Friday, April 27, 2012

Break Out the Bread! A Review of The Incredible Melting Man

The Incredible Melting Man (1977)
Directed by William Sachs

The Incredible Melting Man is considered one of the worst films ever made, and has been trashed repeatedly since it was released. "Bad" is always subjective, and the question that needs to be brought up when discussing any film is, "were you entertained?" With that in mind, I have come to praise the unfairly maligned Melting Man, and in my heart of hearts, I consider this one of the most fun horror films I've ever seen.

The Incredible Melting Man is one of those films, like The Fly and Robocop, that doesn't fuck around and is pretty much entertaining from start to finish, with very little lagging. It starts out in space, with three astronauts going to Saturn. A blast of radiation kills two of them, but somehow the third person, Steve West, survives. He gets back to Earth somehow and when he wakes up in a hospital he finds that his hands are blood red and appear to be melting. When he yanks off his head bandages and looks in the mirror he discovers that his face is similarly disfigured, and decides that the best course of action is to chase his nurse down the street and devour half of her face. Meanwhile, Dr. Ted Nelson, while examining the nurse's corpse, discovers that it's emitting some radiation, and that he better go find his melting friend as soon as possible before more people get hurt.

We find out that the reason why Steve's been snacking on people is because his skin is melting away, and in order to survive and slow the melting process he needs to keep devouring more flesh. The film turns into a melting manhunt, with Steve eating people and Ted, along with General Michael Perry, one step behind, finding dead bodies and gooey parts of Steve scattered all over. The film's climax takes place at a power plant, with Steve climbing to the top like a melty human King Kong, and Ted pleading with him to surrender. Ted slips and falls over a railing, but manages to hold on with one hand. Appealing to their friendship, Ted convinces Steve to pull him up with his gooey, dripping hand. Afterward a couple of cops show up and start yelling at Steve, and Ted, telling the cops not to shoot, is then shot in the face. Steve loses his shit and kills the two cops, but only after being shot several times on his charge down. Now that business is taken care of, Steve moseys over to the side of a building, falls down, and slowly starts to melt away, shown in loving detail. Morning breaks and a janitor arrives listening to a news report. The news report states that another mission to Saturn is about to take place, and the annoyed janitor fetches a shovel and pan and scoops Steve up and dumps him into a trash can.

This film has an odd mix of horror and humor, and the reason for that is executive meddling. It started life as a comedy, but the producers, convinced that a straight horror film would make more money, had the director cut the comedy scenes and insert more horror scenes. This is presumably responsible for the only scene in this film that's a drag...the one of the married couple coming home and the woman chopping off Steve's arm. There's no reason for this scene to exist, and it drags on with a shot of the woman lying on the floor in hysterics. Meanwhile, some of the funny scenes that remain are delightful. I loved the bickering geezers in the car and thought that their scene was very sweet (until they were eaten). Also, the janitor looking downright pissy about having to shovel up Steve's melted remains was a great ending and is sure to put a smile on your face. The comedy that wasn't intentional is the atrocious acting, but the badness of it is brilliant in its own way and keeps you entertained during exposition scenes that would typically drag.

There's no "monster hidden by shadows" or much "leaving horror to the imagination" in this film. Nope. The money's in the melting man, and you're going to see a lot of him in this film (in broad daylight, even). This is one of those rare films where you see the monster as much or even more than the leads, and his gooey, dripping appearance is courtesy of the brilliant makeup artist Rick Baker. In fact, what we see here is sadly only a taste of what he had in mind. Initially, he had stages of melting prepared, where you would see Steve going from scarred and semi-melted to more melted and then finally to the dripping bag of flesh that we're treated to throughout the film. Apparently the actor portraying the melted man was being difficult during his makeup sessions, so some of the stages were ditched, while the ones that were allegedly filmed sadly hit the cutting room floor, along with the comedy scenes. But what we're left with is fantastically disgusting. Steve's just dripping all over the place, with puddles of human goo acting as a breadcrumb trail for Ted, in addition to finding shit like Steve's ear stuck onto some branches. Also, for a man who's melting away and dying, Steve seems remarkably sprite and energetic. He's downright jaunty going through the woods on his killing spree, running and prancing about with more energy than the normal characters in this film.

