In just over a month, director Marty Langford's film Doomed!: The Untold Story of Roger Corman's Fantastic Four will be available on streaming services, giving many fans their first semi-official look at footage from the abandoned 1994 feature film starring Alex Hyde-White as Mr. Fantastic and Joseph Culp as Doctor Doom.
In the run-up to the documentary's release, distributor Uncork'd Entertainment has helped ComicBook.com speak with a number of people close involved with the making of the documentary, including some of the cast and crew of producer Roger Corman's notorious foray into superheroes.
Among those? Culp -- the villain himself -- who had plenty to say about not only Doomed!, but about Fantastic Four movies past and present.
Is it kind of a weird backhanded compliment that any movie that comes out, reviews will say "the Corman version is still the best?"
I'll take it as a front. It's a back handed compliment but I'll take it as a front one. Front slap in the face. I don't know. It's kind of wonderful when I think about it. Yeah, it's tinged with a kind of sorrow that the work I did on Doctor Doom was not seen in any kind of official light. Maybe, I don't know, there's something even sweet about that. There's sorrow but it's a little bit of sweetness that I have more fans because of my performance as Doctor Doom than anybody who tried to play him.
They come up to me at comic cons and they shake my hand. I sign a picture and we have a connection because we both have a love of the comic, and the history, and of the character. That's really kind of nice, I got to say. From the official film world, sure, I didn't get anything from it but from the fans, who are really what it's all about and who really carry the torch, that's a very nice thing to live with.
To this day I get requests to talk about Doctor Doom to send a picture and what have you. I have to say that's been people coming up to me and saying of all the versions, you were the one who got it. You're watchable, its fun, and it's all the things that it should be. Yeah i take it and I take it with great gratitude.
For years now, the coolest, most interesting thing about this film has kind of been the weird behind the scenes stuff. One of the things that has never really been part of the narrative is how passionately you guys all advocated for the film and all the extra work you put in kind of on the sly. Is that something that you're gratified to see to become part of the narrative of Corman's Fantastic Four?
There's something to be said for real caring. When you really care about a project and when you really put your heart into it. For all the obvious limitations of the Corman's Fantastic Four because of budget and frankly even the time it was made -- my God, prior to any really sophisticated CGI, which is really necessary to make a version of the Fantastic Four. Because of the limitations, because we knew that "well, we've only got this amount of time and this much money to make this film. Let's kick some ass." You know?
There's something to be said for that kind of spark of creating and desire and creative input from Oley Sassone, who just I think did an amazing thing of putting this together and running the ship, to every actor who did their best to inhabit the role.
There was a feeling at that set at that time that we were going to try to make something historic within the limitations that we could. It is gratifying to know that that we were tragically derailed and hidden, suffocated, stashed away, wounded in some way and we all had to kind of deal with that disappointment and move on -- which is a colossal disappointment, after putting so much energy into it.
Then little by little, the thing is seeping out into the bloodstream and it moves and people saw that. It's kind of great.
Here we are twenty years later, we're talking about it. It's a documentary -- Doomed is out about it. You can see the movie on YouTube, which is hilarious. How nice. Is it gratifying? You bet it is. It almost teaches you something about life -- that if you really mean it, and put your heart into it, somewhere, somehow the rewards will come. I think that's what's happening now.
Was there ever a period in time where there wasn't interest in this film? Obviously we're twenty years down the line and you're making a documentary film. Was there ever that moment in time where you weren't getting these questions or has this been pretty much nonstop since the movie was in production?
No, I would say definitely there was period of gestation if you will. If you look at it as sort of a weird reverse-evolutionary thing. There was a gestation period where it was like, we had that period where we made the film, everything happened which was detailed in the documentary and then finally it came down that it's not going to be seen and there's some reason for that.
The reason didn't become clear for a while. "What is this story here? Why is it not getting released? Why would Roger Corman even spend this kind of money? He's never spent this kind of money on any film."
I heard the story from the director at the time: basically these guys bought it back. We don't know what's going to happen. The notion that it was being shelved -- and banned if you will -- was kind of hard to grasp. Why would anyone do that with any film unless it was unwatchable, or couldn't be finished in some way?
