The Incredible Melting Man
The only thing better than a nuclear age sci-fi movie from the 50’s is the is a nuclear age sci-fi movie from the 50’s made in 1977. The Incredible Melting Man is a gem that I passed over at least 100 times in my hometown VHS store. The only thing that you need to enjoy this movie is low expectations.
This movie cuts right to the chase. The action begins with 3 astronauts watching the sunrise over Saturn. Due to unexplained events, they get cooked by space radiation. Immediately, radiation kills two of the men. One man, Colonel Steve West survives the flight back home.
Steve wakes up in the hospital. He is horrified to find that his flesh is melting from his face. With no further explanation, the Colonel goes bonkers and starts a murderous rampage. 6 minutes flat, the party train has left the station. Typically I would trash a movie for this trivial lack of plot. In this case, it is rather refreshing. The Incredible Melting Man doesn’t even pretend to have a plot, and that somehow makes the entire premise plausible.
The Making of an Incredible Melting Man
Famous make-up effects artist Rick Baker takes the helm creating the incredible melting man. Pleasingly, the film allows many opportunities for close inspection of the monster. Consequently, there are many opportunities to pick at Rick’s work.
For example, the make-up looks like more of a mask hanging over man’s face than a firmly attached prosthetic. Technically it works, but glimpses of the unmelted flesh of the actor shown through the gaping mouth and left eye-socket. The whole effect comes off like a high-class Toxic Avenger. However, it gets the job done if one can go with the flow. Fortunately, there are several other wonderful effects sequences that make it worth the journey.
We take all of this in stride because the clearly this movie was to hover just below the boundaries of realism and believability. If you want gore, Rick Baker has your back on this one. At the end of the day, there’s really nothing better than watching an eyeball slide down the melted visage of an irradiated astronaut.
The Incredible Floating Head
In a classic scene, a decapitated fisherman’s head gently floats down river. In fact, the idyllic bobbing of the head enjoys a good 15 seconds of screen time across two sequences before careening off of a waterfall and exploding on a rock below. Firstly, this exploding head is totally gratuitous. Secondly, it is laugh-out-loud. This scene makes it abundantly clear that the William Sachs isn’t taking himself too seriously.
In another classic scene, the Colonel throws the sheriff over the railing and onto a set of power-lines. In another phenomenal display of excess, the body fries on the cables for the better part of 15 seconds. The sheriff’s body explodes with sparks as if someone filled it with Roman candles. On the ground, the body continues to fry as if it is laying on an invisible 3rd rail. The Sheriff burns to a cinder. As the action unfolds before me I can imagine the entire special effects team giggling like children as the guy torches.
In personal favorite, there is a great sequence where the monster finds a shred of humanity to save his former friend, Dr. Ted from falling to his death as he hangs from a railing. The scene is a real cliff-hanger. Ted reaches with all of his might to barely reach the outstretched hand of the Colonel. They clasp hands and The Incredible Melting Man pulls the Doctor from certain doom. Milliseconds later some trigger happy Paul Blart busts a cap in the Doctors head. Seriously folks, this is exactly what they made popcorn for.
Somebody Get a Shovel
Finally, in a wholly appropriate moment in a film titled “The Incredible Melting Man”, the Colonel disintegrates into a bubbling pile of pus before being scooped up with a shovel and thrown in the trash. Considering the hilarity of the rest of the film, it stands as one final joke. It’s as if William Sachs exclaims, “What did you expect?”
The Incredible Melting Man is wonderful example of how much fun one can have with a willing audience, a special effects master and a sense of humor. There is nothing profound about this film other than its full embrace of decades of B-movie science fiction. This simple fact makes The Incredible Melting Man easy to digest.
This film is brimming with black humor and good fun. This movie hearkens back to the days of Them! and The Incredible Shrinking Man where space radiation is all that’s necessary to create a plethora of theatrical fun. This film is a wonderful example of the good time one can have simply by placing the tongue firmly in cheek and letting it all hang out.
The Incredible Melting Man (1977) - Indulgent Fun - Malevolent Dark
Director: William Sachs
Date Created: 1977-01-01 00:00