Friday, May 31, 2013

Doomed: Teasing Out the Story Behind Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four

 Well, it’s time to start working on your superhero costume for the San Diego Comic-Con. And it’s time to support a super-project that’s just been launched by my buddy, Mark Sikes, along with filmmaker Marty Langford. Back when I was Roger Corman’s story editor at Concorde-New Horizons, Mark served as Roger’s casting honcho. One of his most challenging gigs was finding the cast, on a hurry-up basis, for a little superhero flick called The Fantastic Four, based on the Marvel Comics characters, that was being co-produced on the cheap by Concorde and a German company, Neue Constantin. 

A lot of us know what happened next. The film was shot, the cast and crew were ecstatic, and a big publicity push was under way, much of it funded by the actors themselves. Then came word that Constantin’s Bernd Eichinger had just paid big bucks for Roger’s share of The Fantastic Four. Eichinger promptly shelved the finished movie, presumably to make way for a lavish studio version that finally appeared in 2005. The original prints of the Concorde quickie were supposedly destroyed, but pirated copies have been circulating ever since. Now Mark and Marty are out to satisfy our craving to know exactly what happened. They’re planning a full-length documentary called Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four.  To finance this labor of love, they’re calling on the film’s many fans to cough up some dough. (This crowdfunding idea is really taking off: I’m told that even Roger – who’s richer than God -- is using it to help pay for a shoestring remake of Munchies. But I digress.)
Here’s the scoop: Mark and Marty have set up an Indiegogo campaign to raise the $52,000 they need to make their movie happen. Naturally, donors get some very cool perks. But the deadline is June 20, so time is flying. (You might also check out the official Doomed Facebook site.)
What makes Doomed sound so promising is that most of the creative forces behind Concorde’s Fantastic Four are already on board. One of them is Carl Ciarfalio, stuntman extraordinaire, who impersonates The Thing in the movie. Carl has been part of some much more elaborate projects, like The Amazing Spider Man. But he relished the chance to work with director Oley Sassone and a talented cast, despite the privations everyone faced on set. For instance, “The suit that they made for me was really spot-on. But they didn’t have the budget to put a cool suit on underneath it. So I was wearing 15 pounds of rubber every day,” without a cooling system to provide basic comfort. Ouch!

Nonetheless, Carl sees the film’s awkward special effects (like Dr. Reed Richards’ impossibly stretchy limbs) as part of its charm. When watching today’s big-budget superhero movies, the audience knows it’s “just a bunch of guys on green-screen, with stuff goin’ on behind ‘em.” By contrast,  Concorde’s Fantastic Four plays like an homage to the mid-twentieth-century world of Marvel Comics. Says Carl, “That’s what makes this film cult-like, because it’s kind of a throwback to the Fifties and Sixties films that they used to make before special effects were a big deal.” 

Even at the time, Carl didn’t assume The Fantastic Four would lead him to fame and fortune. But the movie’s cast thought they were participating in something special. “And it was. It was something special. I knew out of the gate.” That’s why it hurts to have been part of a film that will never officially be seen. Doomed  is guaranteed to bring us a lot of great stories about that.
 Thanks, Carl, for supplying me with some of your own snapshots from the Fantastic Four shoot. 


  1. The machinations that go on in Hollywood still manage to boggle me - they certainly did in the mid 90's while this film was still ostensibly coming out, and Stan Lee was gushing about it in his editorial column that appeared in all Marvel comics back then. And then - the movie just disappeared. (Almost the same thing happened to their 90's Captain America movie - except it wasn't pulled back in an effort to hold on to the rights - it just didn't turn out well.)

    Years later a pal had moved to New York City, and he saw someone offering bootleg VHS copies on the street - he scooped one up for me - thinking he'd keep it if I didn't want it.

    I wanted it.

    I still own that tape - and while I know I shouldn't have benefitted a film pirate - when the movie is completely off the radar and unavailable - I will make an exception. The movie does have a rough charm - and Mr. Ciarfalio is the best thing in it - the other actors are okay - Alex Hyde White is pretty good - but Mr. Ciarfalio plays the Thing perfectly, and the suit is the best effect in the movie too. (Sorry it wasn't cooled.)

    I will check out the crowdfunding site - and I'm sure to donate - I want to see this documentary!

    Thanks for the heads up on it, Ms. G!

  2. My pleasure, Mr. C., and I'll pass along to Carl your praise of his performance.

  3. I remember reading about Corman's FF movie in a comics magazine back in the day and I was pretty excited to see it. And shortly after I recall an announcement that Chris Columbus was going to be a part of a big studio version in some capacity. And it seems he was some ten years later. He was also attached to a DEATH RACE 2000 remake at one time, too; around the same time if I remember right.

    I did enjoy the Thing suit in Corman's film much better, though.

  4. I'm impressed. And that hot, heavy suit sure made an impression on Carl!