Incredible Melting Man, The (1977) d. William Sachs (USA)
Combine a can’t-miss B-movie premise (an astronaut exposed to solar flares during a deep-space mission returns to Earth, where he slowly begins to dissolve) with rising makeup wiz Rick Baker, fresh off Dino De Laurentiis’ King Kong. Stir vigorously, and voila! Turkey dinner is served. Even as a kid, I knew something was awry with this riff on 1959’s First Man into Space as the trailer solemnly intoned, “He seems to be getting stronger the more he melts!” Um, what????
In the questionable hands of writer/director Sachs (Van Nuys Blvd., Galaxina), logic and pacing are thrown out the window in favor of some astonishingly bad acting and scenes of the melting man standing there. . .um. . .melting, amid endless flashbacks of Steve West (Alex Rebar) uttering the immortal lines “You've never seen anything (dramatic pause) until you've seen the sun through the rings of Saturn!”
Trust me, you’ve never seen anything until you see such time-capsule moments as an overweight nurse’s endless slow-motion run through a warehouse, er, hospital hallway, Rainbeaux Smith’s “modeling” session, veteran character actor Myron Healy (clearly wondering what his agent was thinking), and Burr DeBenning’s Dr. Ted Nelson repeatedly telling people that he is, in fact, DR. TED NELSON.
|"Ha ha ha, AC. But, seriously, I'm Dr. Ted Nelson."|
Occasionally, as if to fill a quota, Rebar (who would go on to pen 1980’s David Hess-directed slasher To All a Goodnight) kills someone, but there’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to his (cough, cough) rampage of terror. Not going anywhere in particular or seeking revenge, he’s just aimlessly wandering around making the world a stickier place.
There’s no denying Baker’s goopy talents, but they’re in service of a vehicle with no wheels or engine. On the commentary track for last year's Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory, Sachs claims that he set out to make a comedy, but that studio interference destroyed his vision. Well, Bill, you can rest easy, because it’s a gut-buster from start to finish.