One of Marvel’s biggest comic book superhero groups has also been featured in some of Hollywood’s biggest flops, and it all started here!
The story goes that Constantin Films of Germany held the rights to produce a Fantastic Four film in the early 90s, but with the expiration date rapidly approaching at the end of 1992 and Marvel reluctant to renew, a film had to be made quickly or the deal would be dead. So, naturally, they rushed into production with Roger Corman as executive producer and a budget of $1.5 million - small by Hollywood’s standards, but bigger than most Corman productions. The film was miraculously made with meager resources and an extremely quick timeline, but the admirable effort would never get a proper chance to be appreciated by audiences - once Constantin Films raised funding for a “real” Fantastic Four feature (which would be released in 2005), the original film was quickly buried only to surface later on the bootleg circuit.
The plot follows the comic book origin story pretty faithfully at first. Reed Richards, a brilliant scientist, attempts an experiment to harness the energy of a passing comet with his colleague, another brilliant scientist named Victor Von Doom. Everything goes wrong and Von Doom is badly injured and later dies from his wounds… or so it seems! Years pass (a decade, to be specific) and the comet is expected to return. Reed enlists the help of his pal Ben Grimm to pilot a spaceship and they’re joined by Sue and Johnny Storm, who I forgot to mention grew up with Reed in a boarding house. Here’s where things start to fall apart fast - something happens with a leprechaun-type character named The Jeweler and a special diamond, and the four intrepid explorers end up crash landing back on earth after being exposed to cosmic rays. They discover they’ve each developed unique powers, and soon are reunited with Victor Von Doom - who’s now evil supervillain Dr. Doom (which the heroes somehow don’t figure out until much later). A bizarre and confusing struggle for this all-powerful diamond ensues between Doom and The Jeweler - Doom wants to destroy things with a powerful laser and The Jeweler just wants to impress his captive bride - and The Fantastic Four have no choice but to don some blue tights and save the city!
Compared to the two Marvel movies that preceded it - Dolph Lundgren’s The Punisher and a direct-to-video Captain America - The 1994 Fantastic Four adaptation doesn’t seem so out of place. Starring a well-meaning cast of unknowns, and featuring effects that are maybe impressive by b-movie standards but often hilariously distracting, it’s impressive that this film even exists. Hammy, overacted, uncomfortably strange at times and very obviously rushed, The Fantastic Four is one of the strangest Hollywood productions ever and perfect for Hecklevision!
This special screening is presented in HECKLEVISION: Through the magic of MuVChat technology, your jokes, heckles and commentary are encouraged - in TEXT form! Tap out your wittiest wisecracks with your phone and they'll appear instantly on screen! Each month, special guests will hang out to crack jokes via text with you and a few hundred of your best friends!
This month’s special guests: