Friday, March 2, 2012

The placeholder Fantastic Four.

In the days before the bit-torrent-ial storm, the 1994 Roger Corman Fantastic Four film was quite the rarity. The trailer was only released before Corman's Carnosaur VHS. A VHS of the full film could only be bought in bootleg form from pock-marked dudes with mustaches at comic and sci-fi conventions.

The film itself is horrible. And the sad truth is that it was really never meant to be seen. The actors, the crew, the fans, had all been taken for a ride.

In 1986 Constantin Films bought the rights to make a Fantastic Four film from Marvel Comics. By 1992, the rights were set to revert back to Marvel if Constantin had not shot an FF film by the end of the year. Constantin had planned a $40 million epic. With time running out, he contacted Roger Corman and production started in earnest on a $1.4 million version.

The sets, the costumes, the special effects on the film were horrible (Although, The Thing's costume/makeup were pretty cool.) This was a production that clearly should not have been shot with a $1.4 million budget.

Was this film a legal placeholder, so Constantin could retain their rights to film a "real" FF film? Many, including Stan Lee, believe that this was the case. The Corman version was never slated to receive distribution.

It's unclear who knew that the film was a throwaway. The actors certainly were not aware. The director, Oley Sassone, went on a cross country campaign for the film, and conducted interviews calling out Corman for such a cheap production. I'm fairly certain he did not know. Roger Corman has lamented the whole incident in interviews. During filming he was certainly not aware of Constantin's intention. Sometime during the post-production/advertising phase, Corman learned what the plan was.

At some point, Constantin had made their $40 million deal with 20th Century Fox. Corman was paid $750,000 to release the rights of the film and the film was shelved.

I read somewhere, years ago, that the head of Marvel's filmmaking division, Avi Arad, stated that he had bought back the rights to the film and burned all of the prints. Whether this is true or not, who cares? The film is available online. It is not good. Like many things, the behind the scenes story is much more interesting than the piece itself.



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