Yeah, I spend a lot of time on this blog writing about classic films, big-name directors and producers, some of the true “greats” of cinema of both the past and present. However, as those of you who know me or who have followed this blog for awhile now are probably aware, I also have a lot of love and admiration for the work of Roger Corman. I say “also”, because, let’s be honest. whenever anyone makes one of those “best director” lists or anything like that, Corman’s name is generally not one that’s going to come up. This despite all of the influence that he’s had over the years, giving so many of those actors, directors, producers, etc. their starts and a training ground in which to show and hone their skills, Despite the fact that he’s proved over and over again that he has an incredible eye for talent on the way up. Despite the fact that he has proven time and again that he knows how to make a film, and money, on a very tight, if not almost non-existent budget, making the most of the resources that he has at hand. And, perhaps most importantly, despite the fact that so many of his movies are just plain fun.
No, his movies are not always great. And no, he’s not ever really risen far above the level of B-movie status. And yes, in later years he’s made some really ridiculous films, especially in his partnership with the SYFY network. But then, that’s exactly what he was being asked to do, and he’s filled that role, too, relatively well.
So, yeah, there are times when Corman really has been far under-appreciated and there have been times when it seems as if he’s really gotten kind of royally screwed. And one of those timesis when he actually produced the first movie designed to bring one of Marvel’s greatest superhero groups, The Fantastic Four, to the big screen.
What’s that? you never heard about Corman’s Fantastic Four movie? You never knew that there was an FF movie before the big-budget 2005 Fox-produced film? Well, yeah, actually there was. And, there are reasons that you probably never knew about it.
And that story, the story of the film, its production, the effort that went into its creation, and its ultimate fate, is the subject of a new upcoming documentary appropriately entitled Doomed.
I haven’t seen the documentary yet, obviously, but I have had a chance to see the movie that it chronicles, thanks to bootleg copies that have been floating around for years. There’s even a pretty bad version of it available on YouTube for those who want to search it out. I’m not going to embed that here, but I will go ahead and post the trailer for it just to give you a taste.
Now, obviously, I’m not going to make the claim that this is some kind of lost masterpiece. Obviously, it’s not. But, when one takes into account the state of special effects at the time, and the obvious budget limitations that Corman and his crew were working with, well, I’ll just say that it really could have turned out a lot worse than it did. It’s certainly not any worse than some of the other superhero adaptations that at least got some kind of airing (even if it was only as a TV movie) both before and after.
Most of all, though, like most of Corman’s movies, in the end it’s just plain old fun. Just a bit of good old-fashioned superhero goofiness. Of course, I know that in today’s atmosphere where we have to take our superheroes ultra-seriously and they have to be full of angst and leave the audience with the question on who actually is the “hero” in the movie, the kind of campiness that this movie embraces just wouldn’t go at all, but to me that seems a shame. (It’s also, I think, why Thor: The Dark World, despite its rather ominous subtitle, is the movie that probably of all of the recent spate of comic book films really comes the closest to embracing that “just for fun” atmosphere is still playing in theaters to decent crowds while truly dreary dreck like Man of Steel died a well deserved quick and miserable death.)
Anyway, needless to say, I am looking forward to seeing this behind-the-scenes documentary, and, who knows, if we’re lucky, it may just lead to Corman’s The Fantastic Four finally escaping the vaults and getting an actual legitimate release of its own.