The Incredible Melting Man (1977) is one gooey flick. And I’m telling you right now, this is pretty much the central thesis of my review. So, if you have anywhere you really need to be, a dentist appointment or whatever, feel free to run along. Those of you with more time on your hands, stick with me. Things are about to get messy!
The plot here is pretty classic sci-fi/horror fare. Astronaut Steve West is tragically irradiated when his ship gets too close to some stock footage of a solar flare. He survives, but with some serious melting issues and an insatiable hunger for human flesh. Upon discovering his condition, Steve attacks and munches on a chubby nurse whose uniform fits her like the casing on a sausage. Freshly energized, Steve escapes to go on a rampage of oozin’ and eatin’. It’s up to Dr. Ted Nelson and General Perry to catch the melting menace before the local populace catches on. Unfortunately for them, Steve is doing some pretty efficient population control.
All this sounds like fun, so here’s a rough question. Is the movie any good? The best I can come up with is, well, sorta. The acting doesn’t help. It’s either overdone to the point of panicked hysteria, or simply doesn’t exist. For instance, General Perry is outacted by random household appliances. Though to be fair, the interior decor in the film is so strikingly horrible that this may not entirely be his fault. The pacing is another issue here. Scenes that should be suspenseful are dragged out until they become as turgid and slow as melting man ooze running uphill.
The worst offender in the category is the scene in which Steve is stalking around the home of Dr. Nelson while his wife sits inside and knits. And knits. And knits. For what feels like an hour. The tension is unbearable. Will she drop a stitch? Stab herself with a needle? God, I can hardly stand to watch.
So then, what is good? The effects. Don’t go expecting too much gore; the film is more vile than violent. There are some chewed on corpses to look at, though. And the head. Oh, the head. Early in his rampage, Steve attacks a dopey fisherman and decapitates him through sheer brute strength (Because that’s how radiation works in movies. It makes you strong, sticky, and starving.) The head gets dropped in the river, where it blissfully floats downstream until it goes over a waterfall and cracks open on some rocks. Sheer poetry.
But the best thing about the film is the melting, as the title would indeed indicate. As Steve decomposes further, bits begin to get left behind. In the end, his face is little more than a slime covered skull. There are some genuine “how did they do that?” moments, and that’s what really makes the film worth watching. Makeup artist Rick Baker certainly did a lot on a budget that can’t have been too impressive. So now, the big question: should you watch The Incredible Melting Man? I would say yes. If you’ve got the time for gallons of slime, that is.