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An Investigation of the Fantastic Four Movie That Never Was

The tragic tale behind the making of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four is one that truly must be seen and heard to be believed. A finished product—fully shot, edited, and cut—abandoned to the scrap heap. But why? Well, a few reasons actually. For starters, the film itself was just a bargaining chip—a way for a production house to extend its creative license on what could potentially be a lucrative property. It was also seen by some as a probable franchise killer—a film whose suspect quality alone could tarnish whatever else would come.

The latter may sound like a bit of an overreaction, but it’s important to remember that in 1994, the cinematic landscape for superhero and comic book films was vastly different. Point of fact, it was barren. Sure, we had Batman in 89, its sequel, and then some groan-inducing follow ups (themselves temporary franchise assassins); Superman had convinced the world a man could fly in the late 70s, but he’d petered out; his demise was so profound that it buried the character deeper than Nuclear Man had on the Moon. Other non-starters included The Shadow with Alec Baldwin and The Phantom with a preposterously purple-clad Billy Zane.

It was a vastly different time. Marvel—outside of a couple of halfhearted, and ultimately failed ventures—had, for the most part, remained on the sidelines. This film—at least in the minds of the cast and crew—would be their big coming out party. Alas, it was not meant to be. Corman’s Fantastic Four would disappear into the pop culture Phantom Zone, lingering in an infamous anonymity before resurfacing to the jeers and mockery of the public.

Yet that is what makes it so fascinating. In every sense of the term, it’s a noble failure. The director, cast, and crew dedicated themselves wholly to its promise and did so under the constrictions of the most modest of budgets. 

You can find this week’s episode of Hops and Box Office Flops, as always, on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher!

So sit back, grab a beer, and enjoy as I, the Thunderous Wizard (@WriterTLK), and my special guest co-host Captain Cash (@CaptCash) take you through the wild journey of the first-ever Fantastic Four movie (as well as its accompanying documentary Doomed). Oddly—despite all its obvious shortcomings—it’s the most faithful to the property that inspired it.

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Thomas L. Kelly

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