I have vague recollections of this film. Since it came out when I was eight, I’m sure part of my fragile little psyche (BWAHAHAHAHA!) couldn’t quite process the implications of what was happening to the main character. I remember something in space turned him all goopy. And that’s about it. So why not revisit this campy little gem 30+ years later?
The Incredible Melting Man is the story of Steve and two other astronauts that aren’t important enough to have names. While their ship passes through the rings of Saturn, solar flares shoot out and do…something. The last we see, our intrepid space man is suffering a severe nose bleed and all goes white as he passes out.
The next thing we know, the no named spacemen are dead and Steve’s head and hands are wrapped up in gauze. Apparently the department store pajamas he’s been dressed in are sterile enough to protect the rest of him. The doctor is freaking out over his condition and orders the staff to keep it on the down low until he can consult with NASA.
But what is his condition? I’m so glad you asked. Steve wakes up and breaks the straps holding him down. Ripping off his bandages, he sees his flesh is all melted and gooey. RAMPAGE! As he destroys his room, the nurse comes in and he attacks, chasing her down the hall in epic slo-mo, then escapes.
The nurse’s corpse, with half eaten face, is discovered later. A gubmint doc is brought in, Ted Nelson, as well as General Perry. They are pooping themselves to track Steve down and bring him back in. They must discover what happened to him! Though somehow they know he needs human cells to survive so maybe it’s also important to STOP HIM FROM KILLING PEOPLE AND EATING THEM.
Steve mostly can’t remember who he is or what happened. He does a lot of stumbling around in circles while we hear snippets from the space mission echo around him. Luckily the part of his humanity that would keep him from killing a young girl is still in tact. She runs home to tell her mom that Frankenstein is in the woods (that’s Frankenstein’s monster. Damn you, Hollywood!) but of course she’s just got an overactive imagination and nothing more is done about that nonsense.
I’m finding it difficult to believe he could elude the authorities for so long. He looks like a candle that’s been left out in the Arizona sun. Dr. Ted even finds Steve’s ear stuck to a tree, and kindly explains it to those of us who may be visually impaired. How the hell is he even still alive?
After a lot more bullshit, Dr. Ted and the Sheriff corner Steve at the power plant. No one is supposed to shoot him, even though the more he melts, the stronger he gets (THAT MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING SENSE). However, someone forgot to tell the security guards, Barney and Goober. Steve rampages again, though he does save Dr. Ted from falling to his death, then runs off to search through some trash bins. When he can’t find what he’s looking for (what the hell was he looking for?), he finally finishes melting completely into a glob of fantastic jelly goodness.
Oh, but it’s not over, gentle folk. True government stupidity abounds via a radio announcement of another NASA mission to go explore a new planet that was discovered on the last mission. Yeah, the mission where two guys ended up dead and one turned into a walking peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
There is just so much awful in this movie that I’ve concluded its crappiness is why I’ve forgotten most of it. To be fair, this was on Netflix and the signal kept buffering. The last ten minutes took thirty minutes to view so by the end I just wanted to conduct my own rampage and put my fist through the TV.
The acting is pretty sub-par. The sheriff is probably the most believable character. Thankfully they didn’t write him off as some kind of back country rube. I hate to say it but I think the nurse who was the first to get eaten delivered the best performance. She had a great scream and her facial expressions, particularly in slow-motion, conveyed absolute terror. Everyone else felt like they just phoned it in. Dr. Ted beseeching Steve not to hurt anyone sounded like Willy Wonka when he insists on the kids to stop acting like little turds (‘no, stop, come back’).
The writing felt extremely lazy. Over halfway through the film they threw in the little tidbit about Ted’s wife being pregnant. The only reason I can fathom they did that was because her parents were coming to visit and needed to bring her a present. So let’s have them stop in an orange grove to steal some fruit where Steve is conveniently hiding. Another issue is this ‘time table’ they’re working against. They have to find Steve by 7am. Why? They never really explain that, unless that’s the point where Steve turns into a puddle and then they can’t run experiments on him or something.
There’s also what feels like a lot of ‘filler’ time. Gratuitous monster shambling as bits of the opening space scene play over and over. We were given a good 3-4 minutes flashing between a shot of Ted’s wife knitting and Steve peeping at her from outside while he drips on the ground. All the geiger counter usage to follow a radioactive trail left by Steve. Just follow the slime and sloughed off body parts for crying out loud. Even at the power plant, there are several minutes of Steve being chased up the stairs by the Sheriff and Dr. Ted. The Benny Hill theme would have been perfect background music.
That said, the special effects were pretty cool for 1977. And let’s face it, Rick Baker is a master of this stuff. As Steve walked around, the close up shots of his feet showed little sticky slime strings being left behind with each step. There was a bit of gratuitous use of the slow motion trickery but I enjoy seeing lots of detail when a head topples over a waterfall and gushes blood as it crashes to the bottom. And the final meltdown is ooey gooey awesomeness.
I do love the cheesy camp of this movie but a lot detracts from the overall enjoyment of it.
2 hatchets (out of 5)