The Incredible Melting Man Blu-ray Review
Written and directed by William Sachs
1977, Region A, 84 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on July 30th, 2013
Alex Rebar as Steve West
Burr DeBenning as Dr. Ted Nelson
Myron Healey as General Perry
Ann Sweeny as Judy Nelson
Michael Alldredge as Sheriff Blake
“You've never seen anything ‘til you've seen the Sun through the rings of Saturn!” is a quote destined to stain your brain once you have experienced director William Sachs' nonsensical The Incredible Melting Man. This low-budget camp classic was briefly a staple on late-night cable television and feels like something out of a time capsule. It is slowly paced, poorly acted, poorly directed and highly recommended for viewing with a group of friends. This is a high-concept film for people not looking to be bogged down with excessive plot or character development.
In an interview on the disc, Sachs describes how he wanted the picture to start with a shot of a fat nurse (his words) running down a hallway and throwing herself through a glass door for no apparent reason. She is attacked in a parking lot by a drippy beast and the authorities are brought in to figure out what is happening. Ideally, the audience would learn things at the same time as the characters on screen. The film's producers wanted a more traditional framing device and included the following introductory material:
While on a routine mission to Saturn, astronaut Steve West stops to admire the sun through the planet's rings and a solar flare destroys his crew and presumably his ship. Somehow, Steve wakes up in a hospital with his face and hands bandaged. He unwraps himself only to discover that he is horribly scarred and his flesh is melting off his bones. Steve lunges at a fat nurse and chases her down a hallway, now in slow motion. By adding the astronaut angle at the beginning of the picture the producers gained two things. First, they have established a reason for what's happening and more importantly, they have created a scene that will repeat in at least one flashback and again as voice over thoughts in Steve's head.
Steve slowly shambles along through the wilderness, looking for... well, it's never really explained where he is going except that by eating human meat he can somehow temporarily regenerate cells, so audiences have that to look forward to. Meanwhile, the military gets involved with tracking down the “monster” and General Perry enlists the assistance of Steve's good friend, Dr. Ted Nelson. The local police arrive on the scene once Steve eats a fisherman and scares a little girl who confidently identifies him as Frankenstein. The rest of the story plays out with the good guys always one step behind the incredible melting Steve until the downbeat finale.
There is only one reason this film has enjoyed its extended shelf life and that is the early work of legendary makeup effects artist Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London). His designs are covered in endless amounts of slime but are still effective as Steve begins dropping body parts. One highlight to the film is the murder of the fisherman, whose decapitated head slowly floats downstream to a messy end. The makeup work still holds up after 35 years and is the highlight of an otherwise tedious experiment in low-budget walk-and-talk misadventure. To be fair, there are some fun, awkward moments throughout the movie, but it really is Baker's work audiences will remember.
Alex Rebar (writer of To All a Good Night) has the dubious honor of starring as Steve, the central character who doesn't receive a last name until the final moments of the movie so that everyone is forced to look for a monster named Steve. The rest of the cast does the best they can given the material, with Burr DeBenning (Cruising) and Myron Healey (Claws) receiving the most screen time as Dr. Ted Nelson and the general, respectively. Ann Sweeny plays Judy Nelson, the housewife eager to be the perfect host and shares an awesome scene with DeBenning where her character has neglected to purchase crackers for her husband's soup. This sequence is just a sample of the daily challenges these people endure while waiting for our melting friend to crash the dinner party.
The Incredible Melting Man is a perfect example of the type of film kids would see and then tell all of their friends about at school the next day. It has a lot of memorable moments, including the awkward nurse running through a door and some brief nudity for the sports fans, but nothing really exciting happens in this movie. Over the years the film has remained elusive to home video markets, and this has only helped its reputation. Scream Factory brings the title back to store shelves with their usual attention to detail and while the content may ultimately be lacking, the disc itself is worth checking out.
Video and Audio:
Scream Factory delivers another solid presentation with this impressive transfer preserving the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Things look pretty respectable with the exception of some funky stock footage from NASA of solar flares and a shuttle orbiting the moon. The rest of the feature offers strong colors and deep black levels with natural looking flesh tones and nice detail in the incredible melting mug.
The original mono soundtrack is offered in a nice DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix. Dialogue remains clean and free of distortion. Music cues are a bit loud but never overpowering. English subtitles are provided.
Scream Factory delivers a small number of extras, but they are impressive.
First up, writer/ director William Sachs delivers an entertaining commentary track embracing the silly nature of the film. He discusses the troubled production and meddling producers and editor and points out the material that was shot without him. There are not many moments of prolonged silence, but the track would have benefited from a moderator.
Up next are a collection of interviews with Sachs and makeup artists Rick Baker and Greg Cannom. Sachs repeats some of the information from his commentary here, but the real reason to tune in is Baker. The makeup legend reflects fondly on the project and shares his thoughts on the design and working with the cast. Definitely worth checking out.
The original theatrical trailer rounds out the special features on this disc.
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