Thursday, June 08, 2006
Amazing Story: Roger Corman & The Fantastic Four
The film is legend... Fans seek it out at comic book conventions and on-line site -- even if only to view it on an Nth generation bootleg video. The film? The Fantastic Four. No, not 20th Century Fox's big screen release of last year. This is The Fantastic Four film that was produced by Roger Corman to help German producer Bernd Eichinger retain the rights to the property (but was never intended to actually be viewed!) A little history...In 1992, Neue Constantin Films of Germany had owned the film rights to the Fantastic Four for several years, but the rights were set to expire on December 31 of that year and revert back to Marvel. Neue Constantin asked to renew its option, but Marvel -- who had yet to experience success of the Spider-man of The X-Men adaptations -- said no. To retain its option, Neue Constantin would need to begin production of an actual film before the year's end. So, Neue Constantin quickly entered into a partnership with Roger Corman's Concorde Pictures in the Fall of 1992, and a low-budget Fantastic Four film started shooting on December 28 of that year, with music video director Oley Sassone hired to head the intense 25-day shoot. From that point on, what happened to the film -- like most popular Urban Myths -- seems to deviate from source to source. Reportedly, according to Roger Corman, when Eichinger came to him, they worked out a deal to cut the budget from $40 million to $1.4 million, and made the film. "We were going to distribute it," Corman reportedly said, "but [Eichinger] had a clause in his contract that he could buy me out at a rather substantial profit for me anytime up to ninety days after the picture was completed. During that time he raised his $40 million. He bought the picture out from me and he [went on to] make it for Fox." (Eichinger was, indeed, the producer of the 2005 version.) In an LA Magazine article titled "Fantastic Faux," Eichinger rejected the rumored statement that the film was never intended to be released. "No, that's not true," said Eichinger. "It was definitely not our intention to make a B movie, that's for sure, but when the movie was there, we wanted to release it." As the story goes, Avi Arad, of Marvel, suggested a deal in which Eichinger could recoup his investment in the low-budget film provided all prints of the film were destroyed. But, somehow, the film survived (albeit in a battered form) and has now far surpassed its big budgeted doppelganger in the annals of film legend!