An astronaut returns to Earth from an ill-fated mission to Saturn and is stricken with an awful disease, literally melting away. Escaping his hospital confinement, he finds that the only way that he can stay alive is to kill and eat human flesh.
With a title like The Incredible Melting Man, what do you think you are going to get when sitting down to watch it? Well there’s a man in it and, yes, he does melt. 1977 may have been more noted for its other monstrous sci-fi hit (a film set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away) but this low budget goop-fest showed that there was still life in adult-orientated shock-horror sci-fi that didn’t involve gold-plated droids and heavy-breathing bad guys. Don’t make any mistakes though – The Incredible Melting Man is not a good film and has been sent up on Mystery Science Theater 3000, though whether it warranted such an accolade remains to be seen.
The Incredible Melting Man sounds decent in concept – the idea of astronauts returning to Earth after being stricken with galactic diseases out of the limits of human knowledge has been a well that many sci-fi films have tapped in to (The Quatermass Experiment springs to mind). But the execution of that concept is woeful. With direction that is lifeless, a script that is as bizarre as it is terrible (with arguments about crackers being a random highlight) and overall production values that scream 70s movie, the film should never have been given the fame that it seems to have garnered.
Well that is until the make-up effects are called in question. When you sit down to watch a film about an incredible melting man, you expect to see an incredible melting man. Thankfully, and rather surprisingly given the poor quality of everything else on show, the special effects are marvellous but that’s expected when Rick Baker is behind them (he did the make-up inStar Wars the same year as this). The gradual decay of the ‘melting man’ is disgusting and you really sympathise for the character all the way through the film right through to the final meltdown.He is a gruesome sight to behold and the effects are done splendidly – at one point one of his eyes just drops out because the flesh and bone holding it in place has melted so badly.Though clearly not meant to have any deeper meaning in the script, the idea that by killing someone else you can preserve your own life is a moral dilemma that would make for interesting analysis. If you were in his position, would you kill to extend your life? Or just horribly melt away?
Unfortunately the special effects are the only positive in the film – the rest of The Incredible Melting Manis virtually a plot-less stalk ‘n’ slash film in which we’re introduced to a minor non-character, they are given a few brief moments to impress the camera and try and eek out some sort of personality before they meet their doom at the hands of Mr Gloop. Replace the astronaut with a guy in a mask and a machete and you have the sort of structure to the narrative.
The acting is shocking too, porn industry standards have been set higher. Undoubtedly the star of the show is of course Alex Rebar as the Melting Man who just stumbles around the woods like a zombie and doesn’t really do much since he’s usually caked up in make-up. The script says that he’s getting stronger as he melts and that he can kill people easier but surely if he’s losing body mass, bone structure and muscle tone, he’ll be getting weaker?
Ah who cares?The Incredible Melting Man is absolute nonsense with the exception of Rick Baker’s special effects and it has become a cult favourite because it’s so appalling. Check it out and have a good laugh at how a reasonable concept can make a trashy film when the makers of the film have no idea what to do with it.