Judge Daryl Loomis knows the sorrow of an incredible melting ice cream cone.
"You've never seen anything 'til you've seen the Sun through the rings of Saturn!"
For some reason, The Incredible Melting Man often gets placed on "worst movie" lists. While I admit that it's not a great film, I know of a good number of movies that trade in pretty much the same business and are demonstrably worse. Class of Nuke 'Em High 2 is an easy example off the top of my head, but there are plenty. What does anybody expect when the whole plot revolves around a guy slowly melting and attacking people in the process? In any case, it's newly available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and I'm happy to review it.
Facts of the Case
On a mission to orbit Saturn, three astronauts are blasted by an intense wave of radiation. Two are dead upon their return, but the third, Steve West (Alex Rebar, Tales of Canterbury) is horribly changed. His skin has begun to melt, and his brain along with it. On top of it, he's become incredibly strong and now has a taste for human flesh. One of the heads of the original mission, Dr. Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning, Cruising), must now get to him before the bodies pile even higher.
Dumb as the dialogue is and terrible as the acting may be, I can't help but love The Incredible Melting Man. How could I not? It's a latter-day creature feature in the old sense, recalling drive-in double features and old horror comics that plainly weren't made at the time. In 1977, the slasher craze had started and realistic, outwardly disturbing horror films had become the norm.
There's nothing realistic or disturbing about The Incredible Melting Man; it's pure, unflinching fun that revels in its badness and it's a minor treasure. It doesn't have a lot of the trappings of normal good movies, of course, and by most regular measures, it's pretty awful, but what it does have is the creature effects by the legendary Rick Baker (Videodrome). His Melting Man effect is brilliant, totally disgusting, goopy and oozing, increasingly so as the movie goes on and his body degenerates. This goes on until the very final moments, which begin with the best, most disgusting effect in the picture and ends with the film's funniest joke.
Fans of cheesy cinema will absolutely love the performances and dialog which, among other terrible things, has an interaction in which Dr. Nelson, having just heard about Steve's escape, berating his wife for forgetting crackers at the grocery store. As she tries to remind him about Steve, he just doesn't hear her, so angry he is about the crackers. There are plenty of bits like this, though that's my personal favorite.
Writer/director William Sachs (Galaxina) knew exactly what he was making in The Incredible Melting Man, and he perfectly succeeds in it. He wanted to make a fun, cheap horror picture and that's what this is. One can't really put the same measures on a movie like this as we do Gone with the Wind. There really isn't an intention to be a "good" film as much as a piece of stupid popcorn entertainment. For the time, it's hard to find something more completely successful in this and I'd take it over much of what comes out today.
The Incredible Melting Man performs very well on Blu-ray, resulting in a release that looks and sounds far better than it ever has on home video. The 1.85:1/1080p image transfer looks relatively fantastic, if still a little cheap. You can only do so much with a movie this cheap and they've done as well as they possibly could in restoring it. The image is sharp, with very good detail and nice colors. The melting effects are goopier and shinier than ever before without highlighting any fakeness. The 2-channel mono track is nothing special, but it's free of noise with perfectly clear dialog and about as much dynamic range as a mono track is going to get.
Extra features are limited, but pretty good overall. There is an audio commentary with William Sachs, where he goes through all kinds of production stories, as well as a ton of complaining about what the producers forced onto his script. It's pretty amusing and he clearly has a lot of affection for the film. Three interviews continue the slate, one with Rick Baker, one with Greg Cannom, who also did effects on the film, and a third with Sachs, who goes through a lot of the same information. A photo gallery, radio spots, and trailers round out the disc.
If viewers go into The Incredible Melting Man with muted expectations, there is a whole lot to enjoy about it. Rick Baker's simply disgusting effect on the title character, though that's no real surprise, but that's the film's calling card. Throughout, though, the movie is just plain fun, a cheesy throwback to the horror comics and creature features of the 1950s. With this solid Blu-ray release, there's no reason to not have a few laughs and eyerolls at the movie. If you're like me and have affection for the horror of old, then I can absolutely recommend the picture.
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