The Incredible Melting Man [Blu-ray 4K]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Vinegar Syndrome
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (24th August 2022).
The Film

As a space shuttle passes near the rings of Saturn, the crew is exposed to a massive dose of radiation from solar flares. Weeks later, the only remaining survivor is Captain Steve West (Microscopic Liquid Subway to Oblivion's Alex Rebar) whose has been hideously deformed by thee exposure. Unexpectedly, he wakes from his comatose state and brutally murders a nurse (Bonnie Inch) before fleeing into the desert, leaving traces of radiation and a trail of deteriorating tissue. His former colleague Dr. Ted Nelson (House of the Dead's Burr DeBenning) is desperate to find him before no-nonsense General Perry (Claws' Myron Healey) orders his disposal, but he is unsure what if anything of Steve survives in his rotting body as he kills anyone unfortunate to cross his path including (Ted suspects) his mother-in-law (Caged Heat's Dorothy Love) and her boyfriend (Come Back, Little Sheba's Edwin Max), the disappearances of which he is eager to keep from his at-risk pregnant wife (M*A*S*H's Ann Sweeney). When Sheriff Neil Blake (Robot Jox's Michael Alldredge) starts to suspect that Ted's interest in the killings is more than academic, Ted's attempts to capture Steve and try to stop his deterioration take a back seat to Perry's national security interests and the sheriff's in the public welfare.

Better remembered for its title than the film itself as well as a poster that raised the ire of Warner Bros. by touting make-up effects designer Rick Baker as "the man who brought you the magic of The Exorcist The Incredible Melting Man delivers the titular menace with gusto, as well as some grisly kills, but little else. Ostensibly started by credited director William Sachs (Galaxina) as a parody of fifties sci-fi films, the film does manage to eke out some sympathy for the melting man who wanders the desert and woods like Frankenstein's monster but the deadpan acting of DeBenning stands out as particularly awful amidst equally-subdued turns by the rest of the principals (which is odd given DeBenning's prolific career of character roles in film and television), so much so that actual attempts at humor on his part fall flat and seem more like poorly thought out ad-libs than disarming non-sequiturs. The more cynical touches of the script like a few brutal deaths of well-meaning characters, the notions of a cover-up, and the ultimate fate of the melting man's remains are overshadowed not by the apex of Baker's make-up effects work is the loneliness that pervades a scene consisting entirely of a mannequin and prosthetics. One of the potential victims of the melting man is Lemora: Lady Dracula's Cheryl Smith under her "Rainbeaux Smith" credit which she used for roles requiring nudity while future director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) has a small role in a sequence in which The Hills Have Eyes' Janus Blythe is menaced by the melting man.

The production ran into constant interference from the producers including Max Rosenberg whose post-Amicus Hollywood career was more miss than hit with the likes of killer kids slasher Bloody Birthday, the depressing sex comedy Homework, and the wonderfully macabre Perdita Durango and Sachs was not involved in the film's post-production which included entire scenes shot by art director/second unit director Michel Levesque (Werewolves on Wheels) with a crew that included cinematographer Henning Schellerup who alternated during the seventies and eighties between Sunn Classics documentaries and the likes of Kiss of the Tarantula and Silent Night, Deadly Night future John Carpenter script supervisor/producer Sandy King (Prince of Darkness), and future Humanoids fro the Deep director Barbara Pieters as a production assistant. The score of genre composer Arlon Ober (X-ray) was recycled for the American recut of the Mexican-American co-production Demonoid. Baker was assisted by Rob Bottin who later created the effects for The Howling while Baker worked on An American Werewolf in London and Greg Cannom who assisted Bottin on The Thing and later won an Oscar for his effects on Bram Stoker's Dracula.


