Film: The Incredible Melting Man

The Incredible Melting Man is a cheeseball 1977 American sci-fi horror film about an astronaut who is exposed to outer-space radiation and then comes back transformed into a hideous monster. The good news is that unlike the last time this happened, there really IS a monster here!

The bad news: that's not good news.

You see, Doctor Steve West's time over on Saturn has left him slowly melting into glop while simultaneously giving him superhuman strength and an insatiable appetite that only human flesh can sate (and a little aside for any monsters reading this: How do you guys know that only human flesh will satisfy your unholy urges if you'll never try something different? Geez). Don't bother asking about how he can easily pull victims apart with a rapidly deteriorating musculoskeletal structure; that'll just get in the way of all the ooey-gooey makeup effects! To its credit, this is one of the few things the movie does do well; Rick Baker's nastily convincing special effects really do look every bit like a man slowly liquifying before our eyes, and the movie is packed with Nausea Fuel and graphic violence that really stood out at the time.

Okay, now for the bad stuff: The movie is also poorly written, dimly lit, loaded with uninteresting characters, and contains an extremely bad and unsatisfying ending in which everyone with a speaking part dies and the Incredible Melting Man melts. Incredibly. And is thrown away by a janitor. The director wanted to do the movie as a parody, which could have indeed worked —several things left in the final film even hint at this original plan— but sadly, the studio forced him to turn it into a straight horror flick, resulting in the ludicrous mess moviegoers wound up seeing.

As one might expect, the film became a classic Times Square grindhouse film, getting noticed by The Phantom of the Movies (Joe Kane) and Joe Bob Briggs, before getting additional fame as an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Not to be confused with The Molten Man, a Spider-Man supervillain.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode see here.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Survivor: A random woman is not only one of the few people to survive a close encounter with the melting man, but she's also the only person in the entire film who manages to seriously wound it (by chopping off its arm) and drive it away.
  • Artistic License – Astronomy: Saturn, being a gas giant, doesn't have a surface on which a spaceship can land or from which it can take off.
    • Also those aren't the rings of Saturn. They don't even remotely look like the rings of Saturn.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The fisherman's head seems to be made of papier mache, filled with a liter's worth of red temper paint.
    • Human bodies don't tend to go up like fireworks when they land on power lines...
  • Black Dude Dies First: Amazingly the black Dr. Loring is one of the only two characters to survive, in his case by virtue of disappearing from the film halfway through.
  • Body Horror: Good God, yes.
  • Cat Scare: A particularly nonsensical one.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The Sheriff is manhandled onto power lines by the Incredible Melting Man. Instead of merely being electrocuted he lights up like magnesium in a microwave...
    Crow: "Oh, why did I go on that high-phosphorus diet?"
  • Didn't Think This Through: As the sheriff points out (right before he's killed), Dr. Ted Nelson apparently never considered what they would do if they ever caught up with the Melting Man.
  • Downer Ending. And a bizarre one.
  • Dull Surprise: Ted Nelson, when he isn't experiencing severe Wangst.
  • Dying as Yourself: Steve finally recognizes Ted, and when the latter is killed, he kills the policemen in revenge. Unfortunately, it doesn't save him, and the real Fridge Horror is Steve being fully aware now of who he is - and melting to death as he does.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: No, seriously, there is no story.
  • Genre-Busting: As pointed about by MST3K's Mary Jo Pehl, the film is quite progressive, depicting an African-American doctor (who isn't even killed), a plus-sized nurse (though her uniform is a tad... tight), unmarried elderly romance, and even General Perry is fairly laid-back when not engaging in Government Conspiracy, having cold turkey and beer.
  • Gorn: Ugh, the film is dripping with it...
  • I'm Melting: Well, obviously.
  • Kill 'em All: Not that you'll care, really.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: One bizarre moment, when Ted speaks directly to the camera when consoling Judy, blaming himself for his emotional distance.
  • Moral Dissonance: Judy's mother and Harold opt not to buy candy as a gift for their visit because they don't want her eating candy while pregnant. Eventually they decide to buy a bottle of wine.
    • Ted, a doctor who should really know better, gives his pregnant wife drugs so she can sleep.
    Servo: "Meanwhile, her baby is discovering the wonders of goofballs."
  • Neutral Female: Judy. Though to her credit she does end up shouting at Ted and the General to put some actual effort into looking for Steve.
    • Ted is a good example of a Neutral Male since he stands by and does absolutely nothing while the Melting Man overpowers the sheriff and subsequently tosses him into some power lines.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Oh, there's a Melting Man, alright, but that name conjures up images of a 50's Universal-International B-Movie, rather than a cheeseball 70's Drive-In fare, which is what it is.
  • Novelization: Yes, there was actually a book based on the screenplay by Sachs, released a year later. Phil Smith actually gives a new reason for Steve's affliction: he was infected by a Martian virus while on an expedition to Mars (rather than going to Saturn).
  • Say My Name: "I'M TED NELSON!" BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Judy's mother when guard dogs start attacking them when they're trespassing on a lemon grove.
  • The '70s: Nothing to clearly indicate it, but the score lifted from The Incredible Hulk and Judy's odd body shape give it away.
  • Shock and Awe: The fate of the Sheriff
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The eponymous character is an astronaut who has been irradiated on his way back from Saturn and who is slowly melting to death. There is no cure whatsoever. Only killing and consuming people stops his pain, even briefly. In the end, during a confrontation at a power plant, his best friend is endangered and the astronaut regains a bit of humanity and saves his life — but said friend is shot to death by a pair of random security guards. The astronaut kills the guards, collapses and expires. A janitor cleans up what's left of the astronaut the next day and throws him into the garbage. Oh, also? More astronauts are headed to Saturn.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The sheriff's radio is playing a spritely Country-Western song when he finds the corpses of Judy's mother and her gentleman companion.
  • Super Strength: Apparently a side effect of the melting.
  • Token Minority: Dr. Loring has the only non-white speaking role.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Ted Nelson. And he doesn't.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer showed Melty becoming a pile of goo at the end, but since it was the film's Money Shot, it was probably too good to not tantalize viewers with.
  • Unusual Euphemism: HOTCHGKA!
  • Your Head Falls Onto a Rock and Bursts Like a Watermelon