DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
HD DVD/Blu-ray
International DVDs
Theatrical
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
DVD Savant
HD Talk
Horror DVDs
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

Columns



DVD SAVANT

Savant UK Region B
Blu-ray + PAL DVD Review


The Incredible Melting Man
Region B Blu-ray + PAL DVD
Arrow Video (UK)
1977 / Color / 1:85 widescreen / 86 min. / Street Date October 14, 2014 / £14.00
Starring Alex Rebar, Burr DeBenning, Myron Healey, Michael Alldredge, Ann Sweeny, Lisle Wilson, Cheryl Smith, Julie Drazen, Janus Blythe, Jonathan Demme.
Cinematography Willy Curtis
Makeup Effects Rick Baker
Original Music Arlon Ober
Produced by Samuel W. Gelfman
Written and Directed by William Sachs

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

The Incredible Melting Man hit screens late in 1977, when young theater patrons were so excited by Star Wars that cinematic dogs like Laserblast and Starship Invasions brought in crowds of kids. This no-budget wonder has survived in the memory almost exclusively because it bears a credit for makeup-meister Rick Baker, who just a few years before was working out of his house, helping to make John Landis into a monkey-man for the tiny monster comedy Schlock.

With a title like The Incredible Melting Man one expects another Schlock spoof, which is what writer-director William Sachs said he had in mind. The producer apparently disagreed, intervened and made sure that the movie was instead played straight. Since the scenes and dialogue lines that now seem hilarious, give no indication that the humor was intentional, the jury is still out on that call.

While "looking through the rings of Saturn", astronaut Steve West (Alex Rebar) contracts a wacky outer-space condition. When we next see Steve, his fellow astronaut is no more. Hidden from the media in a hospital room, Steve discovers that his skin is decomposing, making him look like a horrifying monster. He stomps out into the California sunshine and begins killing everyone he encounters. Dr. Ted Nelson (Berr DeBenning) is sworn to secrecy by General Perry (Myron Healey). The young Doc must hide the truth of the gruesome string of murders from Sheriff Neil Blake (Michael Aldredge). 'Melting Man' West wanders free, killing various people before heading for Dr. Nelson's own house, where Ted's pregnant wife Judy (Ann Sweeny) is alone and vulnerable.

Surprisingly fun to watch, The Incredible Melting Man can best be classified as an amiable time-waster for hungry fans of sci-fi monsters on the loose... the same crowd that can't resist The Hideous Sun Demon. Positive-thinking genre writers try to raise Melting's pedigree by citing the influence of the great The Quatermass Xperiment, which is also about a disintegrating astronaut on a madcap murder spree. But DNA testing confirms that Sachs' monster is more closely related to 1958's First Man into Space, or its ten-cent cousin The Crawling Hand. Both of those movies revive the sick astronaut motif (check) and add the no-fault plot device that every newly created monster man must suddenly acquire the need to kill people, for no reason at all. Jean-Luc Godard said all he needed to make a movie was a girl and a gun, but all that this sub-genre needs is a big guy with a mask, a vacant lot, and some spaghetti sauce for makeup. The absolute nadir of backyard filmmaking, and one of the most pitiful movies of all time, is a Meaningless Monster Amuck film -- Coleman Francis's inexplicable The Beast of Yucca Flats, with Tor Johnson.  1

The audience for this show came to see a man melt, and that's exactly what they got. While the rest of the cast dithers, drives cars from point A to point B and interferes with poor Sheriff Blake, TIMM stomps through the underbrush, scaring kids and picking off romantic couples. Drippy Steve West even offs the leading lady's elderly mother as she stops to pick some... lemons? Way out in the country. In the dark. From a production perspective one would think that Melting Man was an easy shoot. The principal players are often separated, acting on their own; the encounters are episodic and require just a couple of actors each. Sachs scored actress Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith for one brief scene of a model being molested by her photographer. There is apparently no preparation for the scene; it's as if someone discussed the role with the actress in the car, and they immediately jumped out and filmed it at the side of the road. As Ms. Smitth struggles topless, one can't help but think, 'she's so sweet, I hope she got better roles than this.' She did get a few, including the very good Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural.