Following its theatrical release, The Incredible Melting Man could only be seen on television and an HBO Home Video release, both of which were practically pitch black during the night scenes. MGM gave the film an HD remaster when they acquired the Orion catalog, debuting it as one of their Limited Edition Collection manufactured-on-demand DVD-Rs before Scream Factory gave it a Blu-ray/DVD combo upgrade that brightened things up considerable without actually resorting to digital tinkering. Vinegar Syndrome's 2160p24 HEVC 1.85:1 widescreen UHD and 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray encodes from a new 4K seem at first like modest upgrades over the previous Blu-ray but the uptick becomes more apparent after the credits. The controlled lighting environment of the ship interior looks startling "modern" anticipating the cool lighting and textural detail of Alien while the post-production slow motion of the nurse stalking and killing has an expected increase in coarse grain but does not look as degraded as it did before. The night scenes are more readable with a perhaps subjective sense of increased depth before the image gives way to complete black but the daylight sequences with the creature also demonstrate an enhancement in textures in which the multicolored liquid of the melting man's flesh better stands out against the more naturalistic greenery and more detailed sky where once the saturation and lesser detail of the backgrounds battled with the creature for assessment by the human eye. The HDR10 lends subtler shadings to the "flat face" Sachs' words in the commentary of DeBenning and along with some depth to the final melting man sequence in which the darker liquids and prosthetic pieces war with the shadows.


The sole audio option is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track which gives the scoring an epic feel that belies the production and emphasizes some added foley effects. Dialogue is always clear but atmosphere is and always has been rather sparse in the mix. Optional English SDH subtitles are included.


The UHD and Blu-ray copies share the film and an audio commentary by writer/director William Sachs ported from the Shout! Factory release in which he describes his intentions for the film, including the mystery about the melting man's origins which is scuttled with the space opening, the continuity error created by the added hospital scene Sachs started his version with the nurse running from an unseen menace and entirely different voices in the melting man's head. He also reveals that he met Rebar in Rome during the seventies, the actor was working there both onscreen and as a writer, penning the US-shot Exorcist cash-in Beyond the Door and that Federico Fellini had seen actress Inch in Sachs' previous film There is No 13 and wanted to cast her in his next film based on her look. He also recalls the principal cast all of whom were dead by 2013 apart from Rebar who died last year but his lack of recollection about the fates of some minor characters perhaps reveals either when he left the production or started to become disengaged with it. Incidentally, the French cameraman Sachs disparages was French New Wave DP Willy Kurant credited on the film as "Willy Curtis".

The remainder of the extras are included on the Blu-ray copy starting with "It's a War" (31:07) in which Sachs discusses his college and Air Force careers, studying film in London, his first films as an editor including a jaunt to Italy where he was put in charge of making a package of films bought by a producer seem "less Italian" including bringing in James Coburn to redub himself for the shorter American edit of A Reason to Live, A Reason to Die as well as stints at Cannon circa Sam's Song (although he does not mentio whether he worked on the reshoot version "The Swap") and for actor-turned-producer Mark Damon, as well as shooting parts of The Exterminator II for which the director did not want to share credit. He briefly covers Galaxina and his much later Spooky House in discussing how he took jobs for the opportunity to experiment (the latter film having provided him with the opportunity to use the then-new 6.1 DTS-ES/Dolby Digital EX surround sound configuration) before the woes of the feature presentation.

In "Just Show Up" (15:02), script supervisor King compares the film to the more straightforward The Quatermass Xperiment in not knowing at the time that the director intended it to be funny and recalls working primarily with Baker on one of three units shooting at the same time with multiple melting men in addition to Rebar. She also reveals that she had worked at Sunn Classics and was brought onto the film by Schellerup along with some other regulars for the second unit.

Ported from the Scream Factory disc is a 2013 interview with writer/director William Sachs and make-up effects artist Rick Baker (19:37) in which Baker reveals that he did not see the humor in the script and thought it was a side effect of the shoot and some "not very good acting" while Sachs covers similar ground to the commentary and newer interview. In 2013 interview with make-up effects artist Greg Cannom (2:56), he reveals that the film was his first assignment under Baker with Bottin, and that he came onto it near the end when most of the main appliances had already been built, focusing instead on the first reveal of Rebar in the hospital. The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer (1:48) the one that hypes up Baker's work on The Exorcist as well as a photo gallery (0:55).


The case includes a reversible cover while the first 6,000 copies ordered directly from Vinegar Syndrome come with a special limited edition embossed and spot gloss slipcover designed by Chris Barnes.


Better remembered for its title than the film itself as well as a poster that raised the ire of Warner Bros. by touting make-up effects designer Rick Baker as "the man who brought you the magic of The Exorcist The Incredible Melting Man delivers the titular menace with gusto, as well as some grisly kills, but little else.


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