I don’t know exactly what to make of this current trend of pop culture documentaries that have been churning out in recent years. I suppose that it’s a cool thing that we’re seeing a middle-brow spotlight to our consumer habits. I have my own collections and my own tastes, but often times when browsing Amazon Prime there seems to be tons of documentaries about niche pop culture subjects that I was never aware of. I’ll save them to my watchlist knowing full well that I’ll never watch them.
Here’s my experience, at worst they tend to be nothing more than a Youtube-level wikipedia dramatic reading, or at best a glorified blu-ray special feature. There are gems out there, but not everything can be The Rock-A-Fire Explosion, can it? I guess it all boils down to subject matter, and that’s where Doomed comes in.
Doomed makes it appear that in the late nineties through the early 2000’s that the Roger Corman production of Fantastic Four had been spoken of greatly in hushed whispers of excitement. I suppose it was for a time. By the late nineties my comic collecting days were quickly coming to an end, but my exploration into tape trading of obscure films had only just begun. This was the time period where one could visit many websites selling homebrew bootlegs of films not available in the United States. The sites would often put up disclaimers that film’s not domestically available are not copyright protected in a grey area of copyright law known as The Berne Act. Of course each and every outlet was an illegal enterprise, and at some point I had about six VCR’s in my college dorm room ready to sell sixth generation VHS copies of Cannibal Holocaust on ebay. Being somebody who pretty much loathes the convention scene, it was through these channels that I first heard of the infamously unreleased Fantastic Four movie. I was never one to be excited about it. Other than Burton’s Batman, the whole concept of a comic book movie was pretty much known to be a risky affair. I did eventually trade something for a copy, and eventually got around to watching it.
It’s been close to twenty years or more since I’ve seen it, but I remember I didn’t hate it. It had that low-budget schlock factor that made it worth watching and I was particularly charmed by the design of Dr. Doom. I haven’t watched it since, to be honest, but the story behind it seemed a fascinating one. Doomed: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four does a pretty good job taking us behind the scenes of the film’s production. We hear directly from Roger Corman himself, Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Entertainment, and the cast and crew behind the film’s production. Doomed gives us a decent horse’s mouth account of what actually went on with the production of the film, and later the conspiracy theories of why the film was never released and presumably destroyed. I won’t give too much of the background as there isn’t much I can add here that you can’t read at the wikipedia page. It is nice to see the reactions of those involved and their seemingly genuine love for the project. This is your typical “talking head” documentary, so stylistically there is nothing groundbreaking here. I think the one thing that is the most telling, perhaps, was Stan Lee’s refusal to appear in this documentary. In the context of what you see discussed in the rest of the film, his absence is damningly ever-present. Especially since Stan Lee was more than happy to show his face on everything.
In any case, you can say my curiosity is sated. If you are interested, you can find the unreleased film on YouTube. I’d also say the documentary is worth your time, but that also depends on how interested you are on the subject. At the end of the day, I suppose it’s worth adding to your watchlist.