"A new peak in horror!" the cover of the novelisation for THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN claimed back in 1977. While the movie on which it was based isn't that by any means, you have to give it some credit for belonging to that small group of films like SNAKES ON A PLANE where everything you need to know about it is in the title. It does indeed have a man who melts and yes, the effects are actually rather incredible. The rest of the film is rather less so, but if you want to see a bloke melt into a squidgy pool then no other movie will satisfy you quite like this one.
Space Mission Scorpio 5 is out near Saturn. How it took them less than the accepted five years to get there is never explained, but then neither is the fact that the sun that they are shown looking at appears rather unnaturally bright for something that should be at so great a distance. Perhaps the astronauts went the wrong way, or are looking at another star altogether. Certainly astronaut Steve West (Alex Rebar) doesn't sound entirely convinced he's looking at Saturn when he utters his one line of dialogue in the entire film. Perhaps his brain has already started to melt, though, so we should excuse him.
Something happens, Steve pulls a funny face, and then we're in a maximum security hospital with no guards and a nurse who can't run very fast and is even more hampered by slow motion and a plate glass door. It still takes Steve quite a while to catch her, though, so he must be even slower. He leaps out of bed, tears off his bandages, marvels at Rick Baker's Stage One of his prosthetic makeup effects, and then off he goes, chasing his victim very slowly down an empty corridor and out into an empty car park. He kills her and escapes and the US army jolly well deserve all that if they can't be bothered to guard him in the first place.
Funding must be poor because they can't even afford to send out troops to find him. Instead stiff as a board Dr Ted (Burr DeBenning) is assigned to wander randomly around the countryside with a geiger counter, even though it's actually easier to follow the bits of ear, nose, skin and gloopy stuff that's dotting the landscape at regular intervals. Ted checks each bit with the geiger counter, just in case one of them might have come from another incredible melting man that he's not looking for.
The melting man melts, everyone else doesn't act (in every sense of the word), Rainbeaux Smith's breasts appear gratuitously, a few people get killed, the melting man doesn't melt any more until right at the end where suddenly he becomes the consistency of some child's ghastly ice cream they've managed to spill on themselves rather than eat. He gets shovelled into a bin and another rocket takes off. The End.
THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN really isn't very good. In fact without Rick Baker's marvellous effects it would actually be pretty poor, and far less watchable as bad films go than PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. However, it's unfair to criticise a film too much that has such a great title, a great concept, and actually delivers on it. The novelisation fleshes out the story a lot more (how could it not?) and remains the one book I have ever read that made me feel nauseous, mainly because of its constant descriptions of mucus.
Arrow's Blu-ray of THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN looks terrific, and Baker's effects hold up very well indeed to close scrutiny. Extras include interviews with Rick Baker and writer-director William Sachs, as well as a Sachs commentary. Probably best watched by those with nostalgia for its original double-bill release across the UK with THE SAVAGE BEES.
Arrow Films released THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN on dual format Region 2 DVD & Region B Blu-ray on 13th October 2014