Forgotten Films: The Incredible Melting Man (1977)
One of the all-time great exploitation titles deserves an all-time great exploitation film. And this comes within dripping distance. I remember the rather scary ads for this on various late-night TV haunts, and being a young fan of Rick Baker whose work here was featured on the 145th cover of “Famous Monsters of Filmland,” I knew there was only one reason to see this — as did AIP who fashioned the old-school 1950’s “horror creature” campaign around Baker’s awesome make-up. Imagine a time when Baker alternated between OCTOMAN, THE EXORCIST, SQUIRM, STAR WARS and THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN. His work is fantastic as usual, with an iconic oozing creation and hard-gore effects. I wonder if the success of Mattel’s “Slime” toy influenced the production’s genesis…The film wastes no time getting to the point as astronaut Steve West (Alex Rebar) is given only moments of screen empathy before turning into a rampaging monster. Allegedly, Rebar refused to wear Baker’s more gruesome appliances. I love that Rebar is credited solely as “The Incredible Melting Man” right after the title.
A definite product of its drive-in era, the script is rife with classic bad lines (“Don’t quote me, but this was no animal attack” and “Oh God…it’s his ear”) and surreal moments (an attack followed by a character saying, “My wife is pregnant again”). The lead in search of the Melting Man, Dr. Ted Nelson, might be the most inept scientist in movie history — especially when he tries to halt the police from shooting by yelling, “I’m DR. TED NELSON!” Some scenes are pitched so campy that you can’t quite believe writer-director William Sachs wasn’t giggling behind the camera (which didn’t stop this from being a MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER favorite). Of course, the most memorable shot is a slow-motion severed head floating downstream — which drops over a waterfall and explodes onto a rock. You also have to dig the brief “Melting Man-Cam.” And if that hasn’t sold you, how about an appearance by the legendary Rainbeaux Smith and Jonathan Demme? There’s even a geiger counter! Incredibly…this notorious 70’s goo-fest gem is unavailable on DVD (except in Germany) but can be seen now on Netflix Streaming in a terrific MGM-remastered print. Believe it or not, this was my first viewing, bringing my genre life to some sort of horrible full circle.