For this review, I need to go back to the beginning.
The year was 1993. I was a chubby, acne-ridden, totally unpopular 7th grader who found solace in comic books. Hands down, my two favorites were Green Lantern and The Fantastic Four. So, when I was waiting to get into school one day and a classmate started talking about how he saw the trailer for a new, live-action Fantastic Four movie on a VHS tape of Carnosaur - well, I just about lost my mind. See, back in '93, comic book movies were about as rare as they come. Sure, we had the Batmans and Supermans, but as far as Marvel went, we had the direct-to-video Captain Americas and Punishers, a few of the Hulk TV movies and little else. I ran to my local video store (Broadway Video), rented Carnosaur, and replayed the trailer - endlessly. Repeatedly. Rewind. Rewatch. Over and over and over again - until I literally wore out the tape. It captured my imagination in ways that nothing else at the time did. I could not wait for this movie.
And then, I picked up a copy of Wizard magazine and saw the worst news I could imagine.
The movie was toast. It had been "ash-canned," a term I didn't even know.
I was, more or less, inconsolable. How could this be? How could this movie, which I was so looking forward to, be taken from me?
I found comfort by obsessing over the few details I knew about it. I sought out other movies which starred the cast - all of whom I still know by name - Alex Hyde White, Rebecca Staab, Michael Bailey Smith, Jay Underwood, Joseph Culp. I rented Bigges, The Boy Who Could Fly, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - ANYTHING. I would go to my local library and use the photocopy machine to blow up the tiny images I had seen in Hero and Wizard Magazine to full 8X10 size so that I could hang them up in my room. I was so desperate for any piece of this movie.
Then, something happened.
I started to hear word, in my local comic book store, that copies of this movie had somehow escaped. The comic shop owners had even seen it. I needed to get my hands on a copy - no matter what it took.
But, as a lowly middle-schooler, the chance of me convincing my parents to take me to a comic book convention were slim.
I was in high school. I was walking through a local comic book store with my friends. I had exactly 17 dollars in my pocket. Tucked away on a shelf, I found it. A VHS copy of Oley Sassone's "Fantastic Four." My heart almost jumped out of my chest. I couldn't breathe. Here it was. My holy grail. I checked the price tag. "17 dollars." What were the odds? Was this fate? Was I destined to the contents of my wallet on this VHS? I happily paid and rushed home to watch it.
Still, to this day, this is MY Fantastic Four movie. Sure, the effects are cheesy. The sets are cardboard. The budget is miniscule. But there's a heart. There's a pulse. There's a respect for the characters and the source material. It's bright and sunny. Fun and weird. It's a flippin' Fantastic Four movie.
So, ALL OF THIS, is a preface to say, that I am absolutely completely totally 100% the target audience for this documentary.
Last night, I rented it on Amazon. First of all, let me make this abundantly clear. This documentary, from frame 1, is a labor of love. It pours through. These filmmakers, like me, clearly CARE about this lost movie. These filmmakers, like me, care about the cast and crew. They have interviews with nearly everyone involved in the making of this movie. Alex Hyde White shines through as MY Mr. Fantastic. His interview is so powerful, thoughtful and intelligent, just like Reed Richards. Michael Bailey Smith and Joseph Culp also provide great stories about how involved they were with the marketing - PERSONALLY involved. Jay Underwood is a burst of energy, just like Johnny Storm, and Rebecca Staab STILL looks and sounds like Sue Storm. I especially loved Carl Ciarfalio and Kat Green's stories about finding out the movie had leaked out. Really, this cast was just perfect.
For me, as someone who works in television, I found the interviews with the crew to be especially interesting. Oley Sassone is a director's director, telling stories about how hard he worked to make this movie the best that it could be, even when the executives weren't supporting him - and I was especially interested in the interviews with various crew members, specifically the editor Glenn Garland.
As the documentary wrapped up, I felt like that disappointed 7th grader all over again. How is it over twenty years later and we still don't have a Blu-Ray version of this Fantastic Four movie? It is really something that needs to be celebrated and seen. Enough time has passed (and enough bad Fantastic Four movies have come out) that there would be no confusion between the Sassone version and any subsequent versions. I have a Blu-Ray of the 1990 "Captain America" movie and, I have to say, seeing it with such clear picture and audio had made me appreciate it even more. "Fantastic Four" deserves the same upgrade.
So, here's my final take on this. 1994's Fantastic Four was a movie that, still, influences me today. It instilled me with a love for live-action superhero movies, along with a desire to track down movies that are hard-to-find and out of the norm. I now write and produce television promos and, honestly, I still think of that original trailer on the Carnosaur VHS (which I now own) as an early influence. I refer to it - often.
"DOOMED" is for a very, very specific audience. If you, like me, are part of that audience, you're going to love it. If you have a sort of peripheral knowledge of this unreleased movie, or have an interest in comic book movies in general, take a chance on DOOMED. You'll learn a lot about the landscape of 1993's comic book movies, as well as Corman's direct-to-video years. I'm just so damned happy that this exists. Now, I need a BLU-RAY of 1994's "Fantastic Four" to exist.