What goes up must come down
What goes ’round must come ’round
What’s been lost must be found
As the song says, what goes up must go down. The 1977 film, The Incredible Melting Man, is about a man who went up and then came back down and …. AGCK! What a mess!
The Incredible Melting Man opens with the launch of the first manned spaceflight to Saturn. That’s right, Saturn. The film takes place in the 70s, when mankind was still lucky to just be able to make it to the Moon and back. But somehow, this rocket and its three passengers are going to fly all the way to Saturn, land, and then return to Earth. And speaking of landing, how exactly do you land on a planet that doesn’t have a solid surface? And, even more importantly, why do all of the shots of Saturn look like the sun? How come there aren’t any rings? WHAT IS GOING ON!? Could it be that the rocket went off track and went to the sun instead? It’s possible, I suppose. Mistakes cannot be avoided, much like a spinning wheel turning around.
Anyway, the rocket eventually returns from Saturn or the sun or wherever it went. Unfortunately, most of the crew is dead. The only survivor is Steve West (played by Alex Rebar). Apparently, West was so physically strong that he was able to survive whatever killed the other astronauts. Unfortunately, West was still infected with Saturn microbes and now he’s slowly melting. Steve doesn’t react well to that news so he escapes from the hospital and goes on a poorly-defined rampage. He kills a nurse. He rips the head off a fisherman. He kills two old people who were trying to steal oranges. Steve loses an eye. His arm falls off. He leaves behind a trail a radioactive goo. Apparently, Steve has to consume human flesh to slow down the melting process but make no mistake, there’s no way he’s not going to end a puddle of goo.
Steve’s friend, Dr. Ted Nelson (Burr DeBenning), decides to try to track down Steve so that he can get Steve to stop eating people and just melt away in peace. Ted can’t even tell the local authorities what he’s doing because that information is classified and Ted’s boss is like a total jerk. Ted does tell his wife, Judy (Anne Sweeny). Judy and Ted then get into an argument because Judy forgot to buy crackers the last time she went to the grocery store. Some may scoff that the lengthy and not very relevant cracker discussion was included just to pad this film’s running time but I think it adds a level of reality to the proceedings. People like crackers, even when they’re looking for a friend who is melting.
Anyway, The Incredible Melting Man is a weird little movie but I always kind of enjoy it. As played by Burr DeBenning, Dr. Ted Nelson is one of the least likable heroes to ever show up in a movie. He always seems to be annoyed about everything. Even when Steve West is killing people, Ted mostly just seems to be annoyed by the fact that he’s having to go outside to deal with it. Fortunately, Ted’s unlikability makes it fun to watch as absolutely nothing goes right for him over the course of the film. Ted is beyond surly and Steve is beyond melty. As bad as most of the dialogue and the acting may be, the melting man makeup is actually really effective and Alex Rebar does about as good a job as anyone cast as a melting man could. Let’s give this one two and a half star and wonder how many people in 1977 saw it on a double bill with Saturday Night Fever.