The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

He feeds on human flesh.
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The Incredible Melting Man - He feeds on human flesh.

Some movies are so bad they are bad, some are so bad they are good and The Incredible Melting Man is so bad it's amazing. The film is a prime example of producers interfering in a filmmakers vision and, while the interference has a negative effect on the intended end product, it endows the final movie with something truly quirky and unique. It was originally envisioned as a parody of the horror genre but during production it was decided to make this a serious horror by removing the comedic elements and attempting to add more fear. The end result is a nonsensically minimalistic storyline with a number of parodic characters all taking themselves way too seriously. This consequence of this is that the film becomes amusing again but not for the reasons originally intended.

"That which does not kill us, makes us stronger" is a quote that mostly sums up the main storyline, unlike if the film was about ageing or muscular dystrophy. The quote doesn't quite cover the fact that melting caused by exposure to Saturn's radiation will ultimately kill you unless you maintain an extended and regular murder spree although that (like this) would be a spoiler and Nietzsche possibly didn't factor in the possibility of space travel beyond Jupiter. Essentially that covers the synopsis; astronaut gets alien radiation sickness, starts to melt, may or may not need human flesh to replenish his own, wanders aimlessly killing those that he encounters while tormented by flashbacks of his accident. In this instance the tabloid media would be completely justified in using the phrase "celebrity meltdown".

On the screen it is mostly Steve West (the melting man - played by Alex Rebar) wandering around and the interactions of those pursuing him to cease his rampage. The spaces in between are filled with some wonderful yet curiously crafted randomness filled to the brim with cringe worthy dialogue. One of the first scenes is a "well-upholstered" nurse evading a slow-motion attack before crashing through a glass door. The scene needs to be seen to fully appreciate the pointlessness of its execution. Not far in, Steve West has a flashback which is virtually the whole introduction to the film. Then there is also the cigarette smoking children and Dr. Ted Nelson's sudden cracker obsession in the midst of disaster. One of the dialogue highlights is a young girl, who has witnessed the melting man, explaining to her mother that there is a "Frankenstein" in the woods. Rather than trying to belittle her young daughter by explaining that the correct definition would be "Frankenstein's monster", delivering a bitch slap and making sure everyone on the internet can see how much cleverer she is than her child, the mother instead explains that "there is no such thing as a Frankenstein. It's just a story... like Snow White". A guaranteed method of ensuring children familiar with the tale of Snow White lay awake at night.

As mentioned before, the supplementary characters belong in a different film. Victims include an amorous and adventurous elderly couple stealing lemons to give to Dr. Nelson and his wife (because everybody loves lemons), the typical teens looking to engage in some covert coitus and a pervy photographer with a topless female model (boobs courtesy of Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith). One of the first to encounter the wrath of Steve West is a nerdy looking fisherman who ultimately loses his head. There follows numerous scenes of the decapitated head serenely meandering down a scenic brook until it halts at the bottom of a waterfall in a fairly splattery way.

The effects are more gooey than gorey despite there being a commendable amount of the red stuff flowing and various painful deaths. The majority of the yuckiness comes from the deterioration of the melting man as he progresses through his stages of decomposition. The makeup effects are very good for the time and there are plenty of opportunities to see the meltiness due to an excessive amount of time spent focussing on Steve as he purposelessly makes his way around experiencing the same flashback time and time again (Why are they always called Steve?).

The Incredible Melting Man is an excessive yet campy creation and, due to its origins as a parody, beautifully captures the essence of B-movies of the time creating an overwhelming sentimentalism for the era. Due to the alterations, it perfectly embodies the films of which it was intended to mock and makes itself a prime candidate for mockery (of which it has received plenty). The film emits a peculiar impression throughout and, whether it is a consequence of the enforced changes or something intended all along, this makes the film stand out and ensures its destiny in the halls of fame whether that be for good or bad reasons. Whether that be on Mystery Science Theater 3000 or wedged firmly in the heart of Generation X looking for some cosy nostalgia to remind them of the imaginary time when everything was fields.
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