Incredible Melting Man, The (US - BD RA)
Matt checks out the new Scream Factory release of the '70s horror schlockfest...
The last time I saw The Incredible Melting Man was a few years ago at Horrorama Dayton in a crowded theater, packed with all kinds of costumed crazies more than willing to let loose and interact with it by yelling at the screen, talking over and answering dialogue and offering up their own brand of witty commentary. The 35mm print being shown was faded and had all kinds of scratches and dirt, jump cuts and whatnot, and the sound, when it could be heard over the laughter, had all sorts of pops and cracks that made some of what was going on in the movie even more unintelligible than normal. It was one of the best times I have had in a theater in a long, long time.
I'm telling you this because that's pretty much the only way most people will be able to truly enjoy a movie like The Incredible Melting Man, a movie whose only redeeming value is the makeup effects work done by Rick Baker and company. Gooey and drippy to the point of looking like a leftover and reheated pepperoni pizza with extra cheese, Baker's work on the titular character still holds up very well even by today's standards, and given the rest of what the movie had to offer was wisely made the focal point of the picture's advertising campaign.
In the commentary and interviews found on Shout! Factory's new Blu-ray release, Director William Sachs ( Galaxina, Exterminator 2) goes to great lengths to point out that his original intentions for the film were to make a subversive and dark, EC Comics style horror comedy with a hint of mystery as to just who the hell the Melting Man was, but his efforts were scuttled by producers and pretty much everyone else. All of it may be true and I have no reason to doubt him, but it still wouldn't have helped the corny and hamfisted delivery of the bad and largely ad-libbed dialogue or a plot that is little more than a horribly irradiated astronaut walking around the woods for 90-minutes looking for his next human-sized meal with "Doctor Ted Nelson" hot on his trail (but only when the good doctor's not complaining about the lack of crackers for his soup).
Now if you're like me and grew up on a steady diet of schlock like this either in the theater or on late night television you're naturally going to find some enjoyment out of it. During the '70s and '80s in the Columbus, Ohio area, Fritz The Nite Owl regularly showed a double feature of movies that largely consisted of pictures from the American International Pictures (AIP) library, and movies such as Frogs, the Roger Corman Poe films, Food of the Gods and The Incredible Melting Man were enjoyed for a good deal of my childhood. So in my own warped sort of way I really dig the cheesy effects, dated clothes, set decorations and weird guitar-synthesizer scores that dominated a lot of these pictures, even if most of them are basically little more than slightly above average drive-in fodder. So though movies like this were often parodied on Mystery Science Theater 3000 years ago ( Episode 704-"The Incredible Melting Man", and the reason I'm guessing most may be familiar with it) I still get a kick out every time I put one of these movies on, movies I used to have to wait for and stay awake until after midnight on Friday nights to see. If that's the type of stuff you're a fan of, then The Incredible Melting Man will fit your bill quite nicely.
The Incredible Melting Man looks better than it has any right to on Shout! Factory's new Blu-ray release. The 1080p, AVC encoded transfer has some of the hallmarks of B-grade cinema from the late '70s, such as some slight damage on the source print with debris popping up in very few places (mostly appearing near the beginning and end and whenever stock footage is used) and lighting that isn't always consistent, but other than that it's pretty great. The video transfer sports a very nice, fine level of detail ensuring you don't miss any of the gooey mess and colors are strong and vivid. Black levels are nice and dark and contrast is nicely handled as well. There's a fine layer of grain prevalent throughout the picture, so taking that into account along with the strong level of detail any fears of a transfer that's had the digital noise filter turned way up can be dismissed. Besides the few instances of source print stuff mentioned earlier, I didn't notice any other defects with the transfer that would keep anyone away such as aliasing, artifacting or edge enhancement. Overall this is an excellent video transfer of the film to Blu-ray.
Shout! Factory has supplied disc with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono track, and again it's what you would normally expect of a film of this age and budget. It's not perfect, but dialogue is perfectly clear 99% of the time, and the same goes for the sound effects heard throughout. Arlon Ober's score, however, has never sounded better and has been given some extra heft in this lossless presentation. I did notice the occasional hiccup in the sound every now and again, but it's nothing that's going to turn viewers off. Overall the audio track on the disc is very well done all things considered.
Shout! Factory has provided The Incredible Melting Man with a few special features on their Blu-ray release, and though not as chock full of goodies as some of their other releases this isn't one of their slightly pricier Collector's Editions either, so any supplements are welcome. First up is a commentary track with Director William Sachs, who goes into great detail as to how the film he envisioned isn't what ended up on screen by the time the meddling producers and a few others got their hands into everything. It's a lively and entertaining track full of anecdotes and production info that you'll definitely want to give a listen to.
The disc also includes a few high definition interviews. The first segment (19 min.) features alternating interviews with Sachs and makeup effects wizard extraordinaire Rick Baker. While much of what Sachs covers here is also discussed in his commentary, the real reason to watch this is for Rick Baker, who comes off as surprised that anyone would go out of their way to talk to him about The Incredible Melting Man. He goes over how he was approached to do the project and his reluctance in even entertaining the opportunity and the work that went into the effects as well as those on his crew such as a young Rob Bottin ( The Howling, John Carpenter's The Fog). Baker is always good in these types of settings, and he doesn't disappoint here either. The second, much shorter interview (3 min.) is with makeup effects artist Greg Cannom who quickly discusses his beginnings and his contributions to the picture.
The rest of the special features are rounded out with a couple of trailers for the film (in standard definition) and a radio spot, with one of the trailers and the radio spot focusing primarily on the fact that Rick Baker was the mastermind behind the creature's effects. Kind of odd, but maybe not entirely unexpected seeing as Baker was coming fresh off of King Kong and Star Wars at the time. Finally, viewers are treated to a high definition slideshow gallery of lobby cards, ads, production stills and a few other tidbits from the film. Overall this is a very decent selection of extras that Melting Man fans will want to check out.
Look, The Incredible Melting Man is not a good movie, but it's definitely one that you can enjoy with the right group of nonjudgmental friends, a pizza and a six-pack of your favorite adult beverage on a late Saturday night. The dialogue is campy, the acting ridiculous and the story flounders, but the real star of the show--the makeup effects--are quite good and still hold up well today. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray presentation of the film is a very strong effort with excellent video and audio, especially when considering what they had to work with here, and the extras are entertaining and informative. Fans of schlocky, drive-in cinema will surely want to pick this up when it's available, but I'd advise anyone else to remain cautious seeing as it's not going to be everybody's cup of tea.
The images here were taken from the Blu-ray disc and full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of each transfer.
Review by Matt Joseph
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 30th July 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono English
Extras: Commentary with writer/director William Sachs, Interview with Sachs and makeup effects artists Rick Baker and Greg Cannom, Theatrical Trailers, Photo Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: William Sachs
Cast: Alex Rebar, Burr DeBenning, Myron Healey
Length: 84 minutes
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