The Phantom of Film City
Review and Media by Jon T
Episode #3 - The Phantom of Film City
Original Airdate - September 16, 1978
The Fantastic Four patrol the skies above New York in the Fantasticar when they spot a tank ramming into a bank and sucking out the money. They land and attempt to stop the tank from getting away, but find out that the tank was made of plastic and the whole event was a movie scene being filmed in the city. The movie's director, J.J. Collaso, is upset at the ruining of the scene for his movie masterpiece "The Gigantic Vacuum Cleaner That Devoured New York", and so Ben and Herbie volunteer to repair the props. Collaso then invites the Fantastic Four to star in an epic film to be called "The Fantastic Four Battle The Flying Saucers From Outer Space". With Collaso promising that their fees will go to charity, they agree to star in the film and go to Hollywood. At the studio, the team is unaware that the mysterious Phantom of Film City intends to ensure that the Four never leave the set. He has joined the movie by posing as its art director, Belmont. As the team begin filming, they are attacked by a giant robot prop designed by Belmont. They defeat the robot and go onto the next scene, which involves the Four boarding a flying saucer crewed by their old enemies, the Skrulls. The supposed prop takes off, and Belmont reveals himself to be a Skrull too, and together the Four have to stop their plans and return to the studio to finish their film.
Story by: Stan Lee
Teleplay by: Roy Thomas
Notes: In this episode, Herbie's name is revealed to stand for Humanoid Electronic Robot B-style (HER-B).
Review: A standard clichéd plot here, as the FF deal with sinister goings on a movie set.
While this is an admittedly silly episode, there are quite a few funny pieces of dialogue from the FF that make fun of Hollywood and move-making in general. Other than melodramatic purposes, I can't fathom why the Skrull Commander would take on the additional identity of the Phantom as well as the art director Belmont. It does of course allow the identity of the Skrulls to remain unknown for a while, but it still doesn't really make any sense.
Compared to the previous two episodes, this story does actually hold together far better than they did, with the story (just barely) making some sort of sense.