Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The October Ordeal day 15: The Incredible Melting Man

October 15th: The Incredible Melting Man (1978)

(Spoilers, but who cares?)

The Incredible Melting Man may be a drive-in sci-fi/horror film from the 70s, but it feels more like a cheap 50's monster flick (Hideous Sun Demon specifically). A guy (Alex Rebar as Steve West) goes into space (to Saturn, actually) and comes back as a melting maniac compelled to kill.

Like Octaman, this film boasts early Rick Baker makeup effects. The melt-fx look fine, but rather average for the era. This is an extremely average film, fitting all the stereotypes of the worst in an already maligned genre (The Clones is similar in its uniform dullness). A pattern develops early on: the local sheriff and some doctors run around looking for Melt-face while he murders whoever happens to be wandering the country side. Featured is Burr DeBenning as Ted Nelson, former friend of Steve's.

Each of these scenes last so long they nearly morph Incredible Melting Man into an anthology film; this makes sense, each attack necessarily pads out the film. Melt-face attacks a group of kids, some fishermen, young lovers and tramps hanging out by the tracks. In fact, the entire film feels padded: it even seems to wait for its own end impatiently. Even though TIMM is less than 85 minutes long, it feels like dull, lifeless eternity.

The tone of this film is strange. While a guy melting to death might lend a seriocomic element to any horror film, at times Melting Man feels downright slapstick. In one nonsensical sequence, Nelson's mother-in-law wanders around trying to pick wild lemons... to circus music. The dialog in this scene is beyond inane.

From the Vestron cover art, I assumed The Incredible Melting Man would have something in common with Frankenhooker or Slime City. While this film and Slime City share a similar plot, they could be no different in tone. The only interesting thing in this film is the ultra-bleak ending: some cops shoot Nelson in a moment of confusion, Melting Man regains his identity momentarily, kills the cops and then melts to death. If this isn't depressing enough, the credits roll to a radio message announcing further trips to Saturn (think the final moments of Mutant or Rabid). A quiet moment belies the fact that the world is about to fall apart. If only the entirety of the film could have mined this one scene for its dark potential.

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