Blu-ray Review: The Incredible Melting Man

Starring: Alex Rebar, Burr DeBenning, Myron Healey, Ann Sweeny
Director: William Sachs
Rating: 6/10

“He’s going to need human cells to live on, and his instinct will tell him to kill!” Well, it’s as good a rationale for a monster flick as any. A manned space probe passes through the rings of Saturn (but wait, isn’t that some old stock footage of the moon?), and all but one of the astronauts get roasted to death by an ill-timed solar flare. Back on earth, the gloopified lone survivor (Alex Rebar) breaks out of hospital, leaking radiation and eating the face off a nurse – an event that would seem to call for a full-scale search. Instead, our hero Dr Nelson (Burr DeBenning) sets off with his Geiger counter to track down the mindless monster, and a tame general (Myron Healey) tags along.

They’d better get set for quite a trek. The rest of him might be turning into a bad pizza topping, but there’s nothing wrong with the Melting Man’s feet: he walks miles over the course of the film, eating anyone who gets in his way, including, by a terrible coincidence, Dr Nelson’s mother-in-law. And the really bad news is, he also has a serious case of the munchies for Dr Nelson’s wife (Ann Sweeny). Can Dr Nelson stop him before he eats two generations of the same family?

As writer/director William Sachs explains in the extras, The Incredible Melting Man (originally titled The Ghoul From Outer Space) was intended to be a gory schlock sc-fi spoof, but the film’s producers wanted a straight horror flick. The result is a movie that suffers from too-many-cooks syndrome. You can see that certain elements were meant to be funny – the characterisation of Dr Nelson as bumblingly ineffectual and out of his depth, and General Perry as a useless hanger-on who does nothing except drink Dr Nelson’s beer and raid his fridge – but for most of the time the tone is flat, and you look in vain for sly nods and winks in the direction and performances. It’s not the most eventful of films either – it would be nice if there were a more solid, thought-out dramatic base supporting all that gloop. Still, The Incredible Melting Man has several real assets – crisp camerawork, the leafy San Fernando valley locations, and Rick Baker’s fun and colourful monster effects (it’s worth seeing the movie just for the moment when the Melting Man’s eyeball falls out).

And whatever you think of the film, there’s no denying that it’s beautifully presented here on this Blu-ray. The HD transfer (supervised by MGM) is outstanding, without grain or any other blemishes. You would expect the bright exteriors to look good (for instance, the scene where Dr Nelson is mulling over a mauled corpse, with the desert skyline behind) but the real surprise is how pristine the early hospital sequences are, with their chilly grey walls and green tiles. Scenes like these quite often fail to impress on Blu-ray, but not in this case.

The extras include a 19-minute interview with Sachs and Baker. The latter chats incredible-melting-man 1entertainingly about creating the monster with foam rubber masks and melted gelatin, but it’s Sachs who has the most to say. He talks about his clashes with the producers and the changes they made, to the extent that he considered taking his name off the movie. This material is covered again in his audio commentary. He explains that his original plan was to reveal that the Melting Man was an astronaut only at the end, but the producers decided to take that as their starting point. The rings of Saturn sequence and the moment when the Melting Man wakes up in hospital were all reshoots added against his wishes, and the film was supposed to begin with the terrified nurse running in slow motion. Not that Sachs spends all his time complaining – he comes across as a funny, laid back character and he tells some amusing anecdotes.

The disc also dishes up with a 7-minute version of the movie for home viewing on Super 8, and for anyone who never even knew that such a format existed, there’s a helpful potted history of it in the accompanying booklet.

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