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STUDIO Shout! Factory
RUNNING TIME 84 Minutes
• Audio Commentary by Writer/Director William Sachs
• Interviews with Rick Baker, Greg Cannom, and William Sachs
• Theatrical Trailers
You will believe a man can melt.
Alex Rebar, Burr Debenning, Myron Healey, Ann Sweeny
Colonel Steve West has just returned from an incredible history-making flight to Saturn when he is hospitalized with an ailment that baffles the entire medical community. His flesh is melting, and to stay alive he must consume human flesh and blood. The infected Colonel West escapes from the doctors’ supervision and hides in the surrounding community where he begins to hunt for human flesh. Who can stop The Incredible Melting Man?
For the last year or better Shout! Factory has been bringing out a surplus of lost cult horror movies on Blu-Ray and DVD under their Scream! Factory label. The quality of the releases has been received by horror fans as unanimously positive; the movies are all beautifully re-mastered and any and all special features that can be scraped together are on the discs. I mention this only for those who aren’t aware, as the bulk of this review has nothing to do with the quality of the package Shout! Factory has put together (which is top-shelf as usual) but with the quality of the actual movie on display.
Unfortunately when your business model is bringing back old cheesy horror movies that didn’t get a lot of love in their day, your going to end up unearthing some cult movies that aren’t really even worth the trouble of reminding people they exist. Now before I sink my critical fangs into this movie’s succulent neck-meats I will say I was giddy as hell about previous Shout! releases like Damnation Alley and The Video Dead. Both of those movies have been shat on from a great height by reviewers the internet over (including the reviewers on this very site) so I grant that The Incredible Melting Man may have its own devoted fanbase and to you hypothetical people I apologize for this thing I am about to do. For what it’s worth I’m glad you get something out of this movie, because I have decided after multiple viewings that it’s just not my thing.
We start off with a crew of astronauts watching a solar flare through the rings of Saturn. They are then bombarded by magical space radiation, which kills all the of the astronauts save for our titular melting man. Any explanation of how a barely conscious man with a fried brain and radiation burns over 100% of his body manages to make the absurdly long journey back to earth by himself would be laughably stupid, so the movie offers none. I’m just going to assume it was wizards.
He breaks out of an entirely unguarded top secret government medical facility, killing a nurse off-screen in the process. The doctor examining him deduces that he is now a mindless killing machine based on the scientific observation of him having already read the script. Melty is rapidly decaying, causing him to need living flesh to keep him alive, and the more he melts the stronger he becomes because that is how decay works.
Having deduced that Melty is both murderous and extremely dangers, the doctor and a military general embark on the most half-assed ineffectual manhunt ever, which includes looking for Melty with a geiger counter for a few minutes, then giving up to go home and eat lunch, followed by looking for him for a couple hours by car, then giving up to go home and eat supper. Meanwhile Melty shambles around a Hollywood backlot, killing and menacing several people with a variety of ridiculously elaborate reasons to be there, until he gets tired of the lack of plot progression and just shows up at the doctor’s house.
While the acting on display is pretty awful across the board I have to single out our monster (played by Alex Rebar) who is more terrible than a million after-school specials, public access shows, and late night horror movie hosts combined. He pauses between words for no reason, reads his lines in an impossibly flat monotone, and all but shouts “Line!” He has maybe three lines in the whole movie and he fails them all. But even Rebar isn’t as weird or awkward as the entire movie itself.
Writer/Director William Sachs can’t seem to write dialogue or think up any interesting action set-pieces, so we mostly get inane moments that serve no purpose to the narrative. A woman runs straight through a plate glass door that probably wasn’t even locked. A group of kids stop by a pile of junk and inform a girl that this was once their fort but somebody knocked it down. The main character stops mid-sentence in his explanation of the radioactive monster he’s unleashed to flip out at his wife for forgetting the crackers for his soup. An elderly couple who are late to dinner at a relative’s house stop to raid a lemon grove. It’s like watching an episode of Twin Peaks without the atmosphere or Kyle McLaughlin’s raw sex appeal.
This isn’t really that surprising; The Incredible Melting Man is really about 10% plot and 90% pointless filler and it’s really lazy about even that. At one point the camera flashes to a disembodied head that was severed several scenes ago as it tumbles over a waterfall, and at one point, Melty has a flashback of the entire first scene for no reason. The entire movie is a brisk 84 minutes but it feels like hours.
The special effects seem to be the only thing that anyone has complimented since this movie was released, but even that’s a bit of a false positive. Melty looks pretty great and the way he gets progressively more goopy and disgusting as the movie goes on is indeed worthy of accolades. However, any of the other gore effects (wounds, blood, severed limbs) are cheap and shitty looking.
The Incredible Melting Man is a concept that easily could have worked — it’s essentially a mashup of Slime City and Lifeforce after all — but it lacks direction, plot, pacing, and charm. Even its appeal as a “so bad it’s good” is dubious given how slow it is.
I think that William Sachs was trying to make a new movie monster, a Wolfman or Frankenstein for the space age, unfortunately nobody seems to have done anything besides coming up with that concept. Everything about this movie (except the monster make-up) feels half-assed.
As I said, I’m sure somebody likes this movie, and I say more power to them. But in my not-so-humble opinion The Incredible Melting Man is a justly forgotten turkey that deserves to remain in the vault of obscurity until the end of time.
There’s an audio commentary with Williams Sachs as well as interviews with Sachs, Rick Baker, and Greg Cannom as well as some theatrical trailers for the movie. This release is Blu-Ray only and features subtitles. Picture is 1080p HD widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1:78:1.