The acting is basic. Veteran Myron Healey plays straight but frequently telegraphs his amusement with the material. Burr DeBenning's attempts to make his character appear nervous and distracted don't come off well, especially some silly dialogue about crackers. Nobody seems to have told Ann Sweeny what kind of movie she's in, so she performs her nicely shaded character in a vacuum -- the Doctor's wife is forever clueless. In for a couple of minutes is Lisle Wilson, an actor who made a major contribution to Brian De Palma's Sisters. Michael Aldredge is also competent as the sheriff, and Janus Blythe gives her all to an "I'm so scared I'm laughing" scene.

But we're all here to see the Melting Man. Top-billed Alex Rebar says two lines in a bad spaceship mockup, and for almost the entire rest of his performance is an unrecognizable mess that could have been played by anyone the same height. Cheapo '70s producers were always trying to nail down a name actor, as with Christopher Lee in Charles Band's End of the World, or Peter Cushing in Reuben Trane's Shock Waves. All that his movie has is a melting man, but producer Gelfman must have been hip to the new stardom being afforded special effects people. He somehow snagged Rick Baker, fresh from impressive work in the de Laurentis debacle King Kong (1976). Baker and his associates Rob Bottin, Greg Cannom and Craig Reardon sculpted a skull-head mask and truly horrible hands and feet for the melting man. The producer's response was to make sure that the monster is seen visibly 'melting' in every scene, a choice that obscures a lot of their work. This is why poor Rebar looks like someone is pumping hot wax onto his head at all times. The multicolored stuff oozes down his face, removing various facial features as it goes. Since so much dissolved flesh 'erodes' so quickly, the only place it could be coming from is the top of Rebar's head, as if his noggin' were a Goopy Volcano pumping out crud that looks like rancid pizza sauce. Just the same, the shots of the melting man's face earned the desired reaction from the young audience -- "Ewwwyew!" It's also fun when the Doctor finds a random ear hanging from the tree. In the disc extras, Rick Baker wonders, with all that flesh constantly dripping, why TIMM's hospital jumpsuit is so clean.  2

Highly placed sources (the IMDB) suggest that The Incredible Melting Man was partly filmed at a power generating plant in the San Fernando Valley, which results in a scene filmed in a large industrial interior, and a conclusion among some catwalks several stories up, similar to the Oil Refinery location in White Heat. The little bit of surprise plotting here doesn't help to raise our interest in the Melting Man, I'm sorry to say. And although director Sachs claims a satirical purpose to the final shots of our drippy main character, the way the scene is filmed gives no indication of any particular aim.

A big plus for the film is the music score credited to the prolific Arlon Ober -- the music itself isn't sensational but the way it's edited and timed to the film's action is quite good. It always makes us think something important is about to happen.


Arrow Video's Region B Blu-ray + PAL DVD of The Incredible Melting Man is a terrific transfer of this show; the previous TV viewing I had of it featured one of the worst-looking broadcast prints I've ever seen. The film looks brand-new, and considering the quality of Movielab prints of the era, possibly much better than brand new. Willy Curtis's images are sharp and bright and effects fans can mull over the details of the gloppity-glop monster while noting that the space footage is limited to two or three stock shots and a moving star field.

The transfer and extras appear to be the same as what appeared on Shout! Factory's Region 1 Blu from the Summer of 2013. William Sachs airs his side of the story on the feature commentary, explaining that the producers blocked his intentions at every turn. The film was originally structured differently and his first cut wasn't edited in a non-linear fashion (this confirmed by Rick Baker). A featurette gives us Sachs and Baker talking about the show, intercut with clips; Baker comes off less dismissive about the assignment than he does in print. An excellent designer, Baker was also a good organizer and built up a company of talent that could take on big jobs much like a small factory. Greg Cannom appears in a second interview that's less memorable.

