Astronaut Steve West (Alex Rebar) and his fellow astronauts are further than any other humans have traveled before. They have reached Saturn and are marveling at its wondrous rings. Steve at one point says, “You've never seen anything, til you've seen the Sun through the rings of Saturn!”. Right after this moment, something goes horribly wrong. A quick cut to a hospital and Steve lies in bed. The only surviving member of his mission, Steve has a most unusual ailment. His skin is melting and no one knows why.
The Incredible Melting Man (1977) is written and directed by William Sachs. Though it was released the same year as Star Wars and shares the same makeup effects man (Rick Baker) the two films have nothing else in common. The Incredible Melting Man ismore of a throw back to the space movies of the previous decade. The wonder of what is out there and the perils of hurtling our bodies out into the void were the movies of that time. Sadly, The Incredible Melting Man, with all its horror, lacks two important elements; the first being characters that we care about and the second is plausibility.
Very little is given to the audience in terms of character for the doomed astronaut Steve West. We learn that he is friends with the two men trying to save him but little more. Dr. Ted Nelson (played by Burr DeBenning) is the only character that is really flushed out. He is at odds with the General (Myron Healey) that wants Steve brought back in alive. His wife is pregnant and the shock of what Steve has become might upset her. His final plight is trying to find a way to reach the man beneath the monster. Sadly, this really sounds better than it is. A film from the 60’s era would have had all these characters related. For example, Steve would have been Ted’s brother-in-law, the General obviously would have been Steve’s father and so on. This might seem a bit cliché, but it worked at establishing a relationship for the characters. This film leaves little to the imagination and looks as if it were shot over a weekend.
The plausibility factor runs rampant through your mind during The Incredible Melting Man. If only this film reached those “so bad it’s good” standards that you could forget plausibility, it might have been an enjoyable flick. A few quick things to take notice of are: How did Steve survive the long trip back and no one else did? How can you see the Sun from Saturn, shown in the picture as huge solar flares, when it is 1.4 billion km away? At the rate at which Steve is melting, he would have been dead those first couple of hours back on Earth because of our atmosphere. What young girl believes a guy with that type of mustache is going to want only clothed pictures of her in the desert?
The Star Wars connection with Rick Baker and the science fiction boom of 1977 is probably the only thing that got this film into the theaters. It has an R rating for the gore (actually pretty good gore) and the nudity. No, Ted’s wife doesn’t get busy with the Melting Man but a photo shoot in the desert gives us the T and A a film like this requires.
The Incredible Melting Man, voted one of "The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made", could have a redeeming factor to it. It should be a movie shown to all film students. Granted most students are shown the likes of Citizen Kane and Casablanca. Why not show them the mistakes and perils of low budget film making instead? For this reason and this reason alone, The Incredible Melting Man might actually serve a purpose.
Robert Trate writes two weekly columns for Mania the DVD Shopping Bag and the Toy Maniac. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.
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