When New Horizons Films couldn't raise $40 million to tell the Fantastic Four saga, they scrambled to get anything onscreen so they could retain their rights. Natch they tapped Roger Corman, the emperor of parsimonious moviemaking, to bring this puppy in for less than what two of Jessica Alba's hair extensions would've cost.
The result is this suppressed film that's hilarious in its cheapness yet infinitely more endearing than its costlier counterpart. Who needs CGI when you can make Johnny Storm a cartoon? And if all of Sue Storm's clothes turn invisible with her, you can fade half her body off screen using a technique familiar to anyone who's taken Video Production 101 or seen Abbott & Costello's Hold That Ghost. And why license two Marvel supervillains when you can just make one not-so-super one up, like the Jeweler. The Jeweler?
Corman's 1994 Fantastic Four have the classic 1960s uniforms and hairdos, but if you've always envisioned Mr. Fantastic as half Charlton Heston and half Charleston Chew, Corman sees him as a Johnny Carson impersonator. When Mr. F. explains how their DNA has been altered, you expect him to say, "That's wild, wacky stuff." His obviously fake arm stretches resemble those party tooters that roll out when you blow into them. When he waves his squiggly rubber arm out of the "just married" limo, you'd swear Reed and Sue were gonna honeymoon in Toon Town.
Corman had better luck casting Rebecca Staab as Sue Storm. Sure, Jessica Alba is sexy in a calculated, work-out-with-personal-trainer sorta way but Staab's sexy in a dirty-blondehousewife sorta way she makes dressing in a tight blue bodysuit with a big "4" on it that much kinkier. When Dr. Doom siphons the Fantastics' powers, Sue starts screaming like it's the diner scene from When Harry Met Sally. That's some fantastic foreplay!
You get even more histrionics from Ben Grimm. Upon seeing himself first as some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle with an extreme case of eczema, he howls like it's an Al-Anon commercial! "What kind of thing have I turned into? Look at me! Awwwww!" And cost effective? Compared to the millions in property damage he causes in the 2005 film, this Grimm only scares up two working girls and a dishwasher before it's slobberin' time again. Incidentally, the subplot about Grimm and his blind sculptor girlfriend seems adapted from the music video for Lionel Richie's "Hello."
And if Dr. Doom's voice jumps from dubbed-in British accent to muffled-behind-a mask German accent, at least you know he's consistent in one respect: In every shot he drums his clunky fingers together like Montgomery Burns!
Serene Dominic writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].