The March issue of Los Angeles magazine has a long article on the original Fantastic Four movie, made back in 1993 by Roger Corman's company and directed by the son of haircare mogul Vidal Sassone. It's cover headlined as "The Summer Blockbuster That Wasn't." In the article, by Robert Ito, it's confirmed that there is more than one story to the truth behind this first adaptation of the FF. Stan Lee says it was made just to fulfill an option and was never meant to be shown; the producer, Bernd Eichinger claims it was always meant to be released; current Marvel president Avi Arad says he doesn't want to talk about THAT FF film, just the one coming out from Fox this summer.
As it turns out, Arad did buy the film in 1993 and claims he burned it. It lives on in Nth-generation dupes at comics conventions and on eBay. The original cast is disappointed it was never released, and some of them even feel it was their ticket to the A-list. It was made on a cheap even-by-1993- standards one million dollar budget, rushed into production by Corman to meet an expiring option deadline. The director, Oley Sassone, wishes there was just one decent copy left, instead of the horrible copies out there for sale. The producer, Eichinger, is listed as an executive producer on the upcoming film, as is Stan Lee. There's a nifty 2-page photo of the original cast and director along with Corman. Stan was asked to participate and initially said yes, but then declined.
I confess I bought a copy of this film many years back and basically fell asleep watching it, so I never did get my $20 investment back. It probably did not survive the move from Pittsburgh. I have no desire to see it now. The Fantastic Four has always been Marvel's flagship book to me, even moreso than Spider-Man. It was the first in the "Marvel Age of Comics" and it very quickly developed into the first real comic book science fiction epic. Month after month, the most amazing things happened in this book. I think any director who attempts to make a film based on the original Lee-Kirby book has to understand that grand scale. The dysfunctional family aspect is secondary. FF is space opera on a grand scale, and it only works on the comics page and only when it's drawn by Jack Kirby (although John Byrne's long run came in at a close second). There's no budget on the comics page, no investor counting the beans, no Village Roadshow coming up with completion bond money. There's just a blank piece of paper, one--or two--imaginations at work and the infinite universe that comes out of an unbridled pencil. No Fantastic Four movie will ever live up to the magic of those first 100 issues or so. No screen could contain the sheer imagination of that work.