Shortly after returning to Earth from a dangerously botched space mission, an astronaut discovers he's contracted an illness that causes his flesh to melt. As he slowly transforms into a mass of walking muck, he turns resentful towards humans and sets out on a ruthless killing spree, while government scientists race to stop him.
Directed by: William Sachs
. Starring: Alex Rebar
, Burr DeBenning
, Myron Healey
, Michael Alldredge
, Ann Sweeny
, Lisle Wilson
, Cheryl Smith
, Julie Drazen
, Stuart Edmond Rodgers
, Chris Witney
, Edwin Max
, Dorothy Love
, Janus Blythe
. Music by: Arlon Ober
First off, anyone looking for meaningful "outcome oriented" cinema that packs some sort of social message with meaningful performances and soul searching dialog spoken by dedicated, emotive, heartfelt thespians, please leave now. You are wasting your time and life is short, go see the new Brangelina Jolie movie, have a good cry, go out & buy a hybrid car or throw away your conflict diamonds if that will make you feel better, and leave us alone.
Don't let the door hit you on the way out either. THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN is a grade B minus regional horror epic shot in the wastelands of Oklahoma by a young, TV friendly cast & crew, and concerns itself with an astronaut who is exposed to bizarre radiation effects, wakes up in a hospital, and finds that his body is liquefying on him as he sits there feeling like a chump. The melting man is played by one Alex Rebar, who is recognizable for about the first four minutes of the film. But once he starts oozin' with Rick Baker's extraordinary special effects makeup he more resembles something you might find in a tin of spam before you drain off all the runny, viscous blebs of grease.
The film has zero exposition and does not bandy about with plot points: There are a couple of scenes involving scientist types riding around on an absurd industrial conveyor machine who dutifully recite a few obligatory lines about the effects of radiation but the movie does not care, really. It's a freak show and a marvelous one at that with a decidedly sick sense of humor for those who can stomach it -- One great laugh comes when the melting man stumbles upon a young girl in the forest and is so at a loss for what to do that one of his eyes pops out. Hilarious.
The "hero" of the film is played by Burr DeBenning, a fascinating character actor from the golden 1970s & 80s television scene who was sort of an early model for the Kevin Spacey prototype; slightly twisted, neurotic, and one step ahead of most everyone in the room even if he looks confused. He appeared just after this movie was made in a bizarre made for TV anthology horror piece called HOUSE OF THE DEAD (or THE ALIEN ZONE) that is regarded as one of the finest movies ever made in Oklahoma, which is where I suspect this film was made as well. The arid, cold looking rural midwestern landscapes are certainly the same, and the creek that one unfortunate fly fisher chooses for his afternoon of sport appears to be the same one that Cameron Mitchell fought off flying alien pancakes in WITHOUT WARNING... which also had a sick sense of humor, a TV friendly cast, and some pretty outrageous gore. I definitely sense at least an aesthetic connection between the three movies, as well as THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS which is of no surprise considering that director Jonathan Demme is a part of MELTING MAN's cast.
Essentially, as others have pointed out, this is a 1950s B movie plot updated for later 1970s era special effects & the inevitable boobs. The movie it probably borrows most of it's ideas from is PHANTOM FROM SPACE with Peter Graves as an astronaut who also returns to Earth after being exposed to funky radiation effects that set him off on a killing spree. One of the things that I actually admire about the film is that absolutely no regard is given for the melting man's motivations: He simply goes on a rampage and the movie's drama comes from wondering if he's going to fall to pieces before certain characters fall victim to his madness. The budget for the film is also delightfully low and every dime spent on it is up there on the screen, Rick Baker's disgusting effects getting the lion's share of whatever was spent on this.
Sick, disgusting fun best enjoyed with a crowd of friends and plenty of beer. Why can't people have made more movies like these? .
Review by Steve Nyland (Squonkamatic) from the Internet Movie Database.