Oley Sassone’s 1994 version of “The Fantastic Four” was never meant to be seen. It was rumored for years that the film, made for only $1 million, was made merely as a way for New Concorde, Roger Corman’s studio, to retain the rights. If one owns the rights to a hot entertainment property, one has to make a film or a TV show before a certain time, or those rights revert back to the original owner. This is why Universal makes monster movies every decade or so: They’ve gotta hang on to that sweet, sweet Wolf Man intellectual property. (The rumor of the rights situation surrounding “The Fantastic Four” was confirmed by Stan Lee in a 2005 issue of Los Angeles Magazine.)
The making of and stalled release of “The Fantastic Four” movie was talked about in depth in the 2015 documentary film “Doomed!: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four.”
Because the Fantastic Four were such a hot property, however, the film eventually leaked to the public, and now it is found easily online. One might balk at watching Sassone’s film because, well, it is very, very cheap. The costumes look cheap (the Thing notwithstanding), the effects are cheap, and the photography is cheap.
And yet … it had something. The script, by Craig J. Nevius and Kevin Rock, captures the superlative language of the original comics, giving the impression that this low-budget oddity is actually reaching for grandeur. That’s not a quality possessed by any of the other, more expensive “Fantastic Four” movies. The attempt to touch the stars with only pocket change makes the film fascinating and entertaining. It’s campy, but that’s fine. The original comics are campy.
What’s more, Dr. Doom (Joseph Culp) looks amazing.
It’s the best one. Really.