BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: WILLIAM SACHS / SCREENPLAY: WILLIAM SACHS / STARRING: ALEX REBAR, BURR DEBENNING, MYRON HEALEY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
It’s 1977 and horror fans and small boys are thrilled by just one scene in William Sachs’ The Incredible Melting Man - the infamous sequence where the decapitated head of one of the unfortunate victims of dissolving astronaut Steve West drifts lazily downriver before falling over a waterfall and smashing open on the rocks below.
It’s a silly and ludicrous scene but, thirty-seven years on, The Incredible Melting Man is exposed as a silly and ludicrous film. Writer/director Sachs intended his movie, a Quatermass Experiment for the 1970s (hapless American astronaut returns from a space mission infected by some cosmic lurgi which causes him to… well, melt) as a cheerful parody of cheesy 1950s exploitation horrors. But the studio thought otherwise and Sachs was forced to try to make something inherently utterly ridiculous into a full-scale gross-out horror film. Poorly-received at the time and memorable only for that scene, The Incredible Melting Man isn’t only wilfully stupid, it’s also achingly inept; its grisly body horror now more laughable than horrific and the moments of comedy which survived studio interference sit awkwardly with the po-faced idiocy of the unfolding dribbling drama.
Returning from a stock footage space exploration mission which kills his colleagues, Steve West (Rebar) escapes from hospital when his body starts to dissolve. He sets off on a killing spree, consuming human flesh to slow down his physical decay. Unfortunately, despite make-up guru Rick Baker’s best efforts, Melty looks like a man with a very bad head cold with a pizza stuck to his face, and the guffaws come loud and proud when his ear falls away and is found hanging from the branch of a tree. The uniformly bad acting (Burr DeBenning’s ‘hero’ Dr Nelson is spectacularly stilted) is perfectly complemented by Sachs’ witless script and ham-fisted direction, which squanders its moments of tension, and the ‘comedy’ interlude involving a pair of geriatrics meeting a grisly end is as misjudged and incongruous as it’s unfunny.
But despite its cack-handedness, there are a couple of moments which just about make The Incredible Melting Man worthwhile. The ending is suitably bleak and low-key, as an unsuspecting janitor arrives on the scene and reluctantly starts to mop up Melty’s gloopy remains and a voiceover announces another space mission suggesting - yikes! - that it could all happen again. Fortunately The Incredible Melting Man spawned no sequels (although, knowing Hollywood’s current frame of mind, we’d bet good money that someone out there is thinking about a remake) and remains a clumsy curio whose reputation is briskly brutalised by this crisp new Blu-ray transfer courtesy of Arrow.
Special Features: Souvenir booklet / William Sachs, Rick Baker, Greg Cannom interviews / Director commentary
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