The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

incrediblemeltingman_1977_poster
The Incredible Melting Man (1977)
  • Time: 84 min
  • Genre: Sci-Fi | Horror
  • Director: William Sachs
  • Cast: Alex Rebar, Burr DeBenning, Myron Healey

Storyline:

“You’ve never seen anything til you’ve seen the Sun through the rings of Saturn,” exclaims Alex Rebar. Apparently, somehow this causes him to start melting and eating people, such as a nurse in the tightest fitting nurse’s outfit ever, a nerdy fisherman, a horny old couple who simply can’t keep their hands off each other in a car. To save the day comes Doctor Ted Nelson!

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  • Whilst on a space mission to Saturn, astronaut Steve West (Alex Rebar) is exposed to mysterious radiation which leaves him severely burned all over his body. His two fellow astronauts don’t survive, and upon his return to Earth, Steve is bandaged and hospitalized by Lisle Wilson from Brian De Palma’s Sisters (1977) while the doctors run further tests. He breaks free of his restraints and attacks a nurse, devouring her face and fleeing into the countryside. Dr. Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning) is given the task to track down Steve before he commits more murders by General Perry (Myron Healey), who later joins him on the hunt.

    Inspired by the Universal monster movies of the 30’s and 40’s, The Incredible Melting Man puts more focus on make-up and effects than blood and guts, which were on the rise due to the increasing popularity of slasher movies at the time. When Steve escapes the hospital, he begins to melt, his hands and face sliding off his skin in a vomit-inducing yellow and brown goo. Make-up artist Rick Baker’s (of An American Werewolf In London (1981) and Videodrome (1983) fame) effects are, sadly, the only incredible thing about this cheap shlock-fest. A baffling script fails to explain just how Steve made it back home without his fellow astronauts, and more crucially, why he has suddenly developed a taste for human flesh and has gained super-strength. Even the movie’s tagline, “the first new horror creature”, makes no sense.

    The appalling acting is made worse by some strange narrative decisions. One scene includes Dr. Nelson, having just been commanded by Perry to lead the search for Steve as a matter of extreme urgency, choose not to start straight away and instead goes home to his wife to complain about the fact that she didn’t buy crackers. The film shifts between ridiculous domestic conversations and the ever-dripping murderous lunk biting, punching and decapitating his way through a highly-populated woodland area. Fans of drive-in exploitation will lap it up, and it at least moves at a fast pace, but The Incredible Melting Man is a half-baked idea thrown together without any consideration, redeemed somewhat by its wonderfully gruesome effects.

    Rating: 2/5

  • The whole decade of the 1970s brought on a lot of change in several areas of life. People were advocating for peace rather than war. Some were fighting for civil liberties. Others were making strides in space exploration and some were pushing the limits that were everyday filmmaking. The 1970s for Hollywood received a jumble of new people who were making films that attracted audiences like never before. The horror genre was being exploited and tested to see how graphic directors could get away with showing their material to casual audiences. Science fiction movies were also on the rise with a number of films that inspired many future film crew professionals. For director William Sachs, having produced only a few films before this, took a hand at the horror and sci-fi genre. What turned out being only a literal 2-week shoot, has also been regarded as one of the worst films ever released. It is pretty bad, but it isn’t the worst. It does have some moments to point out but it’s more for if you just want to laugh at how silly the execution is.

    The story is about an astronaut named Steve West (Alex Rebar – probably his most memorable role) who went on a trip with others to Saturn to see the Sun of our solar system. Scientifically the trip doesn’t make sense, but that’s the least of the problems. After receiving some type of radiation trauma from the rays of the sun (via public domain stock footage), West is the only survivor. When he awakes, he discovers his skin is beginning to fall off. Expecting the worst, West begins to rage with fear and develops an appetite for human flesh. Dr. Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning), a friend of West is ordered by Gen. Michael Perry (Myron Healey) to find him before word gets out and also figure out how West got that way. This plot would be okay if it held a little more weight. Sachs was also the writer for this project. The screenplay is too light on exposition and hardly develops its characters. There are subplots, but much of the material is just filler making them pointless. Padding is really a big one. The whole running time is just an extended cat & mouse chase.

    Also not helping that is 99% of the acting is dull and unconvincing except for maybe Sheriff Neil Blake (Michael Alldredge). The actor who’s possibly the worst is Burr DeBenning. As the lead, his delivery is banal, carrying barely any hint of emotion. This is made all the more obvious when certain characters make extremely dumb decisions or lack any kind of deductive reasoning. Nobody can find a man who is literally melting and leaving trails everywhere he goes. Probably one of the more frustrating parts is not really getting to know the star of the film. Sachs script loves to indulge in giving its audience numerous playbacks of the first scene to West’s poisoning. Yet, some viewers might actually like to get to know what’s going on in West’s mind other than the fateful day he went all brain stew on everyone. Audiences aren’t given any reason as to why West went after people he knew other than he needed buckets of blood to survive.

    The creature idea itself isn’t the most unique either (although only one film has been made about such a creature) but how it’s treated visually is another story. Practical effects whiz Rick Baker (getting his kick-start from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)) was head of special makeup effects. Wow is the melting man actually believably unappealing. Alex Rebar in costume as the slimy fall apart man is visually nauseating and that’s good. Taking into account the budget and how long it took to shoot the movie, that alone is a feat in itself. The rest of the horror relies on more gore than anything else. There is nothing to be scared about because of how quickly the acting takes one out of even remotely feeling that it could happen. There is a funny moment though. The credits aren’t exactly clear but there is a scene involving to old folks driving. There acting is by no means good but if anything they provide the most energy to the film. It’s truly ironic that two older actors can show up the rest of the entire cast when it comes to showing any emotion beyond seriousness.

    The last two components that need to be mentioned are camerawork and music. Willy Kurant took care of cinematography. Although mostly doing more of his native work for Belgian productions, Kurant does however give the film somewhat of a professional look. The lighting is clear and bright where it needs to be. The camera is also steady and that’s always good. Arlon Ober composed the musical score. Ober who is more familiar with orchestrating and conducting still makes use of whatever he saw in this below average film. It’s not a good score because of its typical 1970s sound using flutes, electronic piano and guitar. It’s an odd combo and it would be one thing if it was experimental, but this film was trying to appeal to mainstream audiences, so no. It also doesn’t help with bad acting that it makes the scenes feel over dramatized. What does work however is the motif theme for the melting man. The theme consists of sad sounding strings in full orchestra, which makes the character feel that more tragic. Unfortunately, it’s still not that good of a film.

    The (though all too 70s) film score, well-lit cinematography and makeup effects are mostly well put together, nothing else is really that acceptable. Most of the acting is not even comically dry, almost all characters are one-dimensional and the padding makes the sit painfully slow.

    Points Earned –> 4:10

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