Review for The Incredible Melting Man
Arrow Video have carved out a perfect niche in restoring some of the most unlikely contenders in movie history to pristine condition, and then lavishing the kind of special features treatment more commonly associated with big-budget movies. ‘The Incredible Melting Man’ is a perfect example.
A low-budget, low-brow movie from the second half of the 1970’s which feels more like a TV movie than a blockbuster. Lack-lustre performances match the lack-lustre script and direction which in turn is all captured in fairly lack-lustre fashion on film. In fact, the only good thing (no – make that great thing) about the film is the make-up. Special effects legend Rick Baker took on the work in his early years, principally for the cash, and there’s no doubting his talent for creating eye-wateringly creepy special effects, propos and make-up. Good training for the make-up on Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. An American Werewolf in London and Men in Black.
Apparently the film started out life as a wry satire of 50’s drive-in horror schlock (called ‘The Ghoul from Outer Space’) though the producers didn’t like the humour angle.
When spacecraft Scorpio V returns to Earth following a mission to Saturn, two of the crew are dead and the third, astronaut Steve West, is in a critical condition. Critical, that is, until he rises from his hospital bed to bite chunks out of a portly nurse before escaping into the surrounding countryside. The authorities set about trying to track Steve down before he claims any other victims, but they don’t know the really bad news yet – Steve is also highly radioactive.
So that leaves the terribly earnest Dr. Ted Nelson (TV stalwart Burr Debenning) and General Michael Perry (Western regular Myron Healey) to track him down before he eats too many more citizens. And the meantime the Doctor’s wife, Judy (Ann Sweeny) wonders what’s holding her Mother and her man-friend up. They were due for dinner hours ago…
There are many stand-out special effects highlights (like the disembodied head of a fisherman floating down a river only to smash on some rocks or the melting man doing exactly that before our very eyes) and these are impetus enough to keep on watching for its short running time of 86 minutes.
There are some great cameos, not least from a remarkable group of kids who run Steve, the melting man, during a game of hide and seek. That scream has got to be one of the most blood-curdling ever to be immortalised on celluloid. Then there’s Judy’s mother and her ‘boyfriend’ hamming it up like a couple of music-hall comedians before meeting their fate.
Fans of seventies all-girl rockers. ‘The Runaways’ might enjoy Cheryl Smith’s topless cameo. Oddly , it’s put in there clearly as a bit of salacious B-movie nakedness, but it’sactually positioned in the plot as a piece of intolerable sleaze with a photographer, looking every bit like Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis (allegedly), insisting she pulls her top down, clearly against her will and eventually with some force. Maybe as one of the principles in an all-girl rock band at the time, it was the only context she found acceptable. Who knows? Sadly Cheryl died from a heroin related does of Hepatitis B in the early 2000’s.
The score by Arlon Ober (and the Cosmic Consort Orchestra) is notably good – sounding very much like an early eighties piece and therefore arguably ahead of its time with its use of electronic keyboards.
Despite this being a fairly flat, TV looking movie, the quality of the print and transfer is remarkable. What it lacks in cinematic contrast it makes up for in detail.
The extras are all pretty good. There’s a very informative interview with (and audio commentary by) writer and director Wiliam Sachs, along with a Super-8 version of the film, condensed into a single 12 minute loop which, remarkably stands up pretty well.
There’s also an interview with Rick Baker who seems a little more pleased with himself than perhaps he should be and a bit sniffy about the film in general , as well as a short interview with one his young protégés, Greg Cannom.
There is also the usual very nice reversible sleeve and a fairly detailed booklet (from where all the images accompanying this view came from) which features new writing about the film.
Whilst in no way a classic, this was a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes and will be of interest to horror aficionados who love great schlock horror and are not put off by lumpy dialogue delivered by wooden actors.