Shortly after getting a nice view of the rings of Saturn, astronaut Steve West and his colleagues get blasted with space radiation. Steve manages to make it back to earth alive, but now he’s… incredible.
He wakes up suddenly in a hospital, his face Darkmanned in bandages. He goes to a mirror and pulls them off to find that yes, he is a melting man. He’s caught the Space Melt. All his skin looks like melted rubber or wax and constantly drips slime. This is upsetting to him so he starts smashing things. Before trying to calm him down, before calling security, a nurse (Bonnie Inch) who sees him drops the two glass jars of cold blood she was bringing him and runs away screaming. There’s a long slo-mo shot of this. Throughout the movie nobody ever reacts to him like he’s a man suffering from a horrible ailment. They act like he’s a bear running at them. And it turns out their instincts are right, because he mauls almost everybody he sees.
For most of the movie Steve wanders around a small wilderness area where he beheads a fisherman who looks like Willie from ALF and encounters some kids playing hide and seek (one of them mistakes him for Frankenstein). There’s more slo-mo when the severed head floats down a stream and then over a small waterfall. I pictured the effects guys jumping up and down and high fiving each other when the floating head bumped a tree branch and spun around to show its face to the camera.
The makeup, done by a young Rick Baker, is A+. An eyeball drops out, an arm falls off, everywhere he steps there’s a gooey residue. I was impressed that any time they showed his hands the slime just kept drip drip dripping off. Man, what a horrible condition. You take the bus or go to a movie theater or something, then when you get up there’s a big puddle of slim there. So embarrassing. I can see why he’s so mad.
But the effects are really the only good thing in this one. They deserve more of a real movie. The protagonists put on the worst possible search for this deadly threat. Because they want to keep it a secret a General (cowboy actor Myron Healey) sends two doctors, Loring (Lisle Wilson) and Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning) to go out with a Geiger counter to try to find him. I mean, think about all the resources that were thrown at harmless E.T., and here we have two inept, unarmed guys with no experience or knowledge of tracking trying to stop a possibly contagious walking space disease on a murderous rampage.
To be fair the General does fly in to help. But then when Ted sarcastically relays his wife’s dinner invitation the General accepts, saying they could use a break, and Loring goes home to sleep. I’m not trying to tell other people how to do their jobs, and I certainly know the value of a paid dinner break, but in my opinion this would be a good one to put in some overtime on.
The wife’s mother and her boyfriend are supposed to come too, but they stop to pick lemons and get attacked by Steven. When they don’t show up the wife throws a screaming tantrum telling the boys they should be out there looking for Steve. And of course she’s right! What the hell are they doing? Ted does go out to look again but the General (who just woke up from a nap at this point!) stays and waits for her to make him some food.
For some reason Steve is right outside the house watching them, but of course they don’t notice and the search commences somewhere else. Eventually there’s a showdown at a mill or factory or something. Ted ends up dangling from a catwalk calling for Steve’s help… which he actually receives. It’s the one and only part in the entire movie where Steve acts like a person. It’s too bad, because he’s such a cool looking monster he could be iconic if they’d done a good job and gave him a personality. We could have BRIDE OF THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN, SON OF THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN, PLANET OF THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN, THE INCREDIBLE MELTING D.A., etc.
By the way, I’m impressed that Steve was able to grip his hand. It would be a sad ending if he tried to save him but he popped out of those slimy hands like a greased pig.
No, he saves him, but he’s been shot and he’s falling to pieces, so he just gives up, just sits down next to an oil barrel and dissolves into a puddle. At least it’s a cool ending.
One time years ago I got to work in the morning and at the front door was a big cardboard box with some garbage around it. It had an overwhelming, revolting odor, the kind you can feel in your throat. It smelled so bad it seemed like there had to be a body part inside, or at least a dead animal. Somebody had flipped it upside down so you couldn’t move it without spilling its contents. So I slid a flattened cardboard box under it and tipped it to the side to get it onto a dolly and carry it to a dumpster.
There were no arms or heads inside. It was just a bunch of garbage, mostly rotting fruits and vegetables I think, real old. Once I’d removed it the smell was still there, I had to mop the area with bleach and give it time to fade.
I never knew if this was just some stolen trash, or intentionally cultivated to be used as a stink bomb. Was it an intentional fuck you to us, or did we just happen to be the spot where some mental case abandoned their compost collection? If it was a beef I doubt it was with me specifically, and I’m the only guy that had to clean the fucking thing up. So thanks alot, asshole.
I remembered that incident because of the excellent final scene in THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN. It’s a long, static, overhead shot of the place where the man finally melted. It’s the next day and some poor maintenance guy is walking the yard and notices a pile of slime and shredded clothes next to the wall. Disgusted, he tries to pick up the pieces and throw them in the barrel. He has to go get the pushbroom. He’s thinking jesus, who does this? Who leaves a mess like this?
I noticed a weird coincidence on the opening credits, which proudly tout “Alex Rebar as THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN.” That’s the guy that wrote that obscure shitty slasher DEMENTED that I just watched. I had no idea.
Writer/director William Sachs (GALAXINA) claims this was supposed to be a comedy but then the producers took the comedy parts out and added more serious parts. He asks “How can a serious horror movie end with the monster being shoveled into a garbage can?” I disagree. That’s clearly the best non-melting, non-severed-head scene, and yeah it’s darkly humorous but it completely works as just a brutally cynical ending. Too bad the rest couldn’t have been directed by somebody who knew that was brilliant.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.