
Starring: Alex Hyde-White, Jay Underwood, Rebecca Staub, Joseph Culp
Directed by Oley Sassone
Distributed by New Horizons Films
I remember thumbing through an issue of Comics Scene in 1993 when I first became aware of B-movie master Roger Corman’s plan to release a full-length motion picture starring Marvel’s First Family. I was at a B. Dalton’s Bookstore when I saw the first official photo of the actors in costume and make-up to play the Fantastic Four. According to the article, the movie was intended to be released in May 1993. A huge fan of the superhero team, I was thrilled to say the least.
Well 1993 came and went. No FF made it to the big screen. Nor did it arrive direct-to-video as some clunkers do. Instead, Corman’s production had a brief one time showing in 1994 and then it faded away into myth and obscurity.
A film starring the Fantastic Four was going to be a big deal. It was supposed to rival the Batman films directed by Tim Burton over the past few weeks. So why did this movie never make it to theaters?
Legend has it that the Roger Corman produced Fantastic Four movie was never intended to be seen by the general public. In the early 80s, German producer Bernd Eichinger obtained the rights to a Fantastic Four motion picture for his production company Constantin Films. His deal with Stan Lee was good for 10 years. But it could be renewed if Eichinger made a movie about Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben. That’s when Eichinger teamed up with Roger Corman.
Roger Corman has been known to make a fairly decent movie on a not so decent budget. The driving force behind films such as A Bucket of Blood, Rock n’ Roll High School, and Battle Beyond the Stars, Corman has launched countless careers. Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and James Cameron are just a handful of directors whose career was helped along by Roger Corman. With a budget of only $1 million dollars, Corman and his production team at New Horizons Pictures was also the only person who could get the movie done.
Filming ran for about 25 days starting on December 28th, 1992. Roger Corman and Eichinger selected music video director Oley Sassone to helm the project. A majority of the film was produced on a sound stage in Venice California. On-scene locations included Loyola Marymount University for a key scene involving the origins of Victor Von Doom!
Post-production took up the majority of 1993. The Labor Day debut was pushed to early 1994. Composers David and Eric Wurst actually used some of their own funds to conduct a 48-piece orchestra for the Fantastic Four soundtrack. Meanwhile, Corman and his advertising team began a PR campaign that would herald the arrival of the Fantastic Four to the silver screen. That includes that issue of Comics Scene I remember so fondly.
Finally, the big debut came. On January 19, 1994 at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, the stars and production crew joined for a huge premiere. Sales of tickets for the opening was to benefit the Ronald McDonald House and other charities. But at the 11th hour, Bernd Eichinger pulled the plug on the entire project.
Eichinger’s team of lawyers handed all of the actors and crew cease-and-desist orders. Eichinger reportedly then handed Roger Corman a check and informed the director that the film would never be shown in public. With the negatives in the possession of Constantin Films execs, it looked like this version of the Fantastic Four would never be seen by fans. Thankfully, someone made a bootleg copy of the movie and it made its way online.
So that’s the myth, legend and fact behind Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four. Tomorrow, I’ll review the forgotten film. You might actually be surprised by the rating I give it. Until then, Excelsior!
For more reviews and other fun, check out my blog: Madman with a Book!