American International Pictures
Directed by William Sachs
IMDb Rotten Tomatoes
Cult dove deep into the depths of B Movie Madness to pluck out a little known classic. Beware…
The Incredible Melting Man (1977)
American International Pictures
Directed by William Sachs
IMDb Rotten Tomatoes
Depicting the many struggles, trials and tribulations of astronaut Steve West (played by Alex Rebar) who has recently returned, a sole survivor, to Earth from a disastrous, radiation saturated mission to Saturn. Hailed by many as poorly written, unexciting, 'trite' and as containing mixed up moral standards it constantly ranks amongst the bottom 100 list of films on IMDb. TIMM features a plethora of melting flesh make up from effects wizard Rick Baker (The recently retired FX guru behind An American Werewolf in London, Men in Black and even Michael Jackson's celebrated music video Thriller among many others). So being the curious type (let's not forget also a self-confessed 'B movie maniac') I decided to find out for myself why TIMM has the moniker it's been given and why it's been celebrated as one of MST3000's favorite features (season seven) to playfully 'rip' upon. As I rarely side with critics, preferring instead to decide for myself, I'm expecting an intriguing 84 minutes to say the very least. I'm only hoping that the title doesn't give the whole movie away. Onwards...
Waking up to find himself strapped to a bed, sans a revamped script from an original Stephen King novel, Steve (whom I shall from this moment forth call 'ol' Melty face') goes proverbially “apeshit.” After tearing asunder his restraints he proceeds to chase a plus sized nurse around the hospital whereupon she barrels her way (in a classic scene) through a glass door all the while screaming bloody murder. This scene (and the first POV shot of the movie) is exactly the point in which the viewer should drop all expectations, as TIMM is a glorious B movie pure and simple and not, as many IMDb reviewers have based their opinions on, a movie that will (and in fact didn't) win any awards, bearing that in mind I'll continue…
Like any B movie TIMM has its fair share of laughable moments, interviews from the cast and crew bear frequently mention that it was originally intended as a comedy though fell quickly into the horror genre based purely on financial reasons. Numerous scenes, one in particular, are incredibly hard for me to forget. In an exchange between Ted – “I'm a Doctor, not a Policeman” – and his wife Judy there's possibly the best segue for crackers (a missed sponsorship moment that's for certain!) that I've ever witnessed on film. In realizing he's made a huge mistake in mentioning his friend Steve, Ol' Melty Face, as the information is deemed “Classified”, Ted (Burr DeBenning) tries his best to quickly change the subject to ask if Judy remembered the crackers in a recent shopping excursion. She shakes her head confused but what's Steve got to do with crackers? Another scene includes a drunk fellow (incidentally a doppelganger for an individual that heads a giant computing firm named after a tree hanging fruit) fishing in a shallow ditch for what I have no idea. After he encounters our goo trailing friend he quickly loses his head which minutes later can be seen enjoying a relaxing sojourn towards the edge of an idyllic waterfall.
TIMM isn't without its share of enjoyable and often sleazy moments either. In an extended scene an aggressive cameraman tries his damnedest to lure a naive model into removing her scant top with the promise of magazine stardom then whaddya know, in her hasty escape, she stumbles (literally) into the hands of our rapidly cooling fisherman friend. In another priceless moment a young child happens upon Ol' Melty Face in the woods. She runs to her mother screaming 'Frankenstein! Mummy, Frankenstein!' Her parent hasn't even got the decency to correct her offspring unless, of course, she witnessed a crazed Hungarian scientist type in the undergrowth. The movie is chock full of other memorable moments too numerous to mention and it isn't without sparks of brilliance also. A particular scene has Steve staggering around back lit by a beautiful sunset in stark contrast to the apparent mental anguish that's consuming him. Another toward the finale concludes in a law enforcement officer engulfed in flames turning rather crispy. No spoilers folks sorry! Suffice it to say there was a moment – Troma-esque in vibe -when the film could have easily degenerated into the Charred Man VS Ol' Melty Face.
The applaud-able soundtrack was provided by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and fits the mood of the film perfectly IMO, in some instances dipping into farce/comical territory, at others it effectively adds an air of 50's dramatic suspense and a score that's more commonly associated with earlier Friday the 13th films (by employing quirky tones and musical effects that strangely seemed to work very well to my surprise). Admittedly in a brief moment the epic soundtrack reminded me of the end credits of a popular television series The Incredible Hulk (showing my age there! *A Feind childhood favorite as well. Lou Ferrigno is the bomb diggity!). I believe I even caught a dun,dun...dun,dun,dun,dun that a hugely popular predatory animatronic shark movie a few years previous effectively kept tourists wary of blindly wading into large bodies of water.
As I watched TIMM I couldn't help but be reminded of various Italian shockers directed by Joe D'Amato (if only I could spell his real name). More specifically one with an ominous, slow paced, lurking presence in this case George Eastman, aka Anthropapogous the Beast or The Grim Reaper, another heavy breather (this reminds me I have to change my phone number, again) who amazingly wasn't enough of an advance warning to the future-victims-to-be. The overly dramatic movie score also placed me in that same state of mind, annoyingly over dramatic, loud and obnoxious in places while overall weirdly pleasant in its scope.
What the audience sees of Rick Baker's practical FX are impressive though regularly hampered by darkly lit surroundings and lingering camera shots overflowing with hysterical emotion. Most of the intended effects (including four stages of facial/torso deterioration) were removed from the final cut leaving the audience very few scenes with very little change to be seen in Steve. The only real scene of liquescent decomposition comes very near to the finale and of that there's surprisingly little. An interesting side note: an early poster for the film cited effects from Rick Baker, the new master of special effects, who also brought you the magic of The Exorcist... This led to a public apology from a horrified Baker for the campaign (following an angry outburst from the film's director William Freidkin) he stated he only helped Dick Smith with labor, nothing else. I can't help but wonder if a great amount of mildly humorous dialogue was also removed, something along the lines of, “Dammit Steve you're dripping goo all over the shag. Are you sure you don't need a towel? Come over here and give me a hug.”
All in all the movie is impressive and very watchable as a B treat (if you can't help but think of it as anything more from the start you may be sorely disappointed) though I can't help but wonder if Rick Baker had had his way whether the movie would have reached the heights of a classic cult B form IMO just a movie that was mildly amusing and somewhat reminiscent of landmark pop culture events/icons/fears from around the same time and unmistakable movie influences/homages from a few decades before, namely The Quatermass Experiment and The Incredible Shrinking Man. In the last few years Shout Factory! brought TIMM back from the relative brink of obscurity in a beautiful Blu-ray release (July 30th 2013) and more recently still (UK based) Arrow Video is guilty of the same feat but with a heaping helping of extras including interviews with the director and Rick Baker himself. Well worthy of a peek, a movie I am very surprised to have never seen a rehash of though The Blob received one (sans Steve McQueen), TCM received more than a few (sans Gunnar Hansen) and both Friday the 13th and the Freddy franchise have been tackled, perhaps some things are better left as untouched and original??? - Cult
Now since Feind is so fantastically awesome he also found the perfect way to watch this or any other B Movie which is via the comedy geniuses of Mystery Science Theater 3000! (You really can’t go wrong with the lovely Elvira either) Enjoy!
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