Three astronauts are exposed to a blast of cosmic radiation during a space mission, which kills two of them. Colonel Steve West (Alex Rebar) survives but, back on Earth in a hospital, his flesh begins to melt. West loses his mind and escapes the hospital after killing a nurse, going on a killing spree, consuming flesh to inhibit his melting, slightly radioactive flesh.
Scientist Dr. Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning), a friend of West, starts searching for the melting man, helped first by General Perry and then by Sheriff Blake, following the trail of bodies and finally confronting West at a power station.
With a plot similar to FIRST MAN INTO SPACE (1959), this film hardly boasts the best dialogue or acting you’ll ever see, but it IS a schlocky sci-fi horror pic that makes up for its so-so storyline with some fine, gooey, gory practical FX by Rick Baker.
I first saw this film in the cinema as a teenager (in a double bill with THE SAVAGE BEES) and I loved all the gore, such as the severed fisherman’s head popping open in slow motion at the bottom of a waterfall. I enjoyed the film so much that I went back with my cousin to watch it again in the theatre that week – and, I guess, I have retained a soft spot for this pic ever since.
It is definitely Rick Baker’s work that makes THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN worth viewing. I own Arrow Video’s high Definition Blu-ray release and it is great to watch Baker’s slimy creation shamble about the countryside in such a hi-def print.
In one of the extras on the Blu-ray, Rick Baker remembers quoting quite a high price to do the effects because he wasn’t sure he should be doing this film (it was originally titled THE GHOUL FROM OUTER SPACE) after working on bigger budgeted films like KING KONG (1976) – but his quote was accepted so he made the film. Result!
If you are tolerant of a meandering storyline (probably made worse due to post-production reshoots), you will find a bunch of scenes to enjoy, such as the moment one of the melting man’s severed, radioactive ears is found hanging in a bush and the final scene, where the titular tragic character liquifies into a messy, bloody puddle on the floor that gets swept into a garbage can by an oblivious janitor!