Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"The Incredible Melting Man"(1977)d/William Sachs

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Long before FX master Rick Baker won accolades for "An American Werewolf in London"(1981) or "Harry and the Hendersons"(1988),he toiled away in low budget flicks like John Landis' "Schlock!"(1971),"Octaman"(1974),and this William Sachs film,to the delight of little horror nuts like myself.Lately he's been toiling away in crappy Eddie Murphy movies,but the guy is a true artist,regardless of whether he's associated with "Norbit"(2007)or not.Some memorable cult cameos include Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith,Janus Blythe(Ruby from "The Hills Have Eyes"(1977)),and Jonathan Demme,who later directed "Silence of the Lambs"(1992)!
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Truly scary fatso nurse runs directly at the camera in slo-mo.Terrifying.
So they send a team of astronauts to Saturn,despite the fact that the planet is a ball of gas and has no surface whatsoever to land on,you with me so far?When the rocket closes in on its target,some wiseguy has transformed the planet's normally icy rings into firey ones,causing a strange phenomenon to occur.Steve West(Alex Rebar) bugs his eyes out looking at stock footage of solar flares and gets a slight nose bleed.Yeah,he's in all kinds of trouble when he somehow returns to Mother Earth.Doctors back home know these symptoms all too well,explaining that the heavily bandaged man in the hospital bed has started to melt like a pint of Turkey Hill Moose Tracks ice cream.Naturally the doomed astronaut gets out of his bed,unwraps himself,and takes a gander in the mirror.His rugged seventies looks...his porn stache...turkey sandwiches,turkey stew,gone,all gone!Bumpuses!Sons a' bitches!Sorry,wrong movie.Anyways,he goes crackers and a rotund nurse gallops down a long hallway in slo-mo,screaming(and no doubt wheezing from the exercise)as she smashes through a glass door.The titular melting man has been unleashed on an unsuspecting local populace.Since he's dripping all over the place,he needs "cells" from his victims,which he obtains by partially eating them.Makes sense.
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The finest decapitated head cascading over a waterfall and smashing on the rocks below in slo-mo I have ever seen.
So Melty wanders around searching for victims to eat to slow his melting process,and thanks to the massive continuity problems of the film,dusk becomes the middle of the afternoon,and then back to night.Mindless fans of films like "Men in Black" might not notice such a faux pas,but I digress.He stumbles onto a fisherman in the wilderness,and dispatches him off-camera,but not before he can send the angler's decapitated,bloody head downstream,where it goes over a waterfall and dashes on the jagged rocks below,all in beautiful slo-mo.He then interrupts a group of well supervised little kids,who playfully smoke cigarettes together,and spares them,knowing the cancer will take them all out in years to come more painfully than a melting,flesh-eating astronaut ever could.He also snuffs a couple of lemon-thieving horny old codgers.No,I didn't make that up.He inadvertently interrupts a photographer and his comely,young subject(provocatively portrayed by the late Cheryl Smith)as he struggles to wrestle her tube top down so he can photograph her chachabingos against her will(artistic license,sexual assault,all the same).She backs into a disembodied arm whose hand grabs her ankle.Even disembodied body parts love boobs.
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What's cooler than little kids smoking? Nothing,that's what.
Meanwhile,in the world of folks who aren't currently melting all over their groovy leisure suits,Steve's best friend,Dr.Ted Nelson is distraught over his friend's low drippy state and the fact that he's got no crackers in his house.No,I didn't make that up either.To make matters worse,a NASA general eats his last turkey leg,then West scarfs down Nelson's in-laws(the aforementioned oldies who're out trying to heist lemons).At least the guy isn't melting,right?Out of crackers,turkey legs, and in-laws,the good doctor sets out to find his snot-like chum before it's too late.
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Astronaut Steve West needs a nip and tuck,courtesy of FX wizard Rick Baker.
In the finale,Nelson finds the melting man at the local power plant,surrounded by cops who plan on filling the oozing astronaut full of lead.He pleads for West's life and gives the lawmen his credentials.The cops naturally shoot the doctor instead.Also not made up,folks.The enraged melting man converges on the absent-minded cops who shoot him to no effect.He kills the officers,throwing one onto some power lines below,electrocuting him real good.Then he finds a comfy wall to fully melt away into nothing against.The next day,a black custodian cleans up the astronaut pudding as a radio announces another mission to Saturn about to take place.Oh sweet irony.
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The late,great Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith,topless,as usual.
A pretty good,if somewhat disjointed time to be had revisiting this one,kiddies.Baker's makeup and gore effects(!) are pretty effective for their time,the logic-bereaft script contains several good unintentional laughs,and it all moves along quickly and painlessly.You could do worse than sitting down to this one,like...for example,"Octaman"(1974) or even worse,"Norbit"(2007).Sorry,Eddie.
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Clean up in aisle nine...
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3 comments:

Greg B. said...

This, along with TCM '74, was my first horror movie I remember seeing. It was a drive-in double feature and I was around 5 years old. Oh the memories...

Great review.

beedubelhue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beedubelhue said...

How could kids like us resist the draw of something like this?The Famous Monsters of Filmland issue #145 with Bakers effects on the cover was probably singularly responsible for my Melting Man mania in 1977.Drive ins were like Disneyworld to me growing up,and that double bill that you caught was CLASSIC.Glad you enjoyed the entry,Greg!

Dub

 
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