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Incredible Melting Man, The

Shout Factory // R // July 30, 2013
List Price: $19.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 16, 2013 | E-mail the Author
Listen to me! I'm Dr. Ted Nelson! Listen to me! I want to tell
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you all about The Incredible Melting Man! I'm Dr. Ted Nelson!

Nevermind. I get confused like that sometimes. Anyway, The Incredible Melting Man ranks among a very elite group of films: that tiny handful of schlocky flicks that were skewered ages ago on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and somehow managed to claw their way onto Blu-ray. Believe it or not, Shout! Factory has pretty much given The Incredible Melting Man the white glove treatment too, heaping on a bunch of extras and whipping out a drop-dead gorgeous presentation while they're at it.

So, The Incredible Melting Man is about who, incredibly enough, melts. That's actually a pretty comprehensive plot summary. I mean, it's a '50s-style creature feature with a monster tormenting some sleepy, hopelessly remote little town, there's a governmental cover-up, a couple of schlubs do their darndest to save the know the drill. Steve West (Alex Rebar) is melting just about from word one, glimpsed only briefly in less-melty human form as an astronaut whose spacecraft is bobbing around the rings of Saturn until zap-fizz-melt. Steve's body may be slowly liquefying, but it's his mind that's the first thing to go. Once Steve's back on this side of the galaxy, he skulks around his hometown, feeding off any poor bastard who crosses his path. Propelled by pure instinct, what was once Steve consumes their living cells and is able to slow down the melting for just a little while longer. The more he decays, the more his inhuman strength grows. The military brass tasks Dr. Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning) with recapturing the fallen astronaut, and he has more to worry about than his friends and family being in a melting man's crosshairs. There are just a few hours left until...well, something, and the further the clock ticks down, the more desperate he becomes.

With a title like The Incredible Melting Man, you pretty much know what you're getting into here. The movie was clearly shot on a shoestring, suffering from some very stagey-looking and underdressed sets. It's kind of a win that Alex Rebar is only saddled with a couple lines of dialogue; he's way better at melt-acting than talk-acting. A bunch of the supporting roles are performed with similarly borderline-surreal incompetence. This is one of those monster movies where the creature shows up every ten minutes, and the rest of the flick is padded out with excruciatingly talky sequences of boring people doing boring things. Zero
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tension or suspense. Even fewer scares, if that were mathematically possible. The Incredible Melting Man rarely nails the whole so-bad-it's-good thing, instead plodding along disinterestedly most of the time.

...and somehow, I still kinda like it. I mean, the make-up effects are remarkably well done and hold up astonishingly well after thirty-six years. Steve West's gradual disintegration is graphic and gruesome, easily standing out as the best thing about the flick. That's not surprising what with Rick Baker's name on the bill and all, and The Incredible Melting Man also features early effects work by GoreZone mainstays Rob Bottin, Craig Reardon, and Greg Cannom. As overly familiar as the skeleton of the premise is, it's schlocky comfort food. The film definitely deserves some credit for revving up its engine really quickly -- you score a melting man a few short minutes in -- and I'm genuinely impressed by its wildly unconventional and jaw-scraping-the-asphalt dark ending. Bonus points for casting scream queens Rainbeaux Smith and Janus Blythe too. A head-scratchingly pointless "so what, we don't have any crackers?!" lunch table scene is intercut with a severed head tumbling downstream. I looked on in awe as a "...the hell?" endless sequence with Dr. Steve West's mother-in-law and her septuagenarian man-friend droned on and on and on about the merits of wine as a gift and stealing lemons for a meringue pie, backed by a cue in the score that's one slide whistle away from the most finger-wagglingly wacky music ever. It's terrible, yeah, but it's so gleefully ridiculous that I can't help but crack a smile. We're talking about a movie that delivers rape-y nudity and a dismembered corpse in the space of a couple seconds. The Incredible Melting Man is a disaster on the horror end of things, but there is still something kind of unnerving about seeing a man -- even if it's not someone you're given a chance to know beforehand -- rot away over an hour and a half like that.