It's a finished film. We all saw it. We all had copies of it.
(...That was a secret thing, that some of us got copies of it.)
There was a period where we just went, "wow, a letdown." Alex Hyde White and Michael Bailey Smith put a lot of effort in trying to promote it. We felt let down. I just had to shrug and kind of move on and say "well, okay next thing, what's that going to be?" Because I'm just an actor and things happen. Then I would say several years went by, where there was a big nothing. At least in my life there wasn't.
It wasn't until, I want to say it might have taken a decade before ... I knew it was going out there. I don't remember the first time is saw it at a con or something. Somebody mentioned it. "Oh yeah you can get copies online." I was said "Huh, Wow" I would say yeah I might have taken a good...well let's put it this way, the Fantastic Four films that finally got made, which was the big reason for shelving this film apparently, took thirteen years. They had come out or were about to come out.
I knew people were seeing our film. I knew it was out there getting around and getting bootlegged but nobody called me about it, nobody wanted an interview, nobody really said anything. It was more a subculture thing.
Also, think of it as this. The so-called subculture of comics and the conventions and all that grew in that period. I don't know what you remember, but I can tell you it was comic cons and that were a little bit off the radar. It wasn't like it is today. Even fifteen years ago, it was beginning. Now I would say it merged with the mainstream media because of Marvel finally got it together and started making films. All that started happening.
I think it was long period where nobody really cared except the fans. Then all of a sudden, I started going to comic cons and people were showing up and wanting to talk about it. Something shifted. It was probably after the first Fantastic Four film where people were truly disappointed with what they saw and they started referring back to what about that Corman film. They were doing something right there. Maybe that was the big change.
So many of the complaints around both versions of the franchise that came out officially from Fox, have centered on Doctor Doom. It's almost kind of like you're in a unique position of being the guy who everybody really talks up from the Corman film. Everybody has complaints about Julian McMahon and Toby Kebell's versions of this character. While your character didn't take a hundred and fifty thousand dollars to wardrobe, a lot of people feel generally that you "got it" as an actor.
That was really gratifying to hear. I can't tell you how nice it was that they saw that everybody got what I was trying to do and what I felt obligated to do because of honoring really probably one of the greatest super villains of all time. We have Darth Vader, but before Darth Vader, we have Doctor Doom. Okay. I knew about it, I looked at the pages, I studied it and said, "Okay, this is got to be." This guy is the guy. We can't mess around here. We have to get the physical. We have to get the vocal. We have the grandiosity, the pomposity, the genius, the pain even, which I think is always a part that I really see in Doctor Doom. His own personal kind of angst that drives him. All of that stuff.
True to form, in the last decade or so, a lot of modern takes on classic comics, there's a tendency to try to naturalize everything. Try to make it all very snarky and kind of close to the vest if you will. That's not what we look for when we look at the comics we love. We're looking to be transported to something else and on an emotional scale that is much more vast. With no disrespect to Julian or whomever wants to do Dr. Doom. It's choices, not just by the actor but also by the director.
Don't undersell or undercut the character. There's a history here that has to be honored and I felt really connected to that. That's why I did Doom the way I did and how I would do him again if ever I played him again. It is interesting to know that people came up to me immediately that say "What?" Doctor Doom is kind of this cool guy who like wants to get over on people and have a suit. "No, man, he's got to come from, you know, connected to the Gods in someway." That's the way I look at them as Doctor Doom. I really got into his backstory and the history and his connection to the mother and lot of things that aren't even in the script, the Corman film. They're there in terms of the foundation that we were playing with. I really wanted all that in there.
It's really gratifying to hear that people can look at my performance today and say "There's Doctor Doom." Didn't have enough money for the suit, it looks great anyway. Limitations of time and production didn't matter. It was fun. Fun to watch it.
What are you working on right now?
I just wrote, directed and co-starred in a feature film called Welcome to the Men's Group. Which stars Stephen Tobolowsky, the great Tobolowsky. Timothy Bottoms, myself, and a cast of great actors. It's a comedy drama about a men's group. It's getting some traction now and we have an IndieGoGo campaign for distribution that's running right now and I'd love it people would check it out and consider donating something. If they love Doctor Doom, they love me, then they'd love my film.