Back when I started this warped, misguided project some 4½ months ago, the original plan was to put every title of all every horror movie I’ve ever seen, all 1150+ of ’em, into a box, pick one out every day, and write about it. And I did that for a little while. It didn’t take me long to get bored with that idea and in large part abandon it. Cuz, y’know, my blog.
Anyway. I’ve returned at least somewhat to that original idea, and the title that plopped out today was a slippery slimy goo-fest from 1977 called The Incredible Melting Man.
The plot centers on Col. Steve West, an astronaut returning from Saturn. In the process, he goes and gets hisself all exposificated to some kind of cosmic radiation. Based on the title it ain’t hard to suss out what this leads to, and West leaves a string of corpses and a slug-trail of bodily fluids in his icky wake.
The idea of someone suffering bizarro effects from radiation, especially in space, has been around for a good minute. Basically the pattern plays itself out like this: ship goes into space, crew and/or pilot encounters weird cloud/weird rays/weird radiation and gets exposed, ship returns to earth, crew and/or pilot suffers results. One of the earliest examples I can think of is The Quatermass Xperiment from 1955, followed by First Man Into Space in 1959, and the first appearance of The Fantastic Four in 1961.
Supposedly The Incredible Melting Man was intended as a parody of horror movies. The story goes that it was recut to eliminate the comedic bits, and additional horror scenes were shot and added. I’m not sure how accurate this is or how well this argument holds up. I have a hard time seeing where the humor might have originally been.
In any case the end result is campy which is a shame because the premise is solid, and the practical effects fairly gross. There’s a certain zombie-like quality in the sense that West has to consume human flesh to slow the melting process which we all know is always a laugh riot (Shaun Of The Dead, Jonathan Coulton’s “Re: Your Brains” and Return Of The Living Dead aside).
Certainly The Incredible Melting Man has some similarities to First Man In Space (some go as far as suggesting it’s a remake–returning astronaut needs blood to stay alive), but there’s also a parallel to The Incredible Shrinking Man. Both men are exposed to something questionable they ought not have been exposed to then are slowly reduced to less and less of themselves. Literally. There was also some movie countdown/talking heads show I saw some time, some place–I thought maybe it was that dumb as fuck 50 Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen (I have), but that weren’t it.
Anyway, someone somewhere suggested The Incredible Melting Man may have fared better were it not forced to contend with Star Wars. That argument, however, doesn’t hold much water in terms of release dates. This one was Decemember 1977. Star Wars was May that same year–a decent gap.
Finally, there are some decent practical effects to be had here as well. For 1977, they hold up admirably. Think about someone melting like the Nazi dude in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, only much, much slower. It’s yucky. It’s gross. It’s squishy and splattery. It makes you want to take a shower after watching. Couldn’t have made me happier.
BODIES- 13 onscreen, 1 dog eaten offscreen
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