Also included is an image gallery, a trailer and a transfer of the short 8mm digest version, which doesn't look much worse than old TV prints. Arrow's attractively designed insert booklet has a jokey essay by Mike White and an explanatory piece by Douglas Weir about 8mm movie versions that were sold as souvenirs of feature films. As kids, these things were the only way we could study our favorite movies up close. Sometimes I wonder if I hurt my eyes examining 8- and Super-8 film with magnifying glasses. I think Castle Films began putting out home movies of Universal product even earlier than reported by the U.K.-based Weir, and in 16mm as well.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
The Incredible Melting Man Region B Blu-ray + PAL DVD rates:
Movie: Good in a subgenre with diminished critical requirements!
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Writer-director commentary, two featurettes including interviews with Special Makeup creators, stills, trailer, insert booklet, 8mm home movie version.
Deaf and Hearing-impaired Friendly? YES; Subtitles: English
Packaging: One Blu-ray and one DVD disc in Keep case
Reviewed: October 21, 2014


Footnotes:

1. I mean, the Meaningless Monster Amuck sub-subgenre is so undemanding, it was a favorite subject for Monster Kids' old homemade 8mm let's-make-a-movie projects. Don't ask me about the one I made at age 12, because I'll deny any knowledge of it. We all got a taste of basic moviemaking grief, when one's best friend got tired of wearing the Don Post mask in the 105-degree heat, and quit.

The photos I've chosen display the wide variety and range of visual interest inherent in the idea of a melting man... note the delicate design, the lighthearted spirit! The unique visuals present us with an ethereal, almost pointillist impression of, uh, gravity at work.

My UCLA film professors of 1973 might have described The Incredible Melting Man as "having organic unity."
Return

2. I hereby claim to be the first to note that David Lynch deliberately and with malice aforethought plagiarized his "ear in an empty lot" scene from The Incredible Melting Man. William Sachs needs to demand the immediate destruction of all prints of Blue Velvet.
Return




Text © Copyright 2014 Glenn Erickson

See more exclusive reviews on the Savant Main Page.
The version of this review on the Savant main site has additional images, footnotes and credits information, and may be updated and annotated with reader input and graphics.

Return to Top of Page

Advertise With Us

Review Staff | About DVD Talk | Newsletter Subscribe | Join DVD Talk Forum
Copyright © MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. | Privacy Policy

Subscribe to DVDTalk's Newsletters

Email Address

DVD Talk Newsletter (Sample)
DVD Savant Newsletter (Sample)

Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
DVD Savant Region B Blu-ray Review:
DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
HD DVD/Blu-ray
International DVDs
Theatrical
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
DVD Savant
HD Talk
Horror DVDs
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

Columns



DVD SAVANT



Savant UK Region B Blu-ray Review



Blu-ray
Arrow Video (UK)
19 / Color / 1:78 widescreen 1:37 flat Academy / min. / Street Date , 2014 /available through Amazon.uk / £
Starring
Cinematography
Art directors
Editor
Original Music
Written by
Produced by
Directed by

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson


Blu-ray


Arrow Video's Region B Blu-ray of is a A warning: it won't play on domestic Blu-ray machines; one needs an all-region player.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Region BBlu-ray rates:
Movie:
Video:
Sound:
Supplements:
Deaf and Hearing-impaired Friendly? YES; Subtitles: English N0; Subtitles: None
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: , 2014


Footnotes:

 1 1. footnote
Return

 2 2. footnote
Return

 3 3. footnote
Return

 4 4. footnote
Return

 5 5. footnote
Return

 6 6. footnote
Return




Text © Copyright 2014 Glenn Erickson

See more exclusive reviews on the Savant Main Page.
The version of this review on the Savant main site has additional images, footnotes and credits information, and may be updated and annotated with reader input and graphics.

Return to Top of Page

Advertise With Us

Review Staff | About DVD Talk | Newsletter Subscribe | Join DVD Talk Forum
Copyright © MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. | Privacy Policy

Subscribe to DVDTalk's Newsletters

Email Address

DVD Talk Newsletter (Sample)
DVD Savant Newsletter (Sample)

Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise