‘The Fantastic Four’ gets a new cast; don’t forget about the 1994 version

From left to right, Alex Hyde-White, Rebecca Staab, Carl Ciarfalio and Jay Underwood star in the notorious cheapie movie version of "The Fantastic Four." Credit: Provided
From left to right, Alex Hyde-White, Rebecca Staab, Carl Ciarfalio and Jay Underwood star in the notorious cheapie movie version of “The Fantastic Four.”
Credit: Provided

Last decade, when comic book movies were officially getting dark and realistic — or as realistic as movies about billionaire crime-fighters dressed as winged mammals could be — Marvel Comics had the nerve to let their “Fantastic Four” property get turned into a silly, slight, poppy and frankly stupid pair of movies. The 2005 origin tale and its 2007 sequel (with Liam Neeson voicing a very CGI Silver Surfer) were critical bombs but made enough money that we couldn’t completely ignore them.

Now Marvel’s trying again, this time with a cast that doesn’t include the likes of Jessica Alba. (Though don’t forget that Michael Chiklis was The Thing, and that current Captain America, Chris Evans, did a frattish twist on The Human Torch.) Cast in the reboot are such esteemed thespians as Miles Teller (“The Spectacular Now”) as the elastic Mr. Fantastic, Michael B. Jordan (“Fruitvale Station”) as the Human Torch, Kate Mara (“House of Cards”) as the Invisible Woman and Jamie Bell (“The Adventures of Tintin”) as The Thing. (Teller and Jordan recently teamed up for “That Awkward Moment.” Sorry, Zac Efron, but you’re out.)

This is great and all, but let’s not forget that it won’t be first reboot of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s signature comic. Before the 2005 version came one made in 1994. Never heard of it? You were never supposed to. In the 1980s, the late German producer Bernd Eichinger, who had helped make films like “The Neverending Story” and “The Name of the Rose,” bought the rights for very, very cheap. (Rumor is it was as low as $250,000.) For whatever reason, Eichinger never got around to making his film. The rights were set to lapse in 1992. So to raise the price, he crafted a cunning plan: He would make a film, but do it with the bare minimum of cash. A “Fantastic Four” movie would exist, but only technically.

Naturally he turned to Roger Corman, the legendary grade-Z producer and filmmaker, who claims to this day to have never lost a buck (basically by never spending more than the bare minimum on any project). Together, they decided to crank out a movie adaptation for the low, low price of $1 million. (By contrast, the 2005 film cost $100 million.) There was no apparent intention of ever releasing it into the world; despite all the hard work — with almost no resources — of the cast and crew, it was to exist solely to inflate the price tag of the rights.

All the money’s on screen, too. There are only two names in the cast. One is George Gaynes, the serious Finnish-born actor who became best known for playing the bumbling, oblivious Commandant Lassard in the “Police Academy” cycle, plays the professor. The Human Torch is essayed by Jay Underwood, who children of the 1980s may remember from the inspirational movie “The Boy Who Could Fly.” (He played the boy who could fly.) The Thing is laughably cheap to the extent that prose could never do it justice. Here he is:

This is what The Thing looks like on the cheap. Credit: Provided
This is what The Thing looks like on the cheap.
Credit: Provided

Poor Carl Ciarfolio, a stuntman and sometime actor, drew the short straw that put him inside the no doubt uncomfortable Thing costume. He’s no master thespian, but he tries; the scene where his character discovers that he has been transformed into a rock monster is pure acting class sadness — as camp a moment as Ronald Reagan’s “Where’s the rest of me?!” moment from the 1940 film “King’s Row.” Then again, this “Fantastic Four” is only marginally more slapdash than other comic book movie cheapies, such as the Dolph Lundgren “The Punisher” from the 1980s and the 1990 “Captain America,” starring J.D. Salinger’s son.

If this sounds familiar, then you watched the last, Netflix season of “Arrested Development,” which stretched a parody of this over several episodes. Truth is stranger than fiction, even the fictions the writing staff of “Arrested Development” could ever dream up.

But you can judge for yourself. Once a popular bootleg, it has now been uploaded to YouTube for the delectation of all:

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge


OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…


Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."


Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.


Divers struggle in search for South Korean ferry…

By Jungmin Jang and Narae KimMOKPO/JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - Rescuers struggled with strong waves and murky waters on Thursday as they searched for hundreds…

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."


'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…


Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.


Dick Wolf to bring fictionalized world of 'Law…

A&E has ordered a pilot called "D.O.A." from "Law and Order" mastermind Dick Wolf that will focus on real detectives reexamining cold cases. A trio…


MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox


2014 Boston Marathon preview: Elite American, International runners…

2014 Boston Marathon: Elite American, International runners to watch


2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams…

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams have the best shot at a championship. The Thunder, Clippers, Heat and Rockets lead the way.


2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced


Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.


Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.


Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.


Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.