Saturday, March 26, 2005

Mud Season Movies: The Incredible Melting Man

It's mud season in New England. It's that time of the year when cars become mired in the slippery brown slime earth of spring's thaw. And, as ice-covered riverbeds become burbling streams and the last traces of snow disappear, what better way to celebrate than by watching the 1977 sci-fi/horror film travesty The Incredible Melting Man?

Astronaut Steve West (Alex Rebar) should have studied astrology before agreeing to head a flight to study Saturn's rings. If he had, he would have learned that Saturn is the planet of sorrow, restriction, and heavy duty karmic crap and he might have aborted the mission. At the very least, West should have brought along a bottle of Coppertone, as he discovers when a solar flare causes his skin to begin liquifying.

Looking more like an acne-infested teen than a member of NASA, West is confined to a military hospital upon his return to earth. Doctors try to cure West's oozing cellular degeneration, but not before he goes mad, kills a nurse, and escapes.

Somehow West's survival instinct gives him the knowledge that he must devour and absorb the blood and tissue of healthy humans in order to temporarily halt his decomposition. Following his carniovorous dietary standards, West spends the rest of the film's 86 minutes stalking unsuspecting victims.

As West's flesh drips and plops and he performs hideously lurid liposuctions on various victims, his best friend Dr. Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning), searches for a cure. Too bad Nelson doesn't realize that West's brain is turning to Cream of Wheat faster than a coke addict's collapsing nostrils.

The Incredible Melting Man made its auspicious debut during the disco era of the late 1970s, a time when the 1950s were being regurgitated in television sitcoms such as Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley. Following the nostalgia trend, Melting Man borrows heavily from flicks such as The Creeping Unknown (1955), First Man Into Space (1959), and The Slime People (1962).

Melting Man director William Sachs managed to employ the talents of some future heavy-hitters, such as special effects wizard Rick Baker (The Howling) and film director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) who is featured briefly as a victim named Matt.

Sachs, himself, achieved cult status with the 1980 sci-fi silliness of Galaxina, which starred Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratton who achieved posthumous notoriety after being murdered by her psychotic husband.

Predictably, the plot melts away into trashy goo along with the title character as there is literally no further storyline other than West's gratuitous gross out. Campy dialogue, such as that of character Judy Nelson (Ann Sweeney), "I have never seen such a feeble excuse for a search in my life!" and "He's getting stronger as he melts!" create a perfect puddle of cult classic cream corn.

So, prop your muddied sneakers on the nearest coffee table and pop The Incredible Melting Man into your VCR or DVD player and get down and dirty (literally) with this cult favorite.

As for this writer's unsolicited suggestion to improve this movie muck called The Incredible Melting Man? Replace the soundtrack, dialogue and all, with a recurrent loop of British synth-pop group Icicle Works and their '80s tune I'll Stop the World and Melt with You.