The Incredible Melting Man (1977)
by Jason Coffman
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Fans of sloppy 70’s schlock, rejoice! Thanks to DVD replicating technology so cheap that even the major studios are willing to master their obscure catalog titles to disc and totally burn you a copy for a reasonable price, more and more lost gems from all eras of film history have been receiving the disc-on-demand treatment. And thank the gods of b-horror that one of MGM’s latest “Limited Edition Collection” titles is the William Sachs classic The Incredible Melting Man. Previously only available on cheap bootleg DVDs mastered from poor VHS sources, MGM has finally unleashed this monster the way it was meant to be seen, and threw a theatrical trailer on the disc, too!
For those unfortunates who have not seen this film yet, a quick synopsis: Astronaut Steve West (Alex Rebar) returns from a mission to Saturn, the only surviving member of his crew. West is kept in a military hospital, but he soon escapes, driven mad by the voices in his head and the fact that he is melting. As in “melting like a candle,” his skin and muscles sloughing away as he tracks sticky footprints behind him. The only thing that will slow his melting is fresh blood, so Steve begins knocking off random passersby in a desperate attempt to keep from melting away to nothing.
As Steve wanders around getting into unpleasant interactions with a very unlucky fisherman and some massively traumatized children, he is pursued by Dr. Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning), who also has to deal with some trouble at home. Yes, The Incredible Melting Man has time for both a guy melting all over and/or killing people as well as some drama on the home front. Inevitably, all this melting must come to an end, but not before Steve West has managed to drag as many people down with him as humanly possible. Seriously, being a melting man is undoubtedly pretty horrible, but Steve West does not handle it well at all.
The Incredible Melting Man is maybe best known today for its appearance on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but it was also an early showcase for the makeup and effects work of a young Rick Baker. The effects are obviously one of the film’s main selling points, as writer/director Sachs gives the audience plenty of time to take them in. And now that we finally have this film on DVD, there’s no better way to take them in— simply put, this transfer looks amazing in contrast to the previous murky VHS-sourced releases of the film previously available. It’s even presented in 16x9 widescreen! Even if you have already seen the movie, it is absolutely worth watching again just so you can actually see what Baker’s makeup looked like!
Fans of low-budget 70s horror films will find a lot to like in The Incredible Melting Man, but for anyone who doesn’t like watching MST3K movies without the commentary, it might be rough to watch. In that case, perhaps a case of cheap beer and some chatty friends may be in order. In any case, no one should miss out on seeing this lost classic. Hopefully MGM will unearth even more gems like The Incredible Melting Man as they continue their “Limited Edition Collection” dvd-on-demand service!
The Incredible Melting Man is available now on DVD from MGM’s “Limited Edition Collection” through Amazon.com. The disc features a theatrical trailer.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org as well as contributing to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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