The other Fantastic Four movie

Have you seen The Fantastic Four? It's enjoyable enough, and probably as good as a live-action movie about the Marvel Comics superhero quartet can be. It's doing respectable business. It is officially a blockbuster, so it will likely turn a profit on its $100 million budget. It doesn't look like the superhero movie genre has played out yet, as some people think it has.

What you may not be aware of is that another FF movie was made in 1994. There's good reason not to be aware of this, because it was never released in theatres or on home video. In fact, it was never meant to be. So, naturally it has become a much-bootlegged film.

Here's the story behind it. The owners of the film rights to the Fantastic Four nearly lost those rights due to time limits. If the movie was not made by a certain date, the rights to the movie would have expired and would have been made available to another buyer. Chris Columbus (the director of the first two Harry Potter movies) was waiting for this to happen so that he could option the FF film rights. But the owners prevented this by enlisting B-movie kingpin Roger Corman to quickly make a Fantastic Four movie before the expiration date. (Who better to call? In the '60's, Corman used to shoot movies in two or three days!). So the first live-action FF movie was made in 1994 for only $1 million, strictly for legal reasons and with no intention of it ever being seen by the public. Now that the "real" FF movie has been made, their goals have been met.

However, it came as a shock to the actors who worked on the 1994 film that it wasn't released. They were unaware of the real reason that the movie was made, and were disappointed that their work didn't see the light of day. Some, if not all, of the crew probably felt the same way. It was made with a no-name cast. The only actors I recognized were Alex Hyde-White (the star of a 1986 British film called Biggles) as Mr. Fantastic, and Jay Underwood (who starred in the 1986 film The Boy Who Could Fly) as the Human Torch. Oh yes, and character actor George Gaynes (probably best remembered for the Police Academy movies) appeared briefly in the beginning.

Is it bad? Sure it is. But I kinda like it. It's truer to the Marvel comic than the new movie, which actually makes it pretty corny for a live action movie that is not set in the early '60's (the comic book debuted in 1961). The acting is mostly hammy, and the special effects are predictably shoddy for a low budget movie. The Thing's rock body looks more like foam, but he does look like the Thing from the comics. How does the Human Torch flame on? By way of animation -- and contemporary CGI it certainly isn't. The Torch's flying scene looks like it was made for a Saturday morning cartoon. Dr. Doom's plot to fire a laser that will wipe out NYC is now laughably similar to the plots that Dr. Evil hatched in the Austin Powers movies (this movie predates them). This movie is good for a lot of laughs -- some are intended, but most probably weren't. The plot holes are hilarious, too; the Torch and the Invisible Girl can suddenly do things toward the end that the movie doesn't show them doing earlier. Also, it's usually hard to tell who's hitting whom in the fight scenes.

But I like this Roger Corman production for the bad movie that it is. Anyone who has ever been a fan of the FF comic book would appreciate it, as would fans of bad movies in general (you know who you are). If you happen to share my peculiar addiction to rarities, this one's a keeper.