I cannot begin to express how excited I was when this documentary was announced. I’ve had a fascination with Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four for years and years. When I finally managed to see the movie for myself—in the only available quality, which was not a quality that anything should be viewed on—I was not disappointed. The film is a disaster. It’s a train wreck that’s trying so hard not to be, but was never designed to be anything else.
Over the years, I’ve heard many rumors as to what happened behind the scenes, as to why the film never received an official release. It delighted me to think the documentary might give me all the answers I was looking for.
But it didn’t just give me answers. Doomed completely blew away my expectations. This documentary tells the untold story of the disastrous first adaptation of Marvel’s first family—but it also crafts an emotional narrative that is, quite simply, fantastic.
The heartbreak that is inherent to the story—and really has to be central to telling the tale of a movie that was never released—primarily comes from the fact that so many people involved thought they were making a film that would launch their careers. They had no reason to expect this thing to fail. Nobody was told that this project was never even intended for release and it wasn’t until after they had finished shooting and were trying to start promoting the picture that they even began to suspect anything was up.
If you’re looking for the comic absurdity of Best Worst Movie, this might not be the documentary for you. This can absolutely be funny at times, but it’s a real story that’s pretty tragic. People put so much into something with nothing to show for it. Watching the documentary, it’s amazing to see just how many people, including Roger Corman himself, didn’t really know that the feature was never going to be released. Tracking the person who was ultimately responsible for that decision is probably the most engaging part of the narrative.
If you’re looking for something that paints Mr. Marvel himself, Stan Lee, in a less than positive light for once, this is definitely it. Without spoiling anything, his treatment of the movie even when it was coming out was less than stellar.
You’ll also find a lot of people in this doc who went onto bigger things, especially some of the makeup artists like John Vulich, who would create some major FX work for shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Of course, not everyone’s career took off in the way that they wanted it to, because, obviously, the movie they thought would put them on the map was never released.
There are some genuinely heartwarming, surprisingly sweet and emotional scenes contained in Doomed. And it’s amazing to hear how the cast actually took it upon themselves to promote the movie at conventions when they heard nothing back from the higher-ups.
If you’re a fan of Marvel, comics, or low-budget movies in general, I definitely think Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four is more than worth your time. I’m sure you’ve heard many bizarre tales from the film industry, especially with the current surge of docs on specific features, but you’ve never heard one quite like this.
WICKED RATING: 8/10
Director: Marty Langford
Writer: Marty Langford
Stars: Roger Corman, Chris Gore, Joseph Culp
Runtime: 85 minutes