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.