Ten years ago, Reed Richards (Alex Hyde-White) and his friend Victor von Doom (Joseph Culp) were at university, working on a plan to harness a cosmic force for the good of mankind. Also about were their friend Ben Grimm (Michael Bailey Smith) who they brought onto the project and two kids who would become significant later on, Sue and Johnny Storm, but first the equipment had to be set up for that experiment. However, on that fateful night there was an overload of cosmic rays which left Victor as good as dead - or so Reed thought...
This is a poor, neglected movie, which legend has it was produced solely because the company which made it, headed by Roger Corman no less, wanted to help its producer keep the rights to making a future Fantastic Four film and the only way to do that was to create a low budget version that they apparently had no compulsion to release. Supposedly, this was news to the cast and crew. It has been spoken of in fan circles in whispers for years, wondering how bad it could be until the bootlegs became widely available and they could see for themselves.
Of course, you're always going to get those who will say this is better than the blockbuster versions, but in this case they might not be far off. Certainly there are aspects that are ridiculous, and bits that make little sense due the money not being there to iron out the problems, but this Fantastic Four has a goofy charm. In fact, some have taken it to their heart for all its ramshackle qualities, not in spite of them, although it does seem to take a while to get going. Like those in the superhero movie boom that was to follow, this is an origin tale, but this means it takes almost two thirds of the story for the team to get together with their powers.
Yes, you're going to have a wait until its clobberin' time, and in the meantime there's a lot of plot which naturally has to see our four get shot into space and be subjected to those rays. In addition, there's problems with a character called The Jeweller (Ian Trigger) who swaps the important crystal necessary for the mission with a fake, meaning this is what causes the big change in our heroes. Then there's Alicia Masters (Kat Green), blind love interest for Ben Grimm who later professes her love for him, despite having met him once before when he smashed her sulpture.
As you can see, there's evidence that the script, by Craig J. Nevius and Kevin Rock, needed quite a polish before going in front of the cameras, but examples of lax quality control abound, not least in the special effects. Once the four become fantastic, it's almost as if the money men were grudgingly handing over cash for the supposedly spectacular elements so, for example, we end up with a Mr Fantastic who has laughably stretchy limbs - watch out for the leg that kicks over Doctor Doom's torture device. When Grimm turns into The Thing, he's a not-bad suit, but doesn't help make the film look more like a T.V. pilot rather than a bona fide big screen effort. And yet, it's performed with genuine comic book enthusiasm, which makes it oddly endearing; you'll wish someone had taken better care of it. Music by David Wurst and Eric Wurst.