"Magnificent! You've never seen anything until you've seen the sun through the rings of Saturn!" --Alex Rebar as astronaut Steve West, shortly before returning to Earth and malforming into a big pile of goo.
There are countless "bad" movies out there. I should know; I've seen a lot of them. But, when it comes to The Incredible Melting Man, there's simply no way to accurately describe how truly bad it is. But this one is one of those fabled "good" bad movies, the kind that is best enjoyed with copious amounts of alcohol and/or hallucinogenics. Or, as I like to call this particular kind of flick: it's "epically awful."
The story here is a dorky tale of a doomed astronaut named Steve West (Alex Rebar), whose fateful trip to Saturn results in his entire body beginning to melt once he returns to Earth. After he escapes from the confines of a bizarrely industrial-looking "hospital" -- which is staffed entirely by one portly nurse and a single doctor (Lisle Wilson, from Brian De Palma's Sisters) -- Steve rampages the surrounding countyside by feasting on his human victims, because he needs the blood or marrow or something. Really, folks, that's what the movie's about: a guy that's melting.
Hot on Steve's trail is his friend, Dr. Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning), whose powers of sleuthing aren't what you might call "laudable." In fact, Ted is downright terrible at it, but he's not to blame: he's under strict orders from government brass -- mainly, General Perry (veteran B-movie performer Myron Healey). And so, Steve continues to stagger around, leaving an oozing trail of liquefied blood and flesh in his wake -- terrorizing fishermen, kids, and softcore goddess Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith alike (who appears as a model).
One of The Incredible Melting Man's painfully-delightful highlights involves DeBenning's onscreen near-ancient horny mother-and-law and her persnickety equally-elderly boyfriend being stalked (and subsequently eaten) by the creature. The scene was also lovingly riffed when the film showed up on Mystery Science Theater 3000 during its Seventh Season -- as was the rest of the movie. But then, it's hard not to laugh at just about anything The Incredible Melting Man throws at you (barring some of Rick Baker's impressive special effects, of course).
The film's humor, however, is where the controversy starts. According to The Incredible Melting Man's writer/director William Sachs, the vehicle was originally intended to be a parody of the gloriously-amusing Atomic Era sci-fi flicks from the '50s. Sachs has gone on to say that the film's backers changed their minds midway through the production, deciding to remove many of the film's comedic elements, replacing them with new, more "horrific" moments.
If it's true, it would certainly account for a great deal of things -- such as why what's left of the Melting Man is scooped up at the end of the movie by a janitor. And why the film's "red herring" moments are so laughably cliché. And why the acting is so bad. And the dialogue. And, well, you get the idea.
Over the years, The Incredible Melting Man has earned its own special cult following among fans of "bad" movies. When DVD first came out, said fans started crossing their fingers in hopes that The Incredible Melting Man would soon find its way to disc, boasting a vast array of special features. Hell, if Basket Case could get a Special Edition release, why couldn't this one? Sadly, such a DVD never came to pass. And now, more than a decade later, Basket Case is being released on Blu-ray, while The Incredible Melting Man has been quietly issued onto DVD-R via MGM's Manufactured-On-Demand "Limited Edition Collection."
While the lack of any special features -- a common procedure with these MOD releases -- is more than a little disappointing (although there is a TV Spot, incorrectly labeled as a Theatrical Trailer), I have to say it's a pleasure to actually see The Incredible Melting Man in its original widescreen 1.85:1 ratio (which is anamorphic, thankfully) and with mono stereo sound. Pleasing enough, MGM's entire presentation of this wonderfully-corny creature feature is quite nice overall, and I heartily recommend it to any of my fellow fans of "epically awful" movies like this one.