The Incredible Melting Man (1977)
By: Mark Nichols on September 15, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Vipco (UK). Region 2, PAL. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 86 minutes
The Movie
Director: William Sachs
Starring: Alex Rebar, Ber De Benning, Myron Healey, Michael Alldredge
Screenplay: William Sachs
Music:Arlon Ober
Tagline: The first new horror creature.
Country: USA
The very first scene of this film shows us stock footage solar/volcanic eruptions of the sun (similar to the chilling opening credits of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre but not scary), complete with a dirty great hair on the lens. We're off to a good start!

Colonel Steve West and two other astronauts are travelling into space to become the first men to land on Saturn. "Magnificent! You've never seen anything 'til you've seen the Sun through the rings of Saturn!" West exclaims when seeing some ill-matched stock footage before going into a seizure and inexplicably passing out.

Then to a hospital back on Earth. West is the only survivor of the expedition, his face entirely bandaged ala the Invisible Man. He awakens to see his hands resembling a well-done supreme pizza and jumps out of bed in horror. Stepping up to a mirror he rips the bandages off to reveal his hideous, pus-ridden face. His nurse enters the room, screams and then runs at the sight of him down a corridor in slow motion with West nowhere in sight behind her. She smashes through a glass door and West has magically caught up with her, his pizza hand looming into frame as he gets closer. We see her next on a morgue table with the right side of her head eaten. (A brilliant, realistic copy of the actress that shows why Rick Baker was one of the best SPFX artists in the businesss).

We are then introduced to the two main stereotypical characters of the film: Dr. Ted Nelson, personal friend of Steve West whose task is to learn the scientific reason for what gives West his insatiable thirst for human flesh with the hope of curing him, and General Perry, the pig-headed military man who wants West captured at any cost before dawn the next day. He has a space programme to worry about and if news gets out it will be a public relations disaster!

An innocent fisherman is the next victim of the Melting Man, who has become so inhuman he even steps on the poor man's sandwich! More of Rick Bakers great work as his torn off head floats down the stream and over a waterfall in slow motion, landing with a gruesome "SPLAT!" on the rocks.

In an obvious homage to the original Frankenstein (1931), a young girl playing hide-and-seek happens across the Melting Man at the very moment his eye falls out and she runs away. That'll learn her for smoking that cigarette behind the shed with those nasty boys! Cut to the Melting Man 'acting '- holding his hand out in dismay to the girl and covering his face in shame (even though she has long since run away). The girl even screams as she approaches her mother at home "It's Frankenstein, it's Frankenstein! Mommy help!" The Melting Man, alone and haunted by what has happened to himself, wanders the countryside in slow motion breathing like Darth Vader as we hear slowed down dialogue of the verbal communications he received in space. Oh the humanity!

Meanwhile, Ted Nelson has begun his search using a Geiger counter because West is now radioactive (eating flesh slows down his melting). The counter begins detecting radioactivity as he follows a trail of gloop that leads him to some bushes "Oh God it's his ear!" he exclaims as we see West's ear and a portion of his head on a bush.

Just around the time you start thinking "It looks like there won't be any nudity in this film" we see a photographer taking shots of an attractive young lady. "Now, take your top off!" he says. The poor girl objects "There must have been a lack of communication, they never said anything about this!" He grabs her boob tube and yanks it down to reveal her breasts. "That's it!" he says, holding her at arms distance and snapping away (which means his own arm would be in the shots as she struggles to fight him off, making for great photographs!). "That's it baby, beautiful!" he says. (Don't you love sleazy photographers in films?). Stepping back from him she discovers the remains of the unfortunate fisherman who had his sandwich stood on earlier, the camera lovingly pouring over his gizzards and ribcage. "Do you know anything about this Doc?" asks the Sheriff as the headless body is later covered and placed in the ambulance. "Looks like a wild animal did it. Like a bear." Ted says, looking really suspicious. "No bears around these parts anymore, you know that Ted. You sure you don't know anything about what's going on here?" "No" says Ted unconvincingly. "That's what I thought" says the Sheriff, his extremely thorough interrogation over.

Ted's mother-in-law and her partner Harold serve as the comic relief in the film. We know this because as soon as we see them in a car being shaken up and down in a darkened soundstage there is 'funny' music. They decide to pull over to get some lemons as a gift on their way to dinner at Ted and his wife Judy's. But guess who is lurking amongst the bushes? You guessed right! It's the Incredible Melting Man and boy has his appetite grown, tossing their arm bones out the car window like half eaten KFC drumsticks in a beachside car park full of teenagers on a Friday night.

Ted is called out to see the Sheriff who has discovered the remains of the Melting Man's latest happy meal and asks General Perry to guard his sedated wife while our anti-hero lurks outside. But before Ted goes, Perry apologises for speaking too harshly to him earlier. But you know what happens to one-sided bastards in films who humanise themselves and show compassion don't you?! That's right, they die! Happy meal number five please!

Ted agrees to tell the Sheriff what is going on and they head off together to search for the Melting Man before any more melting cannibalistic capers can occur. The search for the Melting Man leads Ted and the Sheriff to an industrial plant for a spectacular pyrotechnic death followed by a gruesome, melting climax worth waiting for. The final scenes of the film show extremely scratched stock footage from the early 1970's of a NASA rocket launching while a transistor radio voice-over news report tells us that the second manned mission to Saturn is taking place. It has only been thirty years since the horrors of Steve West's tragic return to Earth occurred, but who knows? Perhaps Return of the Incredible Melting Man will one day terrorise our cinema or DVD rental shelves?

If it is not apparent already I had a lot of fun watching this film but I also have a biased opinion when reviewing it because it is part of my childhood. At the age of ten my best friend at the time showed me the cover of the novel adaptation which showed the various stages of the Melting Man created by Rick Baker which were not used int he film. The book was actually quite good and explained in believable detail the scientific processes that caused his condition and thought processes more than the film could or did.

As a child the theatrical release of the film in Australia seemed to take forever and it was finally released on Super 8mm some time between 1977-78. This was the pre-video era and for me colour, sound Super 8mm films were worth a king's ransom. I saved and worked on odd jobs for weeks and desperately sweet-talked my father into allowing me to buy this 'R' rated version of the film that I was later to show my entire family, including my grandparents! (It was pretty cool of my Dad to get it for me considering its 'R' rating. This neither traumatised or fucked me up for seeing them - although some may dispute this point!). Here in South Australia the film only had a brief theatrical release on the drive-in circuit as a double-bill with the absolutely brilliant and far superior Hardcore with George C. Scott and Written / Directed by Paul Schrader with second billing.
The cover states this has been digitally remastered but I was unable to see how. The film still has numerous speckles, not to mention the out of date stock footage used, and at one point even has a very messy film splice (although this adds to its charm!).
A very good musical score despite being mono. It is not fair to criticise the slowed-down dialogue of the space mission as the only representation of what is going on Melting Man Steve West's mind because it is obvious this is all that the script and director allowed the audio department to work with.
Extra Features
An uninspired picture gallery which would have been great if it had some Rick Baker behind the scenes stuff. Text filmographies of the four major actors in the film. Trailer for The Incredible Melting Man and Mountain of the Cannibal God (aka Slave of the Cannibal God), Shogun Assassin, Cannibal Holocaust and Psychic Killer.
The Verdict
How can you pay fifteen to twenty five dollars for a film entitled The Incredible Melting Man and nit-pick or gripe about it? What can you expect, Truffaut? This film makes for a great B-grade movie night at home, and is a a melt-in-your-mouth must see!
Movie Score
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