There's just no other way to put it: The Incredible Melting Man is fucking awesome. I loved this movie and would highly recommend it to everyone reading this post, especially if you have an interest in "melt movies," that disgusting sub-genre of body horror where, obviously, bodies melting are a key plot development. One final bit of trivia is that this movie was the inspiration for the disgusting melting man that makes an appearance in Robocop.

 Recommended for people who like melt movies and brief geezer romance scenes.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Son of Godzilla: When Things Started Going Wrong

I've been on a Godzilla kick as of late and have been watching these movies in chronological order. So far, it's been great, and while I knew that the series was going to start going downhill, I had yet to encounter a Godzilla film that I could stand back and say, "wow, now THAT was a piece of shit." Which brings me to Son of Godzilla. Son of Godzilla stands as the first bad Godzilla film, and the first sign that the franchise was going downhill. While I didn't notice any stock footage, there were other things that stood out and killed my enjoyment of this film. They are:

Godzilla's weak. He looks more like a muppet and is more loving in this film. For the first time in the franchise, Godzilla isn't scary at all. He looks downright adorable at times.

The villains suck. Even that fucking giant shrimp from Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster at least had some kind of story and a background. People knew he existed, feared him, and took precautionary measures when having to get around him. I don't care what their names are, "giant spider" and "giant praying mantis" just aren't good characters when they randomly fly in and out of scenes and have little build-up. I don't care if that girl's journal mentions the giant spider before he shows up, it's still weak and doesn't build any kind of anticipation for his appearance. Sure, they look good and the suitmation on them is fantastic, but why should I care about them when no one on the island seems to view them as anything other than an inconvenience?

This is yet another fucking movie where Godzilla is either defeated or nearly defeated by bukkake. I'm sorry, I mean having an insect squirt a sticky white web/silk all over him.

The human story in this one is embarrassingly shitty. I'm not going to pretend that it was all that great in the previous films, especially Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, but at least you knew what the motivations were and could at least get somewhat invested in these characters. This film was a major instance of the screenwriter just phoning this shit in. How the fuck will freezing an island solve world hunger? Just temperature control in general? BULLSHIT! I know "solving world hunger" is supposed to make these scientists "noble," but their performances were dull enough that I didn't care about them or their stupid little experiments.

The island girl sucks, and her romance with the reporter is cheap and retarded. It's about as believable as that stupid movie where that guy from Friends and Salma Hayek fall in love and get married. And this is going to be the pig in me talking, but could Toho at least have given her a skimpier bikini to swim in? Fuck, the wardrobe for the boy in Godzilla vs. Megalon is more revealing than what this island woman wears.

Minira isn't too bad, but his theme song ruins everything. When he battles a monster and you hear that music, you just can't take the fight seriously. You know it's going to be wacky and cute, and therefore, you CAN'T get invested in it. The filmmakers are just daring you to care about the outcome of the battle at that point.

The Godzilla/Minira training scene isn't that bad. I can live with it. Unlike everything else in this piece of shit film, at least there's some character development going on here.

I know Godzilla monsters have tough skin, but a newborn Minira getting poked and prodded by two preying mantises and escaping without a scratch on him really pushes it, especially considering how doughy and soft he looks.

The final battle between Godzilla and the spider is slooooooooooooooow. Godzilla just stands there while the spider squirts all over him and Minira freaks out. Why Godzilla didn't just keep unloading his firebreath on that fuck is a mystery, because that's how he finally defeats it.
 The "don't worry, Godzilla's gonna live and be OK!" ending infuriated me, as did "hey look, our rescue ship is actually a submarine!" I don't know why the submarine bit pissed me off, but it just seemed like yet another lame bit thrown into the mix. 

I absolutely dread watching Godzilla's Revenge, because if I remember correctly, it's even worse than this one, even if Minira is working as an alter-ego for the main character or some shit. Now keep in mind, I don't hate Minira, and I get that the films are being dumbed down for kids. My main problem is that everything about this film was so lazy that I couldn't stay invested in anything that was happening, and having Godzilla's main villains being random-ass bugs makes it even worse because you're robbed of a potentially cool back story for the villain. And yes, the human story does matter in these films, because a Godzilla film is typically 1/3 Godzilla and 2/3 everything-that-leads-to-Godzilla. Just give me a little fucking context for these giant monster battles, please. That's the bare minimum you can do.