C'mon, it's a schlocky drive-in flick. You're into this sort of thing -- I absolutely am -- or you're not. The Incredible Melting Man isn't a great movie, but it's a lot less tedious than most of the un-MSTied movies I've suffered through over the years, and it delivers on at least some level in that '70s Saturday Night Creature Feature sort of way. Recommended.

The Incredible Melting Man looks kind of -- what's the word I'm looking for here? -- incredible...? Sure, sure, the lighting is all over the place, so the weight of the grain and overall crispness can vary somewhat from shot to shot, and the stock footage really doesn't blend in all that well. Generally, though, the presentation is sharp as a tack and surprisingly rich with detail. Colors are impressively vivid when appropriate, black levels are deep and inky, contrast is spot-on: I mean, it's a really, really nice presentation. No overzealous noise reduction gets in the way either, ensuring that the film's mildly gritty texture is present and accounted for. Nothing to gripe about in the way of encoding hiccups, posterization, or edge enhancement either. Like the man said...incredible!

Dual layer disc. AVC encode. 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

The Incredible Melting Man is rockin' a 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack in two-channel mono. The film's dialogue is expectedly dated but comes through well enough. Effects can fare a little better at times, but...geez! The standout for me is that Moog-centric music. There are some more traditional moments in the score that sound like an episode of T.J. Hooker or whatever, and the throttle-you-by-the-shoulders-whimsical bits that back the old people in the car are embarrassing, but whatever. Whenever The Incredible Melting Man breaks out the synths, it's glorious. There's not much to say about the
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technical end of things other than that it's basically what you'd walk in expecting to hear. The only out and out flaws are a couple of minor pops and clicks that are very easily shrugged off. Nicely done.

Commentary aside, the only other audio option is a set of English (SDH) subtitles.

Alas, Shout! Factory's licensing deal doesn't include a DVD and doesn't cover the seventh season MST3K episode. There's a lot more piled on here than I would've thought, though.
  • Interviews (23 min.; HD): A three minute interview with makeup effects artist Greg Cannom quickly touches on how he got his start in the industry as well as details on the melting effects he put together during reshoots.

    The featured attraction, though, is a twenty minute interview with writer/director William Sachs and makeup effects legend Rick Baker. The two of 'em were interviewed separately, but the conversations were clearly spliced together as a point/counterpoint sort of deal. Sachs spends a lot of time defending the mangled and misunderstood vision he had of a darkly comedic '50s EC comic; Baker seems to think the campier elements were completely unintentional. (Personally, I get the sense that the truth is somewhere in the middle -- that The Incredible Melting Man is a 1950s creature feature homage with a handful of deliberately goofy moments, but a lot of it's just inept.)

    Anyway, you get to hear about how a glob of I-don't-know-what from a spray paint factory inspired the flick, how it originally had the somewhat less amazing title of The Ghoul from Outer Space, failures in avant-garde film editing, extensive reshuffling and producer conflicts that reshuffled the end of the movie towards the beginning, and how Baker saw a movie like this as a professional backslide post-Star Wars. Definitely worth a peek.

  • Audio Commentary: Writer/director William Sachs returns for a commentary track that does a pretty decent job of dropping listeners alongside him in the low-budget horror trenches. He's a guy with a big personality and a metric ton of great stories to lob at you, from six-degrees-of-Fellini to a recurring deal with producers desperate to shove their severed heads in his movies. Sachs speaks quite a bit about how his original intentions for The Incredible Melting Man were mangled by producers, and although I totally understand lashing out now that he has a venue to do that, it does get kind of old hearing about how everyone -- all the producers, his French cinematographer, and even the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival -- had it out for him. I like this commentary well enough, but enough of the highlights are covered in Sachs' interview elsewhere on the disc that it's not an essential listen.

  • Photo Gallery (5 min.; mostly HD): You're lookin' at a mostly high-res montage of production stills, lobby cards, video artwork, newspaper ads, and a couple shots that look an awful lot like standard definition screengrabs for some reason.

  • Promotional Stuff (2 min.; SD): Last up to the plate are two standard-def trailers and a radio spot. The radio spot and one of the trailers are oriented around Rick Baker and his make-up effects work, interestingly enough.

The Final Word
Magnificent! You've never seen anything until you've seen The Incredible Melting Man in high definition! Recommended.
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