With all the negativity about the Fantastic Four reboot, I figured it’s time to take a look at that other Fantastic Four film they made. No, not the one with the Silver Surfer, where Doctor Doom took up sky-surfing as a hobby and you could almost see the outline of Galactus. It’s not the one before that either, where Reed Richards stretched his arm out to reach a roll of toilet paper. It’s the film they made before that, the one we weren’t supposed to see.
This one was co-produced by the king of low-budget movies Roger Corman and was never released, either theatrically or directly to video. But bootleg copies of it could be found. Since then it’s become a skeleton in the Marvel closet, and led to one of the funniest running jokes in the fourth season of Arrested Development. Is it really that bad? Let’s take a look at its high and low points…
00:02:23 The opening credits roll over stock footage of space. The music is okay (ironically composed by two guys called Wurst) and the special effects are by a guy called Mr. Film. Uh…
00:03:30 Reed Richards is in college with Ben Grimm and passing notes with Victor Von Doom. You just know this could mean trouble…
00:06:37 Sue Storm is about 13 and has a crush on college guy Reed. Like that isn’t creepy. Her brother Johnny seems to have a good relationship with Ben. Also a little creepy.
00:10:12 Reed and Victor just had to go and tinker with that Colossus radio telescope project up the road, didn’t they? Thanks to some bad number-crunching, Victor has been horribly burned…
00:11:42 …and is now dead, according to the doctors. What?! Understandably, Reed feels a little guilty and bursts into tears.
00:12:47 But wait! It seems like Doom isn’t dead and the doctors are Latverians who can heal him! Go Latveria!
00:14:24 It’s ten years later and Reed wants to go into space. Apparently it’s hilarious that he and Ben bring Johnny and Sue despite them not having a background in astrophysics. Also, Sue’s grown up and looks a little like Julia Roberts.
00:16:12 The first appearance of Doctor Doom in his armour. For three seconds.
00:21:20 I get that Alicia Masters is a blind sculptress, but she’s going to town on her latest creation like a possessed Demi Moore. Also she’s being stalked by a creepy old guy who looks like the Leprechaun and lives in the sewers.
00:24:09 I have no idea what Doctor Doom just said! It sounded like “The dial be bore be placed with the bam-based baby-pa. Ha-ha-ha-ha!” I guess it’s Latverian. Doom seems happy enough though. Oh, and that creepy old sewer guy is called the Jeweller. Bah!
00:30:50 Well, Reed and the gang’s spaceship just blew up, giving Doom another chance to laugh. The Fantastic Four have all woken up amongst the wreckage of the ship, which is now magically back on Earth. Even more astonishing is that none of them were wearing their helmets.
00:31:02 Their powers are coming out. Johnny sneezed and a bush caught on fire, which was pretty funny, but Reed’s stretching arm makes a sound that would give kids nightmares.
00:35:22 Alicia enjoys smearing sculpting clay on her lips. It’s more disturbing than sexy.
00:39:30 The first real fight scene has broken out, but not with the FF! Instead it involves the Jeweller’s henchmen trying to touch Alicia’s hair and use a spray can. Don’t ask.
00:40:45 The military has shown up to rescue our heroes and Ben Grimm has become the Thing. The rubber suit is embarrassing and the acting is worse.
00:43:36 During medical tests, Johnny says “Flame on!” You can figure out what happens.
00:49:10 Doom’s bungling henchmen trade quips with the Jeweller and his henchmen. Doom wants a diamond the Jeweller stole, but the Jeweller sends Doom’s henchmen packing. How humiliating.
00:51:41 In a daring attempt to escape from the military (who are really Doom’s minions), Reed and the gang knock out some of his scientists. I guess. It’s a little vague. The Thing was staring at them, then the screen span about and there were some sound effects of punching. Still, it seemed to work.
00:55:50 Doom has confronted Reed, Sue and Johnny. Unfortunately it’s still hard to decipher what he’s saying. There was lots of mumbling, then he clearly said, “Bring the kids!” and told Johnny to “Keep your poo.” Still, he looks pretty good before he leaves and sends in some guards.
00:56:45 “It’s clobberin’ time!”
00:58:00 Reed’s entire contribution to this fight sequence is extending his leg to trip up advancing guards.
00:58:45 One of the funniest movie moments ever as Doom returns, boasting loudly. He stops in mid-soliloquy, realises his guards are dead and that the FF have escaped, and just says “Huh.”
01:01:14 Johnny just called Reed “Batman”. D’oh!
01:07:30 After the Thing took one of usual long, sullen walks away from the team, he’s come across the Jeweller. What a coincidence…
01:10:10 Doom invades the Jeweller’s sewers and beats countless armed guards by flexing like Hulk Hogan. Being Doom, he has to laugh about it afterward too. I’m liking this Doom!
01:12:00 Another wacky Doctor Doom moment as he uses Alicia as a hostage and the Thing runs away!
01:14:00 While Sue seems to be the only one who likes wearing her costume, Doom just keeps getting better. He appears on Reed’s viewscreen, talks with his hands a lot and sends the funniest message since Star Trek’s “Hello, I’m Nero!” moment.
01:15:23 When did Reed find the time to build a cross between the fantasticar and the pogo plane, and put up 4 logos on the Baxter building? I’m just asking…
01:19:26 His Latverian sign language for the hearing-impaired aside, I’m digging on Doom. It’s hard to figure out why his cosmic-ray sapping laser is making Sue scream though, especially since Reed looks like he’s more worried about returning an overdue library book.
01:20:30 It’s clobbering time again, but using some footage that looks identical to the fight they had earlier.
01:21:40 Johnny flies. It’s so bad that I think Mr. Film has a lot to answer for.
01:24:31 After a pathetic fight between Reed and Doom, Doom falls to his (supposed) death – laughing the whole time. He’s one crazy Latverian!
01:25:55 It’s animation a go-go, as Johnny attempts to stop a laser beam from destroying New York. It looks curiously like an old Fleischer Superman cartoon that’s been drawn over. It ends with Johnny flying in deep space, but how can he stay on fire when there’s no air? Um…
01:26:24 Reed and Sue get married, and to show his respect the Thing has decided to wear his underpants and nothing else. Oh great aunt Petunia, where did he learn to behave like this?
01:26:57 As the limo drives away from the wedding, Reed’s weird elongated hand pops out of the sun roof to wave goodbye. That honeymoon should be something else. Ugh.
01:30:00 It’s over! There’s no post-credits extra scene and it’s all done!
That being said, it wasn’t all that bad. Don’t get me wrong, it IS bad, but it has that cheesiness that makes it fun-bad. The acting is bad, the costumes mostly look terrible and there’s something about the grey streaks in Reed’s hair that look wrong. The effects were shoddy to the point of being laughable and the plot was a mess, with the Jeweller/Alicia Masters storyline having nothing to do with anything… but it isn’t entirely unwatchable.
Besides, Doctor Doom rocks… even in this. He always was – and always should be – one of Marvel’s top villains and deserves to be given some respect. Let’s just hope the new film manages to get that right, if nothing else.