Film Review: The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

SYNOPSIS:

Meet Steve West he is after all an American hero! Steve has just returned from a space trip that involved flying through the rings of Saturn, never mind the fact that half of his skin just came off in your hand when you tried to shake his. Did I mention that it might be a good idea for you to start running now?

REVIEW:

Director: William Sachs
Starring: Alex Rebar, Burr DeBenning, Myron Healey
“Steve? I’ve got to go out and find Steve!”

When I was just a little guy getting into horror films I loved the monsters. I stayed up late every Saturday night waiting for the monsters to come on television and put me to sleep, or sometimes keep me quite awake! When I arrived in my teenage years however my taste had began to change, for one I was going out on Saturday nights so the monsters took a back seat. I was still a fan of the horror genre but my taste had suddenly gone the way of the splatter film. William Sach’s 1977 film The Incredible Melting Man was the perfect mixture of the two genres to me back then and still to this day!

The Incredible Melting Man is about an astronaut named Steve West who is sent on a mission to fly through the rings of Saturn. Stop trying to make sense of it right now I can see you out there reading this, yes I know that it would be impossible to fly through the rings of Saturn…my nine year old son knows it is impossible to fly through the rings of Saturn but for the sake of the story just listen. Anyway while flying through the rings of Saturn something goes horribly wrong and Steve is the only survivor.

When we next see Steve he is all bandaged up in a hospital. The doctor that is in charge informs the nearby nurse that she is to check his vitals often and when needed she is to put fresh blood inside of his IV. In case you missed that he essentially needs fresh blood to survive. When the doctor and nurse leave the room Steve however springs to life and gets a look at his hands, after that he peels off his wrappings to reveal his face in the mirror and you would have guessed it from the title of the film he is melting!

Seriously all of that happens in the first five or six minutes of the move, the rest of the movie is basically some military guys trying to hunt Steve down including one Dr Ted Nelson who was Steve’s friend. Ted brings a lot of humor into the film in various moments, most of them involving his wife. There is a sequence in which he is asking for crackers for his soup and misses the fact that his wife tells him that they have none, there is also the scene where he informs his wife that Steve is just a little bit radioactive. Ted’s also got a boss named General Perry who comes in to help with the situation.

Steve West however simply spends most of the film wandering around the land and melting. Every place he steps or even brushes against causes him to leave a trail of slime which leads to some pretty funny scenes involving his victims. When Steve isn’t shambling around leaving pieces of himself hear and there (he leaves his ear on a leaf!) he attacks and kills people to nourish his body. You see Dr. Ted up there lets the viewer in on some information about Steve West.
According to Dr. Ted Steve West not only needs blood to sustain his life but the more he melts away the stronger he becomes and the more of his mind starts to decompose. So basically you have this guy who looks like a melting red candle roaming around the edge of town who keeps getting stronger but starts getting more violent in his methods of execution.

The victims of The Incredible Melting Man are also a great addition into the mix. There is a fisherman who is attacked and later has his severed head thrown down a waterfall. There is a group of young kids who are playing pranks on one another until one of them sees Steve. There is also a really grabby photographer and his model who come close to the fisherman’s body, again leading to a great scene where the photographer is just standing there taking pictures of the dead body in front of uniformed officers!

The end all be all of victims of The Incredible Melting Man though belong to Ted’s wives mother and her husband Harold. The banter that goes on between the two characters has to simply be heard, yes it is corny but it is also almost kind of sweet. The elderly lady wanting to pick up a gift decides that the two of them should pull over and steal some lemons from the side of the road. The elderly couple gets spooked by a moving bush and run back to their car only to be devoured by Steve! Like most monster movies the end of The Incredible Melting Man is kind of tragic, and there is a hidden meaning behind the last scene of the film that really isn’t quite so hidden. The main reason one watches The Incredible Melting Man however are the special effects. Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London) was in charge of bringing Steve West to life and boy did he ever!

The scenes where Steve is wandering around in the middle of the day are where Rick Baker’s effects really shine with that bright red makeup job. As Steve’s condition worsens the makeup job becomes grosser and grosser as well until the final climax for Steve West that is almost beautiful in all of its gore. Rick Baker also made sure that Steve West would easily leave trails of slime where he went, which go on to induce some rather funny if not out right gross moments in the film. There is also a scene where an arm is severed away from a body and then shown twitching for quite a while on the ground….basically this movie is a gore hound’s wet dream!

There is more to The Incredible Melting Man than great FX however, the cast all handle their jobs very well and William Sach’s has made the script move along quite quickly and with dashes of humor that lead up to some pretty creepy scares! Embrace The Incredible Melting Man and add him to your collection of tragic monsters!

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