Awfully Good: The Fantastic Four (1994)

The Fantastic Four (1994)

Director: Oley Sassone
Stars: Alex Hyde-White, Rebecca Staab, Jay Underwood


Four astronauts are zapped with cosmic rays from a passing comet, giving them powers beyond their wildest dreams. Unless their wildest dreams include having their movie seen by the public… 

Aside from Jerry Lewis’ THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, Roger Corman’s 1994 version of THE FANTASTIC FOUR might be the film most famous for never actually being released. The longtime rumor (later confirmed by Stan Lee himself) was that producer Bernd Eichinger only made this movie so his rights to the Fantastic Four wouldn’t lapse and never planned on letting anyone ever see it. That may sound like it makes for an automatic disaster, but THE FANTASTIC FOUR is honestly no worse than the 1990 CAPTAIN AMERICA movie or that godawful SPIDER-MAN TV show from the 70s. In fact, it’s crazy to say it, but I even think I’d rather watch this version than either of Tim Story’s flicks. 

No one is immune to awkward family photos. Not even superheroes. 

Ironically, the producer’s mistake (if he wanted to bury this thing) was putting it in the hands of B-movie legend Roger Corman, who’s made a career out of making the most out of tiny budgets. I have no doubt that Corman is responsible for making this $1 million throwaway film in any way watchable. Now that’s not to say it’s a good movie. It’s cheap and bad on pretty much every level—a shoddy, thrown-together script, hysterically bad acting across the board, and some truly questionable special effects—but there’s still a spirit to this thing that feels more in line with the original comic than any other attempted adaptation. 

With Reed around, the threat of purple nurples was always constant.

For one, Doctor Doom actually looks like Doctor Doom here, showing you can be faithful to the source material and not reinterpret everything in “realistic” ways for the audience. Joseph Culp gives an amazing performance as the Latverian dictator, constantly screaming and/or laughing his lines in the most overdramatically villainous way possible. The Thing also looks more similar to his comic counterpart, as opposed to the “burn victim” look they gave Michael Chiklis in the 2005 movie. Sure, the remote controlled mask he wears isn’t the most graceful of acting tools, but at least he doesn’t look like a patient recovering from a warehouse fire.  

You’d be angry too if you had to use that hand to pleasure yourself.

The movie wastes little time getting started with a brief prelude that introduces Reed Richards and his friend Victor Von Doom in college. (It also introduces Sue Storm and Johnny Storm as Reed’s much younger foster siblings, something that will become much creepier very shortly.) BFFs Reed and Victor are experimenting on a passing comet to “hear what it needs to tell us.” That’s the actual reason given and I don’t know what it means. When Reed finds some issues with Victor’s calculations, Victor doesn’t listen and predictably ends up electrocuted, dead and his body gets randomly taken away by a bunch of weird European dudes. 

You’d be angry too if you had to use that hand to pleasure yourself.

The film jumps 10 years as a prematurely graying Reed and his friend Ben Grimm are preparing to travel through space to the exact same comet. He goes to ask Sue and Johnny to join the team, despite neither of them having any qualifications whatsoever for a billion dollar trek in to outer space. When Reed sees his former little sister for the first time in 10 years, the two just stare at each other in silence for 30 incredibly awkward seconds and immediately fall in love. No one else thinks this is weird. In fact, their foster mom takes one look at the group all together and actually says the line. “Look at you… the fantastic four!” [facepalm]

The moment The Thing discovered that EVERYTHING had turned to stone.

As you can guess, things don’t stay fantastic for long for our heroic quartet. Reed plans on avoiding Victor’s crispy fate by using an enormous diamond he found to absorb all the cosmic rays. Unfortunately, someone else has their eye on said diamond… the aptly named villain The Jeweler! The Jeweler is a ripoff of Fantastic Four foe Mole Man, who I’m assuming they didn’t have the rights to use. He’s a troll-looking character who runs an underground gang for ugly people. I truly feel bad for the acors they cast to join his group. Nobody wants that call from their agent. “Hey, there’s a part in this movie you’d be perfect for….”  

The moment the Human Torch discovered that EVERYTHING catches fire.

Since the Jeweler steals the magic diamond, the four astronaut pals get completely exposed to cosmic radiation and gain their signature powers. Mr. Fantastic’s stretchy effects aren’t seen too often, but going the all-practical route and getting creative with how we see his elongated appendages has its charms. (At least it looks better than this.) Sue Storm’s invisibility is a simple greenscreen effect, but her brother Johnny gets the high-tech treatment as the Human Torch. When Johnny flames on to throw fireballs, the filmmakers use standard optical fire effects that look mildly passable. However, when he goes full flying torch in the end, they completely throw away any semblance of reality and straight up animate the character. It makes sense given the budget constraints, but the effect is hilariously jarring and that entire sequence is easily the cheesiest and worst part of the movie.

Still better than the Scorpion King in THE MUMMY RETURNS though.

Once the team gets their powers they of course struggle with their newfound changes. There’s an amazing sequence where the Thing gets depressed and becomes homeless, wandering the streets of New York City and scaring random women in wildly melodramatic fashion. Eventually Reed makes a speech about the comet turning their biggest flaws in to their greatest strengths and everyone is cool and decides to wear costumes and stuff. (Thanks, Comet!) There’s a random romantic subplot featuring Alicia Masters, a blind lady Ben Grimm knocked down and fell in love with, who somehow gets mixed up with both of the film’s villains by sheer coincidence. However, the rest of the movie follows the Fantastic Four’s battles with Doctor Doom and his giant world-destroying laser. There’s plenty of great Doom dialogue and some fun, cheesy fight sequences (you get more than one “It’s clobberin’ time!”), but nothing greater than the Human Torch chasing a laser 30 seconds after it was fired, somehow catching up to it, and punching the laser with fire and destroying it. I’m pretty sure that’s not how lasers work, but you go for it, FANTASTIC FOUR.

Explaining how sex works to Latverians was notoriously difficult.

Hilarious overacting from everyone—the Thing, Doctor Doom and even the mom. 

The best “clobberin’ times” and other action sequences, the Human Torch’s animated adventures, and the Thing scaring women.

Sorry, even The Thing wears underwear.

Shhhh… You didn’t hear this from me. Watch this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Doctor Doom laughs like a maniac
  • Someone falls in love instantly
  • Johnny Storm says “Flame on!” or “Flame off!”
  • Things are awkward between Reed and Sue
  • Love changes The Thing

Double shot if:

  • It’s clobbering time!

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